How to Grill Chicken Legs

When grilling chicken legs I like nice crispy crunchy skin and then slathered in wing sauce. These are an affordable option to chicken wings especially when you are grilling for large groups. With this article we will show you how to achieve that elusive crispy skin while keeping the dark meat nice and moist. The process is simple and prep the we do will only takes a few minutes.

If you rinse the chicken legs before starting the prep be sure that they are dry before you start. The more moisture added to the skin the less chance of getting a crispy skin off of your grill. So if you are going to do your own variation of this just keep in mind dry rubs and seasonings are fine but sauces and brines before grilling are not.

The first step is to inject our legs, since we are going for a traditional buffalo wing flavor so for this we are going to use Franks Red Hot Sauce. Since chicken legs have more meat we find that this helps get that flavor throughout the entire leg. We inject twice, right up against the bone on opposite sides of the bones. If you have any sauce leakage pat it dry with a paper towel. Then pull the skin up over the end of the leg to cover up as much of the meat as you can. Set the leg aside and repeat this process for all the legs.

Step two is to rub the chicken skin with butter. While I know this seems to go against the adding moisture theory however it does work wonders on the skin. You will need to trust me on this one. Take a stick of butter cut a quarter to half the stick off and peel the paper back. Hold the leg by the bottom and rub the butter from the bottom to the top. This will help keep the stretched skin in place.

The final prep step is to season the chicken legs. We are just using plain salt and pepper, feel free to use a barbecue dry rub or add some heat with crushed red pepper. After your chicken is coated in seasoning cover and refrigerate for one hour.

Set your grill up for high indirect heat and use of a drip pan for this is highly recommended.

I like adding a little smoke flavor to using hickory wood chips.

Place your chicken legs off of the heat meat side towards the heat and cover the grill. Check and turn the legs them after 7 to 10 minutes if some look like they are cooking faster rotate the position on the grill as well. If you have multiple rows move the back to the front a vise versa then cover your grill again.

Once your chicken is on the grill you can turn your attention to the sauce. Traditional buffalo wing sauce is simple. Just Franks Red Hot and butter. I like to use 25% butter and 75% Franks. Take the butter and melt it in a large frying pan once melted add the Franks allow it to get good and hot just bubbling is perfect. Then keep it warm until the legs are fully grilled. You can cheat this by microwaving the sauce and the butter and brushing it on at the end.

Check the legs again in another 7 to 10 minutes the skin should be beginning to render its fat. Look for dripping in your drip pan. If the skin does not show signs of beginning to rendering rotate again and check every 5 minutes or so.

Here is a chicken leg rack that can make this whole process easier.

Stainless steel chichen leg grill Rack by Outset

Once the fat rendering has begun move over them the high heat and do not cover the grill. You will see the chicken skin begin to brown almost immediately. Turn and rotate as you see them brown. This final step should take about 5 minutes or less in total. The sign that they are done is when the skin is pulling away from the top of the leg and shrinking.

When you have finished grilling your chicken let it rest for 2 to 4 minutes, this helps the skin crisp up. Sauce immediately before serving not before. Toss them directly into the pan we made the sauce in and quickly toss. You may want do this in small batches to help keep the skin crisp. If you allow the chicken legs to sit in the sauce the crispy skin will be crispy no more.

If you don’t like buffalo wings the important steps to follow here are: dry and butter the skin, the cooking method and not adding sauce until just before they are served.

About the author: Mike is the owner of, a Certified Food Safety Professional and KCBS member.

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