How to Grill Chicken Drumsticks on a Gas Grill

Grilling meat can seem tricky. Some meat is best grilled over direct heat, while others are better with an indirect heat source. High temperatures are best for steaks and pork chops, while lower temperatures are best for grilling ribs, pork shoulder and chicken wings. There are even grilling accessories like grill racks, stones, skewers and wood planks, that can simplify the grilling of tender and delicate meat and seafood. Grilling meat properly is not rocket science. All that is required is an understanding of the temperature and method of grilling whatever cut of meat you have. Like anything, practice makes perfect, and after a few attempts, you will find that you are turning into a grilling guru #EATMOREBBQ!!

One meat that can be a challenge is chicken drumsticks. I have eaten far to many dry and burned drumsticks that were grilled at far to high a temperature for way too long. Grilled properly, chicken drumsticks are delicious and tender, with crispy, sticky and saucy skin. Below are some simple suggestions for grilling drumsticks on a gas grill.
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Here are a few tips for grilling the perfect chicken drumsticks.

  • Keep the grill temperature around 350F. This lower than normal grill temperature is perfect for grilling drumsticks. It allows the meat to be perfectly cooked but does not cause the skin to burn or scorch.
  • If desired, toss the chicken with a nice BBQ spice rub before placing on the grill. Here is a recipe for my standard BBQ rub.
  • Grill for about 10 minutes on one side, then flip over with tongs. Lift the drumsticks off the grill gently to ensure that the skin is not sticking to the grill grates.
  • Keep the lid closed as much as possible. Drumsticks grilled this way are almost roasted, as keeping the lid closed causes the heat to surround the chicken.
  • Have a glass of water handy. Since chicken drumsticks have lots of skin, during grilling it will render and the grease can drip. This may cause some flare ups and splashing some water on the flame may be necessary.
  • Cook until the internal temperature of the drumsticks read about 180F. This is higher than the required 165F, but going up to 180F is much better for dark meat. The result is a more tender drumstick where the meat falls off the bone. Also this temperature ensures that the skin is nicely rendered and crispy.
  • Do not brush the BBQ sauce on the chicken until the last few minutes. I find that having BBQ sauce on for a lot of the grilling time can increase the chance that the skin burns and goes black.
  • Indirect or Direct? These instructions are for direct heat, but it is possible to grill drumsticks over indirect heat. One advantage of this is that you can be sure that there will not be any flare ups. Also, there is a reduced chance that the drumsticks will burn. Personally, I like how the skin renders and gets crispy when grilled over direct heat. E

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Along with the drumsticks, I grilled up some green and yellow zucchini. I use grill stones which is perfect for grilling up veggies. Seasoned grill stones are totally non stick and provide a flat grilling surface, making sure that the vegetables do not fall through the grate. These summer vegetables were tossed with oil, herbs, salt, pepper and they perfectly complemented the drumsticks.

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One of the great things about grilling drumsticks is that even the most modest sized grill can cook many drumsticks at once. These are ideal for grilling parties as it is possible to grill enough at once to feed a big crowd. On top of that, adults and kids alike tend to love grilled drumsticks. Children love eating with their hands and drumsticks, with lots of sweet sauce, are always a hit.

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This post is sponsored by TUMS Canada and is part of the #EATMOREBBQ campaign.

About Steve Cylka

Steve is the author of The Black Peppercorn. He is a recipe developer and food photographer. His recipes have been featured on websites like Bradley Smoker, Times Picayune, Buzzfeed, and Basil & Salt. He has also authored and co-authored a couple cookbooks.

14 comments

  1. Crystal Sodium Chloride

    Excellent tips Mr Peppercorn – these have worked for me. One additional step I often do is spray the drumsticks very quickly and lightly with a non-stick cooking spray. I find this helps to prevent the skin from sticking to the grill grates. In addition, if someone in your group wants ‘plain’ drumsticks (no BBQ sauce), it leaves themwith a nice golden glaze that is a bit crispy.

  2. These look great! We use a charcoal grill, so getting our heat just right is a little harder. But looks like the results are well-worth it. Thanks.

  3. Hello! I grilled drumsticks last evening, but was afraid to grill them too long. I would like clarification – they were ‘done’ but the meat was kind of sinewy and didn’t fall off the bone. If I cooked them longer to get that ‘fall off the bone’ quality, they would not have dried out?

  4. I hear it works if you rub oil on the grill to avoid sticking.
    I havn’t tried it yet.

  5. Thank you Mr. Peppercorn.!!!!! I found this to be worded perfectly. I’m new to grilling and wanted to have my drums skin crispy. I felt that baking wouldn’t provide that. KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce is the bomb. Can’t wait to try and enjoy.

  6. It is great to grill drumsticks, but only issue that comes is the time of grilling, drumsticks needs perfect grilling, and so far I have tried grilling drumsticks two times & on both occasions I didn’t grill them for long enough.

    • This is a common problem. Do you have a digital thermometer? If you do, use that to check the temperature of the drumsticks. Stick it in the fattest part of the meat and just to where the probe hits the bone. You want it to read close to 180F. At that temperature, the meat will be tender and just pull away from the bone. If you do not have a digital thermometer, try reducing the temperature a little bit and cooking longer. My guess is that you are judging that they are done by how they look on the outside. Grilling drumsticks can be difficult to get the meat fully cooked while not charring the outside, especially if you are dealing with any flare-ups. Really, the best advice is to get a digital thermometer – that way you know they are cooked through. They are not that expensive and are available at most stores that sell grilling supplies. You will be happy you made that purchase!

  7. I see you start with the bbq rub. Do you add bbq sauce at some point during the grilling process? If so, when?

    • It’s really based on preference. I actually often toss it in BBQ sauce once they come off the grill and then I serve them right away. Either that or brush some sauce during the last 5 minutes or so of them on the grill

  8. I pre cook the drumsticks in a microwave first. This reduces cooking time on the grill and also gets rid of some of the fat. Depending on the size of the drumsticks, 1-2 minutes in the microwave should be sufficient.

  9. Being new to great grilling, your recommendations were right on. Thank you!

  10. Just want to say thanks from Oregon! I did a spice rub prior to grilling, but needed some tips on grilling my drumsticks as part experience has taught me it’s not as easy as it looks. I appreciated your insights. I applied sauce right at the end, waited until they were 180 degrees… absolutely perfect. Thank you!

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