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Smoked Chicken Drumsticks (Honey Glazed)

Smoked chicken drumsticks with honey glaze

I love these smoked chicken drumsticks for so many reasons: they’re simple, budget friendly, and without question some of the best drumsticks you’ll ever eat. If you love the flavor from this smoked chicken legs recipe and want more than legs, try this glaze with my grill roasted chicken halves.

These can be made on a charcoal grill, or on a gas grill any night of the week, or for your next neighborhood cookout. If you’re rocking a gas grill, you can still get that smoke flavor in a number of ways. Don’t shy away from any delicious recipes if you only have a gas grill.

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How Long Does It Take To Smoke Drumsticks

Chicken drumsticks can be smoked in about an hour. Of course that depends on the temperature you’re smoking them. More on that later

Spoiler alert though, if you’re used to smoking low and slow at 225°F you’ll need to crank that up a little for chicken. Smoking chicken legs at that low of a temperature will result in rubbery skin.

smoked chicken legs hanging on a cooking rack on a grill

What Is The Best Temperature For Smoking Chicken?

I recommend smoking chicken at between 275° – 285°F. to start. This temperature allows plenty of time to infuse some clean smoke into them. I like a combination of apple and pecan wood, but use what you like.

Then, for the last 10 minutes of cooking, I crank the grill temperature up to 325°F. This helps the smoked chicken drumsticks skin to crisp up as the chicken finishes cooking.

smoked chicken drumsticks on a platter

How Do You Get Crispy Skin On Chicken in a Smoker?

There are a couple ways to get the skin crispy when smoking chicken. It starts with the prep work, and ends with the cooking temperature.

When preparing the chicken, you want to get the skin as dry as possible. Do that by drying it off with a paper towel and then giving the chicken a light dusting of baking powder.

The baking powder won’t change the flavor of the chicken; in fact once you season the chicken you won’t even notice the baking powder was there. The baking powder will draw moisture out of the skin though, and that’s the first step to getting that crispy skin.

chicken legs seasoned and ready for the grill

Next, crank your grills temperature up for the last 10-15 minutes of cooking the chicken. This quick blast of increased heat at the end of the cook will help to crisp up the chicken skin, without burning it.

On a gas grill simply turn up the heat, for a charcoal grill just open the intake vent and take the lid off for a few minutes. The supply of oxygen will stoke the coals quickly.

smoked chicken legs over indirect heat on a charcoal grill

You aren’t going to get fried chicken skin texture, like chicken fried in hot oil. But, this technique will absolutely turn out crispier chicken than you might expect coming off a grill or smoker.

What Side Dishes Go Best With Smoked Chicken Legs?

There are a number of sides that go well with smoked chicken legs. There are two that stand out as favorites for me.

First, these campfire pinto beans are excellent with any smoked meat, especially chicken. In fact, these beans are good as a meal by themselves, but I find them to be the perfect sidekick for chicken recipes.

Second, these southern style collard greens with bacon of course. If you’ve never had collard greens, this is the perfect opportunity to try them, especially since you’re already rollin’ smoke.

Tips For Making Chicken Drumsticks

The Moisture: Rinse and pat the chicken dry with a paper towel. It’s important to get as much moisture off the skin as possible because it will steam the skin, making it rubbery.
The Skin: In order to get a nice crispy skin, it needs to be as dry as possible. Lightly coating the chicken with baking powder will help to draw out excess moisture, which helps the drumsticks crisp in the cooker.
The Chicken Placement: You can use a drumstick rack for this, but if you don’t have one just lay them on the grill grate. I like the drumstick rack for collecting the juices from the chicken, if you don’t have one just use a baking pan placed under the grill grate to collect the juices.
The Dry Rub: I really like my dry rub and of course recommend it. If you have another spice rub that you prefer, by all means use that.
Internal Temperature: Use a reliable instant read thermometer to determine the chickens internal temperature.

Smoked Honey Glazed Chicken Drumsticks

Serves: 5 | Prep time: 10 mins | Cook time: 1 hour

Ingredients
10 chicken legs
3 tbsp baking powder
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp BBQ Rub  plus 1 tsp
1/3 cup honey, warm
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Step 1: Rinse the chicken with cold water, and thoroughly dry them with a paper towel. Then lightly dust them with baking powder. Place in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours. 

Step 2: Light your grill and set it up for two zone cooking, establishing temperature at 275° to 285°F. Place one or two wood chunks on the hot coals to establish steady, clean smoke

Step 3: Lightly coat the drumsticks with olive oil and generously season the entire piece with bbq rub.

Step 4: Place the drumsticks in the rack, hanging upside down. If you don’t have one with a catch tray, you can use a baking sheet. You’ll need to collect the juices to make the glaze.

chicken legs hanging in a rack, ready to be put on the smoker

Step 5: Place the rack of drumsticks, or the drumsticks without the rack on the indirect heat section of your grill. Close the lid and allow chicken to cook for about 45 minutes or until the drumsticks reach 165 degrees. Then, crank the heat of the grill to 325°F till the drumsticks reach an internal temperature of 180°F. About 10 minutes.

smoked chicken drumsticks on the grill with smoke rolling

Step 6: Pull chicken off the grill and set aside. 

Step 7: Pour the drippings into a small bowl, whisking in warm honey, vinegar and one additional teaspoon of bbq rub to create the glaze.

Step 8: Lightly brush or drizzle glaze onto drumsticks. Garnish and serve hot.

smoked chicken drumsticks being glazed with honey glaze
chicken drumsticks hanging in a cooking rack

Smoked Honey Glazed Chicken Drumsticks

4.38 from 8 votes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 5

Ingredients

  • 10-12 chicken drumsticks
  • 3 tbsp baking powder
  • tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp BBQ Rub
  • cup honey
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Instructions

  • Rinse the chicken with cold water, thoroughly dry them with a paper towel. Then lightly dust them with baking powder. Return to the refrigerator for 2-4 hours.
  • Light your grill and set it up for two zone cooking, establishing temperature at 275° to 285°F. Place the optional one or two wood chunks on the hot coals to establish steady clean smoke.
  • Spray drumsticks lightly with olive oil spray and generously coat the chicken legs with the bbq rub.
  • Place the drumsticks in the rack, hanging upside down. If you don’t have one with a catch tray, you can use a baking sheet as a catch tray. You’ll need to collect the juices to make the glaze.
  • Place the rack of drumsticks, or the drumsticks without the rack on the indirect heat section of your grill. Close the lid and allow chicken to cook for about 45 minutes or until the drumsticks reach 165°F. Then, crank the heat of the grill to 325°F till the drumsticks reach an internal temperature of 180°F. About 10 minutes.
  • Pull chicken off the grill and set aside.
  • Pour the drippings into a small bowl, whisking in honey and one additional teaspoon of bbq rub to create the glaze.
  • Lightly brush or drizzle glaze onto drumsticks. Garnish and serve hot.

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