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Alabama-Style Smoke-Roasted Chicken Legs

Ben Fink

Servings: 4

Only in northern Alabama will you see anything like this recipe, whose defining characteristic is mayonnaise. Most all of the barbecue joints in this part of Alabama have a take on this recipe, which is one of the true regional specialties left in barbecue land. My friend Nikki Parrish, from Cullman, Alabama, prefers to showcase her hometown delicacy with game hens, but chicken legs (sometimes they have the thigh and drumstick still joined together) are a little easier to find sometimes. Don’t snicker about the mayonnaise until you’ve tasted this.

This recipe is excerpted from Grillin’ with Gas.


  • Hickory wood chips, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
  • 4 chicken leg quarters (about 3-1/2 pounds)
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup apple-cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs. prepared horseradish
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. freshly cracked black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne


  • Prepare two smoking chip packets. Oil the grill racks. Preheat your grill using all burners set on high and with the lid closed for 10 to 12 minutes.
  • When the grill is hot, cut off the center or back burner and adjust your heat to low. Season the chicken legs with salt and pepper. Place the legs over the indirect section of your grill. Close the lid and smoke for 2 to 2-1/2 hours, basting with the oil and seasoning with additional salt and pepper after an hour. Cook until the internal temperature is 170°F.
  • Meanwhile, in the largest mixing bowl you have, combine mayonnaise, vinegar, lemon juice, horseradish, cracked pepper, salt, and cayenne. Refrigerate until the legs are done (this can be made up to 4 days in advance).
  • Ladle out a little of the mayonnaise sauce for serving. Place the smoked legs in the bowl with the remaining sauce and toss to coat. Let them sit for a few minutes, then drain and serve with the reserved sauce. Discard the sauce where the chicken rested.

Serve with Grilled Watermelon SaladTraditional Cole Slaw, and a Boozy Lime Iced Tea.


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Reviews (2 reviews)

  • spyce | 09/23/2020

    Whoa! One cup of vinegar to one cup of mayonnaise for the sauce. Don’t do it! I looked at other recipes, and the amount of vinegar ranged from 1/4 to 1/2 cup. I decided to start out small as suggested by another reviewer and settled on 1/4 cup. Delicious! I hesitated on basting with the oil, but gave it a try, it worked out well, not greasy at all. I used avocado oil.

  • tzrq3f | 07/26/2011

    Before I start, the recipe as written cannot be right. If you make the white BBQ sauce with 1 cup cider vinegar it is not edible and way to thin. And that's coming form someone from Alabama.That said, the recipe otherwise is wonderful, and if you make the white sauce as listed and then add cider vinegar to taste (start with 2-3 Tbs), it's really quite good.

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