One of the best ways to cook grilled drumsticks is over indirect heat, also known as the indirect method. Unlike open-flame grilling, indirect heat grilling requires less vigilance and allows you to cook your meat thoroughly while decreasing the chance of burning its surface.
What Is Indirect Grilling, Exactly?
When using indirect heat grilling, the food you are cooking is placed away from open flames. According to the Splendid Table, to set up a charcoal grill for indirect grilling, rake the coals to either side of the grill, leaving a large empty space in the middle. Place your chicken drumsticks over the unheated part of the grill and close the lid.
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You will also need two disposable tinfoil pans. Place one underneath the chicken on the charcoal rack to catch any drippings and to prevent flareups. Fill the second pan with water and place over the open flame on the grill grate. The water will steam and help keep the skin of the chicken from drying out.
To set up a gas grill for indirect grilling, turn on half of the burners, place the chicken over an unlit burner and close the lid. If your grill has only three burners, light the two outside burners and place your chicken over the middle unlit burner. In both types of grills, the indirect heat, trapped inside, will cook the chicken slowly.
According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, slow cooking chicken legs on the grill using the indirect heat method will take about eight to 12 minutes per side. To ensure you kill any bacteria that cause food poisoning, cook your chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use a meat thermometer to ensure you've reached this temperature.
Grilled Chicken Legs Recipes
You have many options for adding flavor to your grilled drumsticks. To keep it simple, you can just salt and pepper your drumsticks before grilling. Or you can try this LIVESTRONG.com recipe for Fresh Mango Marinade, which works especially well with chicken or fish.
The Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) suggests marinating your chicken in yogurt or beer for six to 12 hours in the refrigerator before grilling to tenderize the meat. Both yogurt and beer are acidic and help break down the muscle fibers and collagen in meat, making it more tender and able to retain moisture. For grilling 3 pounds of chicken, ICE suggests a yogurt and beer marinade recipe:
- 3 cloves of minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon of ginger
- 1/4 cup of beer
- 3/4 cup of plain whole-milk yogurt
- 2 tablespoons of cumin
- 1 tablespoon of coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
- 1 tablespoon of smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon of cayenne powder
- 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, to taste
To make this recipe, mix all of the above ingredients in a bowl. Add the drumsticks, toss, and marinate in the refrigerator for 12 hours. The next day, shake any excess marinade off of the drumsticks and grill them. You can use the indirect grilling method, which will take about eight to 12 minutes per side. Or, you can grill the drumsticks over an open flame, which will take less time and result in crispier drumsticks.
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