My Recipe Box

Barbecued Chicken Legs


Serves 6

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 123

The secrets to perfect barbecued chicken are to use dark-meat cuts like drumsticks and thighs, to cook the chicken slowly over indirect heat so the outside doesn't burn before the inside cooks through, and to add the sauce just at the end to glaze the chicken (watch the video for step-by-step instructions). If you have a favorite barbecue sauce, feel free to substitute it.

For the sauce
  • 1 cup unsweetened apple juice
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbs. pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. hot sauce, such as Tabasco
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
For the rub
  • 1 Tbs. light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
For the chicken
  • 6 chicken thighs
  • 6 chicken drumsticks
  • 2 cups hickory or applewood chips, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes and drained
Make the sauce and rub

In a medium saucepan, boil the apple juice and vinegar over medium-high heat until reduced by half, 5 to 7 minutes. Lower the heat to medium low and add the remaining sauce ingredients. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the rub ingredients.

Grill the chicken

Trim any excess fat from the chicken, and season the chicken evenly with all of the rub.

Prepare the grill for indirect cooking over medium-low heat (300°F to 350°F): For a charcoal grill, ignite a chimney starter full of lump charcoal and burn until the edges of the coals look ashy, about 15 minutes. Carefully dump out the coals and use tongs to spread them over half of the charcoal grate. Put the cooking grate in place, close the lid, and let the coals burn down to about 350°F. For a gas grill, turn all the burners on high and close the lid to heat the grill. Then turn off all but one burner to create a cool zone and adjust that burner to maintain a temperature of 300°F to 350°F.

Brush the cooking grate clean. Scatter the wood chips over the lit charcoal, or for a gas grill put them in a smoker box, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

When you see smoke pouring out of the grill, arrange the chicken pieces skin side up over the cooler part of the grill. Close the lid and smoke the chicken for 45 minutes. (For a charcoal grill, if the temperature drops below 300°F, remove the chicken and scatter a layer of new coals on top of the old ones.)

Move the chicken to the hot side of the grill, and grill, uncovered, turning and moving the chicken regularly to manage flare-ups, until lightly charred on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes.

Move the chicken back to the cooler side of the grill, brush with a thin layer of sauce, close the lid, and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted in a thick part of the chicken registers 170°F, 10 to 15 minutes, brushing occasionally with more sauce. (The drumsticks usually take a little longer than the thighs.) Serve hot or at room temperature, with the remaining sauce on the side.

Make Ahead Tips

You can make the sauce up to a week ahead. Refrigerate in a covered container.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 600, Fat (kcal): 31, Fat Calories (g): 280, Saturated Fat (g): 8, Protein (g): 55, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 13, Carbohydrates (mg): 24, Polyunsaturated Fat (mg): 6, Sodium (g): 1300, Cholesterol (g): 320, Fiber (g): 1,

Photo: Scott Phillips

One of the best barbecued chicken recipes I've made. Although this is time-consuming, it's not difficult. The chicken legs came out a beautiful amber color. The sauce was succulent with hints of sweetness and spiciness without being cloying or overwhelmingly hot. I used chicken leg quarters instead of separate thighs and drumsticks, and that worked out well.

Great rub! I used my favourite barbecue sauce and added djijon and hot sauce. Got rave reviews. It will be my go to rub for many things, even on vegetables.

By far the best barbecued chicken recipe that I've found to date (and I've tried an awful lot of them). The sauce is a perfect balance of sweet, tangy and spicy and is highlighted by the rub. The whole family devoured this. You can read my full review at Taking On Magazines:

This was my first attempt at smoking/bbq'ing chicken, and it's brilliant. Don't expect to have left-overs. I used 4 legs and 4 thighs for two people, and it was gone.

Super recipe. Am keeping this one. Thanks so much. Was an easy barbecue sauce but great.

We have a winner! I've made barbecued chicken many times, but this recipe really stands out as one of THE best. The sauce is superb and pairs well with the rub and the smoky chicken. I used a combination of leg quarters and bone-in breasts, and they all came out perfectly tender. We will definitely be making this one again and again!

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