spice rubbed grilled chicken drumsticks

Spice-rubbed grilled chicken drumsticks

With a built in handle, these grilled drumsticks are great to feed a crowd, and make for a hearty tailgate snack.

With fragrant spices, earthy chili powders and just a touch of heat, these vibrant grilled chicken drumsticks are one of my go-to snacks when grilling for a crowd. By setting up your grill for two zone cooking – you create a perfect environment to get a lovely charcoal sear without burning the delicate chicken meat. I use Kingsford Original briquettes for my grilling, so I know exactly how long and how hot they will burn.

There’s no magic time you should cook these for, because with chicken it’s super important to cook to temperature. When you use a thermometer to monitor internal temperature, you can ensure the chicken is safely cooked (ps – you’re looking for 165f internal temp). By knowing the exact temp (instead of having to guess), you can also pull the chicken off the grill as soon as you know it’s safely ready, which prevents overcooking and ending up with sad, dry meat! It’s a win/win for safety AND flavor. I use and recommend Thermapens for temperature monitoring – they’re super fast and reliable.

how to grill chicken drumsticks without burning

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spice rubbed grilled chicken drumsticks

Spice-rubbed grilled chicken drumsticks

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  • Author: Jess Pryles
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: serves 10-12 1x



45 lb chicken drumsticks (about 12)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons chipotle powder
1 teaspoon ancho powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons kosher salt


  1. Light a full chimney of charcoal, and wait 10-15 minuted for the top layer to begin to ash around the edges.
  2. While the charcoal is igniting, place the drumsticks in a large bowl, then add the oil and all the remaining ingredients. Toss to coat all the drumsticks well with the spice mixture.
  3. When the coals are lit and just starting to ash on the top layer, dump into the grill but do not spread out – keep the lit coals to one side of the grill to create a hot and a cool zone – this is called two zone grilling. Replace the grate on top of the lit coals.
  4. Working quickly, place the drumsticks directly over the hot coals, and cook for one minute, then flip and cook another minute on the other side. At this stage, you are just developing color on the chicken, but trying to avoid any burning. If you haven’t got as much of a grilling color as you’d like, simply leave them a little longer.
  5. Once the drumsticks have a nice charred appearance, move them to the cool or indirect side of the grill. Though they look great on the outside, they are not yet fully cooked, and it’s important to cook them to a safe temperature. Once all the drumsticks are on the indirect side, close the lid of the grill and allow them to finish cooking until they reach an internal temperature of 165f, which will take 15-20 minutes.
  6. Remove from the grill, and serve.


Pro tip: wrap a small amount of foil around the bone to make these drumsticks easier to handle when hot!

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Grilling
  • Cuisine: American

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