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How to Grill Chicken Legs & Thighs

author image Eliza Martinez
Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.
How to Grill Chicken Legs & Thighs
Bone-in thighs and chicken legs are easy to eat at picnics. Photo Credit Shaiith/iStock/Getty Images

Chicken is a healthy source of protein, making it a good addition to a well-balanced menu plan. The legs and thighs of a chicken are less expensive than breasts and often cook more quickly. Grilling these cuts reduces the need for cooking fats, keeping fat and calorie intake low. Chicken legs and thighs work well on a barbecue grill or an indoor countertop grill.


Before grilling chicken legs and thighs, thaw the meat completely, which ensures even cooking throughout. Heat the grill to medium heat. It is important to allow the grill to heat completely before grilling chicken so the meat will cook quickly without being burned on the outside while the inside is still raw. Rinse the chicken and pat dry while you wait. To make the pieces of meat healthier, remove the skin and discard. Place the chicken on a plate and carry a pair of tongs or large fork to the grill for turning the meat.

Seasoning and Marinating

You don't have to season or marinate chicken legs and thighs before grilling, but doing so enhances the flavor and allows you to create a variety of tastes. Marinate the meat in a small amount of oil combined with vinegar, citrus juice and your favorite herbs and spices. Thyme, seasoned salt, garlic, ginger and soy pair well with the flavor of chicken. If you choose not to marinate your chicken, be sure to grease the grill racks to prevent sticking. Salt, pepper, garlic salt, onion powder, basil, Cajun seasoning, jerk seasoning, thyme and parsley work well in a dry rub for chicken. Season or marinate the chicken prior to serving, which locks in the flavors as the meat cooks.

Grilling Times

The amount of cooking time depends on the size and thickness of your chicken legs and thighs. The legs may take 35 to 45 minutes, while thighs will cook in 12 to 15 minutes, according to "Better Homes and Gardens" magazine. The chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit when a meat thermometer is inserted into the thickest part. Turn the meat every few minutes to ensure even cooking. Keep the cover on the grill when you aren't turning or basting the meat, which helps it cook more quickly.


To serve the thighs and legs at the same time, begin cooking the legs before putting the thighs on the grill. Rotate the meat as it cooks for the same reason. Meat in the middle of the grill may cook faster than the pieces toward the edges. Switch them about halfway through cooking so all your meat is done at the same time. To prevent foodborne illnesses, place the cooked meat on a clean plate and don't serve it with marinade that the raw chicken was in. Grilled chicken legs and thighs pair well with pasta salad, potato salad, baked beans, chips, fruit salad, grilled corn and coleslaw.

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