Chicken Legs Done Temp – How To Cook Drumsticks To Perfection

Chicken legs are one of the best quick-and-easy cooks on smoker. Not only are legs easy to smoke, they’re affordable. As with all chicken, legs need to be cooked to a safe eating temperature. Chicken contains a lot of bacteria, so it’s important to verify the correct temperature with an instant-read thermometer.

According to the USDA, chicken should be cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165° F. However, chicken legs are best taken closer to 170°F, then allowed to rise to 175°F while resting. Chicken legs and thighs contain more fat and blood vessels, so although legs are safe to eat at 165°F, they taste better when cooked longer.

How Legs are Different From Other Parts of the Chicken

Legs and thighs contain more fat and blood vessels than other parts of the chicken. This is why the legs and thighs seem to have more flavor. Breasts are lean, which is why there is less flavor and they dry out easily.

When cooking a whole bird, direct the legs and thighs towards the hottest part of the cooker. Legs and thighs will take longer to cook, so by facing that part of the bird towards the hottest area, the chicken will cook more evenly. When probing the chicken with a thermometer, probe the breast and the thigh.

Often you will get different readings. With an instant-read thermometer, probe the breast, thighs, and legs. When done, the breast should read about 165°F and the legs and thighs should read 170° F.

How Long Does It Take To Cook Chicken Legs?

The total cook time will depend on the cooking method and the temperature.

Smoking. If you’re cooking the legs in a smoker at 275° F to 300° F, it should take about 1 hour to cook. Flip the legs halfway to get a more even cook.

Roasting. According to the USDA, if roasting chicken legs at 300-350°F will take anywhere from 35 to 40 minutes.

Grilling. If you’re grilling the drumsticks, it will take around 10 minutes on each side. If you’re simmering the legs in a pot, the legs will take about 40 to 50 minutes for legs to reach a safe internal temperature.

Cooking MethodTemperatureCook Time
Smoking275° F to 300° F1 hour (flip halfway)
Roasting300-350°F35-40 minutes
Grilling10 minutes per side
Simmering40-50 minutes

Be Careful With Frozen Chicken

It is important to take proper precautions when preparing frozen chicken legs for grilling or smoking. It is imperative that the chicken legs have been fully thawed before being placed on the grill or smoker. The exterior of the meat may appear to be cooked, but the interior may still be frozen.

This can lead to a prolonged cooking time, and it is essential to verify that the internal temperature of the meat has reached a safe level using an instant-read thermometer. When checking the internal temperature of the meat, the probe should be inserted into the thickest part of the leg, as far away from the bone as possible.

Also, it is recommended to defrost chicken legs in the refrigerator instead of leaving them out on the counter.

Use a Meat Thermometer to Verify Temperature

Ensuring that chicken is cooked to a safe temperature is of paramount importance. A variety of harmful bacteria, including salmonella, E. coli, staphylococcus aureus, and listeria monocytogenes, can be found in chicken. The only way to be certain that these bacteria have been eliminated is by confirming that the internal temperature of the chicken has reached the safe temperature for consumption.

An instant-read thermometer is an essential tool for verifying that your chicken has been cooked to a safe temperature. It is important to insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, as far away from the bone as possible. Always check the temperature before serving and make sure that the chicken has reached at least 165°F (74°C) to ensure it is safe to eat.

Check out out Thermometer Guide

How to Probe Chicken Legs Properly

Properly using a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of chicken legs is crucial for ensuring that the meat is safe to eat. To do this correctly, the thermometer should be inserted into the thickest part of the leg, away from the bone.

The ideal temperature for fully cooked chicken legs is between 165°F and 170°F. If you have a fast-reading thermometer, it is recommended to probe multiple legs to get a more accurate idea of the overall temperature of the batch of legs.

The Best Temp To Cook Chicken Legs

When it comes to cooking chicken legs, there’s one thing that’s non-negotiable: you must cook it hot enough to kill any bacteria that might be present. Some people might think that cooking it longer is the way to go, but that’s not the case. It’s all about hitting the right internal meat temperature.

The best temperature for cooking chicken legs is around 275° F. That’s the temperature range where bacteria is killed off, and you’re left with a safe and delicious meal. Cooking chicken legs at a lower temperature might not get the job done when it comes to killing bacteria, and cooking it at a higher temperature might dry out the meat.

It’s important to keep in mind that bacteria multiplies at temperatures between 40° and 140° F, so it’s crucial to make sure you’re cooking the chicken legs to at least 275° F. Remember, cooking is the only way to destroy the bacteria present in chicken.

Eliminate Guesswork

A thermometer eliminates the need for guesswork when cooking chicken or any other meat. Instead of cutting open the meat to check for doneness, a thermometer can be used to quickly and accurately determine the internal temperature of the meat. This is important because meat that is not cooked to a safe temperature can cause food poisoning or other health hazards.

Simply relying on visual cues such as color can be misleading, especially with smoked meats which may retain a pink pigment even when fully cooked. Using a thermometer is a more reliable and safe method for determining if meat is done.

There’s no Need to Overcook the Legs

When it comes to cooking chicken, there’s nothing worse than drying out the meat by overcooking it. Now, I know some folks might think they’re doing themselves a favor by cooking it a bit longer just to be on the safe side. But what they don’t realize is that they’re sacrificing flavor and juiciness for a false sense of security. And that’s where a thermometer comes in.

A thermometer takes the guesswork out of cooking chicken. You don’t have to rely on visual cues or cooking times. You know exactly when the chicken is at the perfect temperature for consumption and when it’s at its most delicious.

I’ve been cooking briskets, pork ribs, and chicken for years, and I can tell you firsthand, using a thermometer will make all the difference in the taste of your meat. It’s the key to that perfect balance of safety and flavor. So, next time you’re cooking chicken, don’t be afraid to use that thermometer and take your cooking to the next level.

Use a Chicken Rack for an Even Cook

When it comes to smoking chicken legs, there’s one piece of equipment that can make a big difference: a leg rack. Most people just flip the legs individually. A leg rack will give you an even flow of smoke around the meat and ensure that the legs are cooked evenly.

When you’re cooking chicken legs on a pellet grill or a charcoal smoker, a leg rack is a useful tool. Not only does it give you an even distribution of smoke and heat, but it also saves you time from flipping legs individually. Plus, you’ll get a more consistent char on the meat. And let’s not forget, a leg rack also gives you more room in your smoker, so you can cook more meat at once.

You can find leg racks for around $20 on Amazon. If you’re someone who smokes a lot of chicken, a leg rack is a worthwhile purchase. Check the latest price on Amazon here.

If you don’t have a leg rack, an airing rack is also a suitable alternative. An airing rack allows you to easily add or remove the legs from the smoker or grill. It’s not as good as a leg rack but it can still help you to cook your chicken legs more evenly.

The Dangers of Inaccurate Thermometers

When it comes to cooking chicken or any other food that needs to be cooked to a safe temperature, it is crucial to use a quality thermometer. Inaccurate thermometers can lead to dangerous undercooking or overcooking, which can result in food poisoning or other health hazards.

The market is flooded with cheap and inaccurate thermometers. These thermometers often give false readings and are not reliable. It is important to purchase a thermometer from a reputable source, one that is known for producing accurate and reliable thermometers.

One affordable and accurate thermometer option is the ThermoPro TP19. It is fast and accurate, and it only costs around $30. I personally use the ThermoPro TP19 and I can vouch for its quality. It’s a great option if you’re in the market for a new thermometer.

Did you know there’s now a meat thermometer with no wires that can control with your phone? Check out MEATER

Test Your Thermometer for Accuracy

When it comes to cooking, the accuracy of your thermometer is of the utmost importance. Even a thermometer that was once accurate can become inaccurate over time, which can lead to unsafe cooking temperatures and spoiled food. That’s why it’s important to regularly test your thermometer to ensure its accuracy.

One way to test your thermometer’s accuracy is through an ice bath test. To do this, fill a glass with crushed ice and add water to it until it reaches the top of the ice. Stir the mixture and insert the thermometer into the ice water. The thermometer should read 32°F or 0°C. If it does not, then it needs to be recalibrated.

Another way to test the thermometer’s accuracy is by using a boiling water test. Fill a pot with water and bring it to a rolling boil. Insert the thermometer into the boiling water and it should read 212°F or 100°C. If it does not, then it needs to be recalibrated.

It’s important to note that some thermometer models have a calibration screw on the back of the thermometer, which you can adjust to calibrate it. If you’re not sure how to calibrate your thermometer, consult the instruction manual or contact the manufacturer for assistance.

Check out this article: How To Calibrate A Thermometer.

Don’t Trust Your In-Built Thermometer

Factory thermometers, also known as built-in thermometers, are often inaccurate due to a number of factors. One of the main reasons is that they are not properly calibrated. They may also be affected by the temperature inside the smoker, which can fluctuate due to drafts, the opening and closing of the lid, and other factors.

Another issue with factory thermometers is that they are often located in the wrong spot. They may be located in the lid of the smoker, which can give an inaccurate reading because the heat inside the smoker is not evenly distributed. The thermometer should be located in the cooking chamber for the most accurate reading.

To address these issues, it’s important to calibrate your factory thermometer regularly. You can do this by using an ice bath test or a boiling water test to make sure that it’s calibrated correctly.

Leave-In Wireless Thermometers

When it comes to low and slow cooking and barbecue, a leave-in wireless thermometer is an essential tool for monitoring your cook. It’s important to note that it is not recommended to trust the built-in thermometers on smokers, as they are often inaccurate and unreliable.

A wireless thermometer allows you to monitor the internal temperature of your meat without having to open the grill or smoker, which can cause temperature fluctuations and disrupt the cooking process.

One of the first and most popular wireless thermometers on the market is the MEATER. This thermometer uses Bluetooth technology to connect to your smartphone, allowing you to monitor the temperature of your meat from anywhere. The Meatstick and Airprobe 2 are other popular wireless thermometers that work in a similar way.

The Airprobe 3 by Tappecue is considered the most advanced wireless thermometer on the market. This thermometer is a 4-channel thermometer and can monitor the temperature of 4 different meats at the same time and also can monitor the grill temperature. Also, it features a long-range wireless connection and a built-in alarm that alerts you when the meat has reached a safe temperature.

The Best Instant-Read Thermometers

When it comes to instant-read thermometers, Thermoworks products are widely considered to be the best on the market. However, these thermometers can come with a high price tag. The Thermapen, for example, is a favorite among chefs and barbecue enthusiasts, but it can cost over $100, which may be too expensive for some.

If you’re looking for a high-quality instant-read thermometer and can afford it, the Thermapen is a great option. I’ve spoken with many experienced cooks and they’ve all said they don’t regret their purchase. However, if you’re on a budget, there are plenty of other great thermometers available for half the price.

Some affordable options include the TP-19 by ThermoPro, the Lavatools Javelin Pro, and the Thermoworks mini thermometers. These thermometers are known for their fast and accurate readings, and they come at a more affordable price point. To check out Thermoworks thermometers, head over to

The Best Thermometers Under $50

When it comes to investing in a thermometer, it’s important to find one that is accurate, reliable, and affordable. While high-end thermometers such as the Thermapen can be quite expensive, there are some great alternatives that offer similar performance for a fraction of the cost.

One such option is the TP-19 by ThermoPro. This thermometer offers nearly all the features of the Thermapen but at a more affordable price point of around $30. The TP-19 is produced by ThermoPro, a company with a solid reputation for producing quality thermometers and providing excellent customer service.

Another popular option found on Amazon is the Lavatools Javelin Pro. This high-quality thermometer sells for around $50. The Javelin Pro is known for its fast and accurate readings, and its easy-to-use design.

Thermoworks also produces a range of mini thermometers, such as the Thermopop and the Dash. These thermometers give fast and accurate readings, but without all the extra functions. These mini thermometers can be found for around $30 to $40 on there Thermoworks website here.

Beware of the Smoke Ring

It’s important to remember that the smoke ring does not indicate that the meat is cooked through or safe to eat. Despite the appearance of a pink ring, the meat may still be undercooked or may have been exposed to bacteria during the smoking process. This is why it’s essential to use a quality instant-read thermometer to ensure that your meat has reached a safe internal temperature before eating.

Another thing to keep in mind is that some people may try to enhance the smoke ring by using chemicals such as liquid smoke, which can be harmful to your health. The best way to achieve a smoke ring is by using natural smoke from wood chips or chunks.

How to Smoke Chicken Legs Like a Pro

Here is a great recipe from pitmaster Malcolm Reed. If you want next-level chicken, follow along with Malcolm’s method.

The Best Rub For Chicken Drumsticks

When it comes to chicken drumsticks, a good rub can make all the difference in flavor. One classic option is a simple Texas style seasoning made with coarse black pepper and salt. This simple seasoning will give the drumsticks a nice crust with a good balance of salty and spicy.

Another option is to add some savory flavors to the rub, such as onion powder, granulated onion, and paprika. This will give the drumsticks a nice depth of flavor and a beautiful color.

If you’re looking for a pre-made rub, Killer Hogs and Slap Yo Daddy are both great options. These rubs are specially formulated for barbecue and will give your drumsticks a fantastic flavor. Be careful when using pre-made rubs, as they often contain a lot of salt. You don’t want to double-salt the chicken, so taste the meat before you serve it.

If you want to make your own rub, you can make a simple rub by mixing together paprika, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. This will give your drumsticks a nice sweet and savory flavor.

Standard Barbecue Rub

Standard Barbecue Rub

I found this great rub recipe through How To BBQ Right. I use this recipe and alter it slightly depending on what I'm cooking. Made by the guys at Townsend Spice & Supply:

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes


  • - ½ Cup Paprika
  • - ½ Cup Salt
  • - ½ Cup Sugar
  • - ½ Cup Granulated Garlic
  • - ¼ Cup Granulated Onion
  • - ¼ Cup Chili
  • - ¼ Cup Cumin
  • - 2 Tablespoons Black Pepper
  • - 2 Tablespoons Dry Mustard
  • - 1 Tablespoon Cayenne Pepper


  1. Combine all the spices together in a large mixing bowl
  2. Store rub in rub shakers

How To Get Crispy Skin On Chicken Drums

One of the best features roasted or smoked wings is a crispy skin. The last thing you want with chicken is soft rubbery skin. There are several things you can do to ensure you get a crispy skin.

Temperature. If you’re cooking in the 220- 250°F range, the skin will be soft. Always keep the temperature closer to the 300° F range to give yourself the best chance. It should take around about an hour to get to that safe 165°F to 175° F internal temperature. It’s best to cook chicken between 275° F and 300° F.

Dry the wings. In order to get crispy skin, make sure the chicken legs are dry. Don’t soak the legs in a wet brine and dry them with a paper towel before cooking.

Don’t use a water pan. If you’re smoking the legs, don’t use a water pan in your smoker because this will produce too much moisture in the cooking chamber and soften the skin.

Don’t spritz. Also avoid spritzing the legs during cooking. I’ve seen barbecue pitmasters spray chicken with an oil spray to aid the browning, but don’t spritz.

Glaze The Legs

When it comes to barbecue or smoked chicken legs, adding a glaze during the last 10-15 minutes of cooking can take them to the next level. A glaze can add a nice sweetness and depth of flavor to the meat.

One popular option is to use a barbecue sauce. You can use your favorite store-bought sauce or make your own. A glaze made with brown sugar, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, and spices will give the legs a nice balance of sweet and tangy flavors.

Another great option is to use an Asian-style glaze. For this, you can use soy sauce, honey, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, and spices. This glaze will give the legs a nice balance of sweet and savory flavors, with a touch of heat.

When glazing the legs, it’s important to use a brush to evenly coat the meat. Be sure to keep an eye on the temperature while glazing, as the sugar in the glaze can cause the meat to burn if left on for too long.

My Favorite Meat Smoking Tools

Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite tools I use when smoking brisket that may be useful to you. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to purchase any of these products, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the tools I recommend to my family and friends who are just starting out.

Meat Thermometer: There are dozens of fancy thermometers on the market, but I still use my trusty TP20. For around $50, I have a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes, and can track the temperature of my smoker with one probe, and my meat with the other probe. The ThermoPro TP20 is an Amazon Best Seller because it’s the easiest thermometer to operate, is durable, highly accurate, and comes with pre-programmed meat settings.

Instant Read Thermometer: Arguably, the second most important tool you need is a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer. These tools play an important role in the latter stages of the cook when the meat needs regular checking in multiple areas. I use the ThermoPro TP19 because it can do everything a ThermaPen can do, but for a fraction of the cost. You can check out the TP19 on Amazon here.

Wireless Thermometer: The latest thermometers on the market have no wires and can be controlled by wi-fi via your phone. Airprobe 3 is the best of this technology.

Butcher Paper: Wrapping brisket in butcher paper has become a huge trend in barbeque thanks to Aaron Franklin. Wrapping your brisket in paper will give you a nice brisket bark. However, you can’t just use any old paper, it has to be unwaxed, food grade paper. You can find it on Amazon here.

Advanced Thermometer and Automatic Temperature Controller: Once you’re ready to take things seriously, the FireBoard 2 Drive is a six-channel Bluetooth/Wi-Fi thermometer that can monitor up to 6 pieces of meat, control and graph your cook sessions on your smartphone, and attaches to an an automatic blower that will convert your charcoal smoker to a set-and-forget. This is one of the most advanced meat thermometers on the market. You can check it out on the FireBoard website here.


Author and founder at Meat Smoking HQ

Recent Posts