Barbecue/chicken legs


QUESTION: Lately I've been trying with not much success BBQing chicken legs. Most of what I have been learning is that 170F is the ideal temperature, but this requires extensive cooking time. With less cooking time the temperature should be higher but then there is the danger of the meat being too tough. I tried cooking at a low temperature yesterday but after 1 1/2 hours it was not 100% cooked. How do you BBQ chicken legs, glazing them at the end, so that they are done in 45 minutes? Also, do you marinade them overnight? Thanks.

ANSWER: 170F is the internal temperature of the meat when it is done, not the temp at which you should be cooking. Cook about 3" above a bed of charcoal, turning frequently so the chicken doesn't burn. If you use a covered grille, you'll be able to partially control heat by opening and closing the air vents. Wait until the chicken is effectively fully cooked before brushing with a glaze or sauce, and cook only long enough to caramelize the sugars -- usually 5-10 minutes. You can marinate if you choose, but doing so will have no effect on the cooking time -- marinades are primarily for flavor and tenderizing (if necessary). One important question: are you cooking whole leg quarters or just the drumsticks? Whole quarters will take longer to cook -- 30+ minutes as opposed to 20+ minutes, so plan accordingly!

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks. Just drum sticks. So if I BQ drumsticks, am I correct in cooking them  indirect heat for about 20 mins. and then glazing them for an additional 5-10 mins. on direct heat? Or would the direct heat burn them too much?

All the cooking -- initial and and glaze -- is done over coals, therefore direct heat. The times are approximate -- basically, you cook until it's done. If you have a meat thermometer with a fine probe, use that to verify that the legs are done (170F). If not stick a fork in each piece and look at the color of the juices. If they are clear, then the meat,is done. If pink, cook longer. And keep in mind that just because one drumstick is done, that doesn't mean they're all done. You have to stay with the grille, closely monitoring the cooking until everything is done or things will burn.


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I can answer questions having to do with grilling or barbecuing meat (but not pork), poultry, fish, and vegetables over charcoal or wood. I also have some expertise in marinades and spice mixes. I cook only with charcoal and wood, so please do not ask me any questions about gas or electric grills.


I've been cooking with fire and smoke for 25 years, using charcoal and wood almost exclusively. While I do not usually cook with gas, I'm willing to try to answer cooking questions in this area. I cook meat, poultry, fish, and vegetables, and I've experimented with a lot of different recipes and techniques. I am not able to answer questions about grilling or barbecuing pork. Most recently I've been using slow-cooking (indirect heat) techniques, and have been very successful at it.

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