When we lived in the midwest I became cul de sac famous for cooking drumsticks by the dozen on my grill for block parties. This was true BBQ chicken, painted with sauce and flipped repeatedly to achieve that good char on all sides. These days I love smoking chicken, the kids like it and I get good results every time. In the past when I've done whole chickens, all of the meat is great, however, the legs are always on dad's plate because they are truly sublime, all dark meat, like a chicken lollipop, or an overgrown chicken wing! I figured, why not fill the smoker with nothing but drummies? Few things are more satisfying than walking into the house with big plate of grub from the smoker. The meat carries both the story of the work that went into it and the smell of the wood that cooked it. When you cook with smoke, people know when the food arrives!
Any pack of drumsticks will work I'm sure, but for my money you can't beat the 3 packs of drumsticks from Costco, available in Certified Organic too! Each pack has 15 total drumsticks. They are affordable, meaty, great looking drumsticks, and like everything at Costco, they are high quality.
One key that I've discovered to smoking great meat is brining. I've got a go-to brine for all chicken recipes. It's never exactly the same but the results are consistent when I give chicken, of any cut, 4+ hours to soak in the recipe below. I cannot stress this enough, this doesn't all have to be perfect, enjoy the process!
Go-to Chicken Brine (All estimates):
-3/4 full pot of water
-2 cups chicken stock
-1 cup Olive Oil
-1/2 cup salt
-1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
-1 cup cut carrots
-1 cup cut celery
-1/2 cup cut yellow onion
-Tablespoon of celery salt
-Tablespoon of garlic
-Pinch of Oregano
-Pinch of all-spice type product
Let all these ingredients boil for a few minutes, cook them for another 10 minutes on medium, let the brine cool, (which will take some time) and pour them over your chicken, submerging as much of the chicken as possible, you can also just pour the drumsticks into the pot but you'll need to make sure whatever container you brine in can fit in your fridge. I use a big tupperware-style container with a locking lid. I got these in the brine around 9pm and removed them and rubbed them the next day about 12 hours later. If you transfer the brine to a different container, don't forget the celery, carrots and onions!
You can do your brine in the morning and still be all good and ready to smoke your chicken for dinner, but if you have the time to get your chicken in the brine and let it soak overnight, do it.
After the brine process is complete, dab the chicken dry and get your rub on it and, if you have the option, give it a couple hours to sit on the meat. There are a myriad of rub recipes you can make yourself and tons of rubs you can buy off the shelf. Don't overthink it! Go grab one at the store and be liberal with the application, you want a good coating to get the bark on that delicious meat! For the drumsticks in these pictures I used 1/2 a can of weber chili lime rub and a random chicken rub off the shelf from Fred Meyer, I also added some extra brown sugar. I got all the drumsticks well covered and let them sit for about 2 hours in the fridge.
Smoking the drumsticks:
Most people say to use applewood with chicken; I would agree. I keep mesquite and hickory around for beef and use applewood for chicken and pork. Sometimes it's fun to experiment with combinations of wood. For these drumsticks I did one tray full of apple wood chips and I was good to go.
For chicken, whole or drumsticks, set your smoker to 250F and plan on cooking it for 3 hours. The brining will help protect the meat from drying out, so get it good and cooked through! I have yet to invest in one of those fancy meat thermometers that connects to your phone and what not, probably need to do that soon as I continue to step my game up. Anyhow, I've never had an issue with chicken. With a good brining it always comes out good, you can tell when its done when you see the meat start to split a little bit.
These drumsticks came out just as I hoped. Great texture, delicious with the smoke flavor throughout and some good spice on the outside. Will definitely look forward to doing these again!
If you want to make something that isn't too tough, tastes amazing and will please a crowd, drumsticks are an often-overlooked option. Brine, rub, smoke and enjoy.
Contact me with any questions or to share your results.
Steve@mortport.com or @crushlifeacres on instagram
Rise. Shine. Crush.