How Long to Smoke Chicken Legs?

Forget fried chicken legs. You’ll appreciate their flavor and texture more if you smoke them. The question for many is how long to smoke chicken legs to get the most out of this cheap meat. After all, it is particularly easy to over-cook and dry out chicken drumsticks.

For others, they need to know how to smoke chicken to safely enjoy it. Under-cooking it puts you at risk of food poisoning.

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How to Prepare Chicken for Smoking

You can brine chicken in salt water or a marinade for several hours before smoking. However, this is not necessary. Just remember to keep the chicken in the fridge while it is soaking before smoking. If you don’t want to brine the chicken, simply slather in sauce or salt and pepper them while you prep the smoker. 

You can coat the chicken in sauce, cover it in spices or otherwise let it sit out while you get the smoker ready. For the sake of safety, don’t let the chicken sit at room temperature for more than half an hour.

How to Smoke Chicken Legs

We recommend preheating the smoker to 275 before you put the chicken legs in. Keep the smoker lid closed until the fire is established and temperature reached. 

Put wood pellets or wood chips in the smoker. When you’re smoking chicken, the best wood to use is apple wood. Pecan wood chips work almost as well. 

You can get good results combining oak and hickory pellets when smoking chicken. This gives it a mild flavor.

How to Prepare Chicken Legs?

Slatherin sauce or salt and pepper chicken legs

How Long to Smoke Chicken Legs

In general, chicken legs need to smoke for an hour and a half or ninety minutes at 275 If you are smoking the chicken legs at 225, they will need to smoke for about two hours. If smoking a chicken leg with part of the breast attached or “whole leg”, smoke it for at least two hours. 

If the chicken is sitting on a grate instead of hanging in the smoker, turn it over every thirty minutes. Note that an extra thirty minutes in the smoker won’t hurt chicken legs very much. 

After smoking the chicken, increase the temperature in the smoker to 350. Add sauce to one side of the chicken legs to help prevent it from drying out. Don’t put on too much sauce, or it will take longer to cook. 

The only exception is when you’ve already brined the chicken. Sauce at this point is purely for taste. 

Close the lid, and let the chicken cook for another 15 minutes at 350 This helps ensure that the chicken is cooked at a high enough temperature to kill bacteria. You could do this on the grill or on a pan in the oven. 

After cooking the chicken for fifteen minutes, turn over the chicken. Put a temperature probe in the thickest part of the chicken leg. If the temperature is not yet 165, close the grill and check again in five minutes. 

When you are checking the chicken temperature, make sure you don’t touch the bone. If that happens, it will skew the results. 

Using a meat thermometer you can easily and safely check chicken temperature perfectly.

Once the internal temperature hits 165, remove the chicken legs from the smoker. Let it sit for five to ten minutes as juices spread through the meat. Then you can serve it.

Chicken Leg Smoke Times at Higher Temperatures

What happens if you try to smoke the chicken at 325 In this case, you’re cooking it as well as smoking it. That affects how long it takes to properly smoke. 

If the smoker is at 325, the legs will be smoked and cooked in roughly 45 minutes. However, you still need to check the internal temperature to make certain it is safe to eat. We recommended smoking at the lower temperature before ramping up the temperature to cook it so the meat is tenderer. 

Interestingly, cook time isn’t affected when you make “meat lollipops”. Meat lollipops are made by cutting away the cartilage and meat on the lower leg. The large ball of meat at the top of the bone remains. These, too, need an hour and a half in the smoker followed by a stint at higher temperatures.

How to Get Crispy Chicken Skin

Some people enjoy crispy chicken skin. However, the low temperature of the smoker prevents the skin from getting crispy. The solution is to heat up a grill. 

Throw the smoked drumsticks on the grill for two to four minutes. Then flip them over and let the other side get crispy. You’ll probably want to add sauce to prevent the smoked meat from drying out.

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