This recipe for grilled chicken legs is a beloved classic family recipe. The chicken becomes deliciously tender and savory thanks to a simple marinade of lemon, garlic, and seasonings. While grilling adds a smoky, charred flavor that is ideal for summer.
Perfectly Grilled Chicken Legs
Grilled Chicken Legs are a must-make recipe during the summer. This simple and delicious recipe for grilling chicken legs is healthy, cost-efficient, and adds an elegant touch to any backyard BBQ.
The chicken marinade is simple to make and infuses the garlic and lemon flavors throughout each bite. My technique and marinade always ensure tender, juicy, and flavorful grilled chicken legs.
Even better, this recipe is quick and easy. After marinating the meat comes the joy of relaxing and letting the grill do the rest of the work. This recipe is easy to make, yet the taste is unbelievably delicious!
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Chicken Drumsticks: Although I am using chicken legs (chicken legs and drumsticks are the same things!) for this recipe, you can also use chicken wings or skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: adds marinade flavors to the chicken, plus helps the cooked chicken retain moisture giving a nice, juicy bite. Substitute this with peanut, sunflower, vegetable, or canola oil.
- Honey: adds a hint of sweetness and balances the flavorings. You can substitute it with white or brown sugar.
- Lemon: Every marinade needs an acid. We’re going to use lemon juice and zest for this one. It’s a nice, bright flavoring that is perfect for grilled chicken.
- Soy Sauce: adds an umami (savory) flavoring. Substitute with tamari, coconut aminos, or Worcestershire sauce.
- Garlic: use fresh cloves, or substitute with garlic powder as needed.
If you plan on marinating for over 4 hours, omit the lemon juice and only use lemon zest! Lemon juice is too strong of an acid to leave on the chicken overnight, and will create a tough, leathery texture to the meat when cooked.
Easy, Flavorful Chicken Marinade
This recipe starts by marinating the chicken before grilling, giving the meat time to develop a bright, savory flavoring and helping make the meat fall-off-the-bone tender.
- Prepare the marinade: making the marinade is quick and easy. First, combine all of the ingredients in a cup or jar and mix to combine.
- Marinate: place the chicken in a large bowl or sealable bag, then pour the marinade over, coating all the meat. Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 30 minutes. To fully enhance the flavors, marinating the mixture for 4-6 hours is best.
- Pat Dry: after letting the chicken legs soak in all the flavors, remove them from the marinade and pat them dry completely. Having the skin dry before grilling is the trick to getting crispy skin on your chicken!
how To Grill Chicken Legs
- Two heat zone: setting up for direct and indirect heat is the best way to get juicy chicken with crispy skin on the grill. Set this up by adding charcoal on one side or turning off half of the electric burners after preheating.
- Cook over indirect heat: cooking the chicken over indirect heat (400-425 degrees F) allows the chicken to cook without blackening the skin too fast or drying out the meat.
- Sear on direct heat: after the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees F, transfer them to cook over direct heat to get that nice crispy charred skin. Cook until the internal temperature of the chicken legs come to 190 degrees F.
Chicken Internal Temperature
According to America’s Test Kitchen, dark meat is best when cooked to an internal temperature of 195 degrees F. This is due to the breakdown of the collagen.
Sides to Complete Your Meal
- No cookout is complete without the sides! Since you have the grill going, it’s easy to add vegetables on at the same time to serve up on the side. One of our favorites is Mexican Grilled Corn.
- Cold dishes that can be made ahead of time are usually the winners when it comes to busy weekdays. Pair a Southern Potato Salad, Classic Macaroni Salad, Elote Salad, or Southern Coleslaw with your meal.
- Keep things on the healthy side by matching a crisp green salad with your chicken. A classic wedge salad, this colorful Mexican salad, or fun and fruity strawberry poppyseed salad are all tasty options.
Saving Your Leftovers
- Refrigerator: Store in a sealed container in the fridge for 2-3 days. To reheat, place them on a baking sheet and bake in a 375 degrees F oven for about 15 minutes or until completely warmed.
- Freezing: Before freezing, allow the chicken to cool. Wrap each piece of chicken separately in plastic, and then place them all in a freezer-safe bag. Wrapping each piece separately allows you to pull out only what you want. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and follow the instructions above for reheating.
Photography by @ModernFarmhouseEats