Easy Spice-Rubbed Grilled Chicken Drumsticks with BBQ Sauce

published Jul 13, 2022
4th of july
Grilled Chicken Drumsticks Recipe

A simple spice rub perks up these classic grilled chicken drumsticks that are finished in a sweet-tangy barbecue sauce.

Serves4 to 6

Prep5 minutes

Cook30 minutes

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Photograph of grilled chicken drumsticks on a serving plate and striped kitchen towel.
Credit: Kelli Foster

Grilled chicken may sound like a ho-hum option when you’re planning your next grilled meal, but if you make an easy spice rub (with just five ingredients!) and use your favorite ketchup- or tomato-based barbecue sauce (store-bought is great!), it’s easy to turn ordinary chicken drumsticks into a sticky, slightly sweet and nicely charred meal that friends and family will love. Served with potato salad and slices of ice-cold watermelon, you couldn’t ask for a more summer-y meal. Plus, leftovers are delicious cold the next day for a quick and easy meal.

How to Make Grilled Chicken Drumsticks

  • Rub the chicken. Coat chicken drumsticks with a mixture of salt, brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder or garlic granules, and smoked paprika. Let sit for at least 20 minutes or refrigerate overnight with the seasoning if you can for the best flavor.
  • Start grilling without sauce. For the first 20 minutes of grilling time, grill without any sauce on the chicken. This will keep the sauce from burning.
  • Baste with sauce toward the end. Brush the chicken with sauce every 5 minutes for the rest of the grilling time.

How Long Does It Take to Grill Chicken Drumsticks?

Once the chicken hits the grill, it will take about 30 minutes total grilling time for grilled chicken drumsticks. Make sure to monitor the heat and keep the grill covered to maintain the right temperature and catch any flare-ups.

What Temperature Should You Grill Chicken Drumsticks?

Medium direct heat — 350 to 375ºF — is the ideal grilling temperature for grilled chicken drumsticks. Because of the thickness of chicken drumsticks, plus the fact that there’s a bone, you don’t want to grill at too high a temperature or the outside will become too charred by the time the middle is cooked.

How Can You Tell When Drumsticks Are Done?

There are a couple of ways you can tell when the drumsticks are ready. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part, without touching bone, should register at least 165ºF. Alternatively, you can cut a slit through that same part to check that the juices run clear and there is no pink. The dark meat on drumsticks is quite forgiving and hard to overcook, so err on cooking longer if you’re not sure.

Grilled Chicken Drumsticks Recipe

A simple spice rub perks up these classic grilled chicken drumsticks that are finished in a sweet-tangy barbecue sauce.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon

    packed light or dark brown sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    chili powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    garlic powder or garlic granules

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    smoked paprika

  • 8

    chicken drumsticks (2 to 2 1/2 pounds total)

  • Vegetable oil, for oiling the grill

  • 1/2 cup

    tomato or ketchup-based barbecue sauce, plus more for serving

Instructions

  1. Place 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon packed brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder or garlic granules, and 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika in a large bowl and stir to combine.

  2. Pat 8 chicken drumsticks dry with paper towels. Place in the spice mixture and toss with your hands until the chicken is evenly coated. If grilling immediately, let sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes while you heat the grill. Otherwise, cover and refrigerate up to overnight.

  3. Heat an outdoor grill for medium, direct heat (350 to 375ºF). If the chicken has been refrigerated, let it sit at room temperature while the grill is heating.

  4. Scrape the grill grates clean if needed. Oil the grill grates with a folded paper towel dipped in vegetable oil. Place the chicken on the grill so the pieces are not touching. Cover and grill until grill marks appear on the bottom and the chicken releases easily from the grill, about 10 minutes. Flip the chicken, cover, and grill until grill marks appear on the other side, about 10 minutes more. Meanwhile, measure out 1/2 cup barbecue sauce.

  5. Flip the chicken again. Brush generously with the barbecue sauce. Cover and grill for 5 minutes. Continue to flip and brush the chicken with barbecue sauce every 5 minutes until the chicken is charred in spots and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the drumstick not touching bone registers at least 165ºF, about 30 minutes total grilling time (you may not use all the barbecue sauce). Serve with more barbecue sauce if desired.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The spice mixture can be made up to 1 week ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature. The chicken can be marinated and refrigerated up to 1 day ahead. Let sit at room temperature while the grill is heating.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Reheat in a 325ºF oven until warmed through, about 15 minutes.