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How Long to Smoke Chicken Drumsticks – (Never Burn Chicken)

Mmmmm, the smell of smoky chicken drumsticks cooking on the grill is enough to make your mouth water. But don’t just throw those drumsticks on the grill without knowing what you’re doing – you may end up with some subpar dinner!

In this guide, I’m here to show you all you need to know about smoking chicken drumsticks. From the equipment you’ll need, and how long to smoke them for perfection, I’ve got it all figured out for ya so that dinner can get served in no time.

So let’s get started: In this guide, we’ll cover:

  • What equipment do I need?
  • How long should I smoke my chicken drumsticks?
  • Tips and tricks for best results
  • Recipes and flavors to try

Are you ready to whip up some amazing smoked chicken drumsticks? Let’s dive in!

Contents show

Understanding the Smoking Process

The smoking process is an art form that’s steeped in tradition, with roots going back thousands of years.

When done right, this process can impart a rich, smoky flavor to your chicken drumsticks, making them irresistibly delicious.

Why This Process Works for Chicken Drumsticks

Chicken drumsticks are an excellent choice for smoking.

Their natural fat content keeps the meat juicy and tender during the lengthy cooking process.

Plus, the bone acts like a heat conductor, ensuring the drumstick cooks evenly from the inside out.

Nobody likes dry chicken, and the smoking process helps to prevent that from happening.

Steps Involved in Smoking Chicken Drumsticks

Smoking chicken drumsticks involves several steps: preparing the drumsticks, seasoning them, getting your smoker ready, smoking the drumsticks, and then resting and serving them.

Don’t worry if this sounds like a lot – we’ll walk you through each step in detail, so you’ll be a pro in no time.

Tools and Ingredients Needed

Before we begin, let’s gather our tools and ingredients.

Equipment Required for Smoking Chicken Drumsticks

You’ll need a smoker or a grill set up for indirect cooking.

This creates a cooking environment similar to an oven, which is perfect for smoking.

Besides that, you’ll need a meat thermometer to ensure your drumsticks are cooked to the correct internal temperature.

Key Ingredients for Smoking Chicken Drumsticks

For smoking chicken drumsticks, you’re going to need the drumsticks themselves, of course.

In addition, you’ll need a good dry rub or marinade, and some wood chips for smoking.

Hickory, apple, and cherry are all great choices.

Preparing the Chicken Drumsticks

Before we can get to smoking, we have to prepare the drumsticks.

This involves two main steps: seasoning and prepping for smoking.

Seasoning Choices for Chicken Drumsticks

When it comes to seasoning your drumsticks, the world is your oyster.

You could go with a simple salt and pepper rub, or something more adventurous like a spicy Cajun or zesty lemon pepper.

Feel free to get creative and use your favorite flavors.

Prepping the Drumsticks for Smoking

First, pat the drumsticks dry.

Then, massage your chosen seasoning into the drumsticks, making sure to cover every nook and cranny.

Let them sit in the fridge for at least an hour, or overnight if you have time.

The Smoking Process

Now that our drumsticks are prepped, it’s time to move on to the main event: the smoking process.

How Long to Smoke Chicken Drumsticks

On average, you’ll need to smoke your chicken drumsticks for approximately 2-3 hours.

However, the exact timing can depend on several factors, like the size of the drumsticks and the temperature of your smoker.

Temperature Guidelines for Smoking Chicken Drumsticks

You’ll want to keep your smoker at a steady temperature between 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit.

This low and slow cooking process will ensure your drumsticks are cooked perfectly from the inside out, with a beautiful, smoky flavor.

Remember, your drumsticks are done when they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Enhancing the Flavor of Smoked Chicken Drumsticks

Smoked chicken drumsticks are delicious on their own, but there are a few tricks you can use to enhance their flavor even further.

BBQ Sauce Choices for Smoked Chicken Drumsticks

A good BBQ sauce can be a great addition to your smoked drumsticks.

You could go for a classic smoky BBQ, a spicy chipotle, or a tangy mustard-based sauce.

Apply the sauce during the last 30 minutes of smoking to avoid burning it.

Signature Sweet & Smoky Rub for Chicken Drumsticks

You can make your own signature rub by mixing brown sugar, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper.

This rub gives your drumsticks a delightful balance of sweet and smoky flavors.

How to Get Smoked Chicken Skin Crispy

For crispy skin, you’ll want to increase the heat during the last 15-20 minutes of smoking.

This will give your drumsticks that perfect, crackly finish without drying out the meat.

Serving Smoked Chicken Drumsticks

Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for: it’s time to serve your drumsticks!

Sauces to Try with Smoked Chicken Drumsticks

BBQ sauce is a classic choice, but don’t be afraid to mix it up.

You could try a tangy Alabama white sauce, a spicy Buffalo sauce, or even a sweet honey mustard.

What to Serve With Chicken Drumsticks

Smoked drumsticks pair well with traditional BBQ sides like coleslaw, potato salad, and baked beans.

You could also serve them with cornbread, macaroni and cheese, or a fresh green salad.

Post-Smoking Process

Once you’ve finished smoking your drumsticks, there are a couple more steps to ensure they’re perfect.

Rest and Serve: The Final Steps

Let your drumsticks rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.

This allows the juices to redistribute, making your drumsticks even more juicy and delicious.

How do You Reheat Smoked Chicken Drumsticks

If you have leftovers, the best way to reheat them is in a 350-degree oven.

This will help maintain their juicy texture and smoky flavor.

Tips for Smoking Chicken Drumsticks Successfully

Always use a meat thermometer to ensure your drumsticks are cooked safely.

Also, don’t open your smoker too often – this lets out heat and smoke, which can affect the cooking time and flavor.

Storing Smoked Chicken Drumsticks

If you have leftovers, you’ll want to store them properly to keep them fresh and tasty.

Storage Tips for Smoked Chicken Drumsticks

Store leftover drumsticks in an airtight container in the fridge.

They’ll last for 3-4 days.

You can also freeze them for up to three months.

Alternative Methods and Variations

If you want to mix things up, there are plenty of ways to do so.

Recipe Variations for Smoked Chicken Drumsticks

You could try different seasonings, like an Asian-inspired rub with soy sauce, garlic, and ginger.

Or, use different types of wood for smoking to give your drumsticks a unique flavor.

Alternative Cooking Methods for Chicken Drumsticks

If you don’t have a smoker, you can bake, grill, or even slow cook your drumsticks.

Each method will give your drumsticks a different flavor and texture, but they’ll still be delicious.


How long do you need to smoke chicken legs?

Smoking chicken legs typically takes 2-3 hours, depending on the size of the drumsticks and the internal temperature you are looking for. The optimal internal temperature for cooked chicken is 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

What type of BBQ sauce should be used for smoked chicken legs?

For a classic smoked chicken leg recipe, it’s best to use a traditional sweet and tangy BBQ sauce made with ketchup, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and seasonings such as garlic powder or onion powder. You could also make your own homemade BBQ sauce using the same ingredients.

How can I achieve crispy skin when smoking chicken legs?

When smoking chicken legs, achieving crispy skin requires two elements: high heat and a dry rub or glaze. To get the crispiest skin possible, preheat your smoker to 300 – 375 degrees F before adding your chicken drumsticks. Then apply a dry rub that contains brown sugar, salt and pepper before putting it in the smoker for about an hour until it reaches its desired internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Finally remove from smoker then brush with a glaze made with butter, bbq sauce and honey if desired to add an extra layer of flavor!

What ingredients do I need to create my own sweet rub for smoked chicken legs?

Creating your own sweet rub is easy and only requires some basic kitchen pantry ingredients like brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder and onion powder. You can also add cayenne pepper and other herbs/spices depending on how spicy you want it! Mix together 1/4 cup each of light brown sugar & dark brown sugar; 1 tablespoon each of paprika & garlic powder; 2 teaspoons each of onion powder & black pepper; 1 teaspoon each of chili powder & kosher salt; and optional 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper if desired!

What is a favorite barbecue sauce for smoking chicken?

A popular favorite for smoking chicken is a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce made with ketchup, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder and onion powder.

What is the difference between dark meat and white meat on a chicken?

Dark meat refers to the legs and thighs of a chicken which contain more connective tissues than the breast (white) meat. As such, dark meat takes longer to cook than white meat and has more flavor due to its higher fat content.

How do you pat chicken legs dry before applying rubs or sauces?

To properly dry the chicken legs before applying seasonings or sauces, place them onto paper towels and pat them gently until all excess moisture is absorbed. This will allow for better adherence of the rubs or sauces to the surface of the chicken legs when cooking.

What temperature should you smoke chicken at in degrees Fahrenheit?

Chicken should be smoked at an internal temperature of 250-275 degrees Fahrenheit until an instant read thermometer inserted into thickest part of a leg reads 160-165 degrees Fahrenheit.

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