Grilled Drumstick Recipe: Step-by-Step Cooking Instructions

Learn how to grill drumsticks to perfection with a recipe that promises crispy skin and juicy meat through a balance of direct and indirect heat techniques.

Key takeaways:

  • Grill drumsticks with direct and indirect heat for crispy skin and juicy meat.
  • Essential ingredients: drumsticks, olive oil, dry rub, barbecue sauce.
  • Preheat grill to 375°F. Pat dry, season, and oil grates.
  • Cook on indirect heat for 25-30 minutes, turning every 5-10 minutes.
  • Use a meat thermometer, glaze with sauce, and let rest before serving.

What You Will Need

what you will need

Gather the following essentials for grilled drumsticks that will have guests reaching for seconds:

  • Chicken drumsticks: Aim for an even size among pieces to ensure uniform cooking.
  • Olive oil: Coats the drumsticks, helping the seasoning to adhere and skin to crisp.
  • Dry rub: Customize a blend of spices like paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, black pepper, and a touch of brown sugar for balance.
  • Barbecue sauce: Opt for a quality brand or homemade sauce to baste on the drumsticks for a caramelized finish.
  • Grill: Gas or charcoal, ensure it’s clean and properly functioning to achieve consistent heat.
  • Meat thermometer: Essential tool to accurately check the drumsticks’ doneness, aiming for 165°F before glazing.
  • Brush: Handy for applying barbecue sauce, ensuring an even distribution.
  • Tongs: Safer and more efficient for turning and removing drumsticks on the grill.

Equip yourself with these items to pave the way for successful grilling.

How to Make These Grilled Chicken Drumsticks

Begin by preheating your grill to medium-high heat, aiming for a temperature around 375°F (190°C). This will ensure your drumsticks cook through without burning the exterior.

Pat the chicken dry to encourage browning and crisp skin. Moisture is the enemy of crispiness, so removing excess water is crucial.

Season the drumsticks liberally with a dry rub of choice. A balanced mix of salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and a hint of brown sugar caters to a caramelized crust without overpowering the natural flavor of the chicken.

Oil the grill grates before placing the drumsticks on. This will prevent sticking and ease the flipping process, allowing the skin to keep its integrity.

Place the drumsticks on indirect heat. Direct grilling might char the outside while leaving the interior undercooked. Offsetting them allows an even cook and a better control of internal temperature.

Grill for about 25-30 minutes, turning every 5-10 minutes. Consistent rotation guarantees even exposure to heat, mitigating the risk of undercooked spots.

Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. Chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) when inserted into the thickest part of the drumstick without touching the bone.

Optional: For a glazed finish, brush your drumsticks with a BBQ sauce during the last 5-10 minutes of grilling. Applying it too early can lead to burning due to the sugar content.

Once fully cooked, let the drumsticks rest for a few minutes. This step allows the juices to redistribute, ensuring moist and flavorful meat when served.

Recipe Tips

Ensure optimal flavor and texture by marinating the drumsticks for at least 30 minutes, or even better, overnight. This extra time allows the seasonings to penetrate the meat fully, resulting in a more flavorful dish.

Attain perfect grilling temperatures by preheating the grill to medium-high heat. This helps in achieving the desired char without overcooking. Consider using a meat thermometer, aiming for an internal temperature of 165°F, which indicates the drumsticks are safely cooked through.

Prevent sticking by lightly oiling the grill grates before adding the drumsticks. This simple step facilitates easier turning and reduces the risk of tearing the skin.

For uniform cooking, give each drumstick ample space on the grill. Overcrowding can lead to uneven cooking and makes it harder to manage flare-ups.

Rotating and flipping the drumsticks every 5 minutes promotes an even crust and helps to avoid burning. This level of attention means each piece is cooked consistently.

Smoking wood chips can be introduced to the grilling process, offering another layer of flavor complexity. Select woods like hickory or apple for a subtle, sweet smokiness that complements chicken.

Manage flare-ups swiftly by moving the drumsticks to a cooler part of the grill. This avoids charring and ensures that your chicken retains its juiciness.

What To Serve With These Grilled Drumsticks

Complementing your grilled drumsticks with appropriate sides can elevate the meal. Opt for cooling salads, such as a classic coleslaw or a cucumber salad, to balance the char of the grill.

Cornbread or garlic bread serves as a hearty accompaniment, perfect for sopping up any sauces or juices.

Roasted vegetables or a light quinoa salad could add a nutritious element.

For a starchier side, consider seasoned rice, sweet potato fries, or a pasta salad tossed with fresh vegetables.

The idea is to strike a balance between the savoriness of the drumsticks and the sides’ textures and flavors.


Grilled chicken drumsticks are a protein-rich option, ideal for a balanced diet. They provide essential amino acids, along with B vitamins, important for energy metabolism. Chicken also contains minerals such as phosphorus and selenium, crucial for bone health and immune function respectively.

Removing the skin can reduce calorie and fat content for those conscious of their intake. Pairing them with a variety of colorful vegetables can ensure a spectrum of nutrients while enhancing the meal’s overall nutritional value. Opting for homemade marinades or rubs allows control over sodium and sugar content, compared to pre-made or processed alternatives.