How Long to Smoke Chicken Legs?

Chicken legs have always been my favorite. Compared to red meat, this has been said to be the healthier choice. However, as a kid, I’ve always wanted my chicken legs to be fried. I mean, who doesn’t like fried chicken, right?

Until I discovered other ways to cook my chicken legs, especially now that we find ways to make our dishes healthier and lower in fat. My smoker and grill does this for me, and I have to say that smoking is excellent for chicken legs. But how long to smoke chicken legs?

Compared to a whole chicken that requires 3-4 hours of smoking, chicken legs requires only 2 hours. Chicken legs are larger than drumstick and are more flavourful. It is also easier to modify its flavor that’s why everybody loves them. Here is a simple recipe that I have always trusted when it comes to smoking my chicken legs.

Smoke Chicken Legs Recipe

  • Serves 6 people
  • Preparation time: About 5 hours
  • ​Cooking time: 2 hours and 5 minutes
  • ​Cooking temperature: 275 o F
  • Meat internal temperature: 165 o F


  • 6 chicken legs
  • Brine solution:
    • ​1 gallon water
    • ​1 cup salt
    • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • Olive oil
  • BBQ sauce
  • Dry chicken rub
    • Your choice of chicken rub will depend on what you want your smoked chicken legs to taste like. Since this recipe requires brining of the chicken, I would suggest that you choose a dry chicken rub that isn’t too high in salt.
    • Or better yet, you could make your own at home! Here is a suggested recipe for a classic dry chicken rub that I actually enjoyed:
      • Dry chicken rub ingredients:
        • 6 tablespoons light brown sugar tightly packed
        • ​2 tablespoons kosher salt
        • ​1 tablespoon chili powder
        • ​½ teaspoon ground black pepper
        • ​½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
        • ​½ teaspoon thyme
        • ​¼ teaspoon oregano
        • ½ teaspoon onion powder
        • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder


  • Smoker or grill
  • Charcoal
  • ​Wood
  • Meat thermometer

You could choose any type of wood depending on the smoke flavor you want your chicken to have. I suggest that you use apple or cherry for this recipe because it imparts a mildly sweet taste that doesn’t overpower the chicken’s natural flavor.


Step 1: Brine the chicken

This step is optional but highly recommended. Poultry has white meat which is more delicate than red meat. The problem with this especially during smoking is that the meat easily gets dehydrated, creating a dry texture in the mouth during consumption. We then use the brine to keep the moisture in the muscles of the chicken. It also adds more flavor on the inside.

Dissolve the salt and brown sugar in the water. Put the chicken legs in a ziplock bag and pour the brine solution until the chicken is submerged. Keep this in the refrigerator for 4 hours.

Step 2: Season the chicken


Rinse the chicken legs to remove extra brine on the exterior. Pat dry with a paper towel. Brush a little olive oil on the chicken legs to allow the dry rub to stick to the chicken better. Apply a little amount of the rub first on the meat under the skin and then put more on the skin. Let it stand for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Step 3: Set up the smoker or the grill


You may use either a smoker or a grill to make your smoked chicken legs. Set it up for indirect grilling so the skin wouldn’t get charred just yet. Add the wood over the red coals and maintain a temperature of 275 o F for 15 minutes.

Step 4: Smoke the chicken legs


If you are using a smoker, having a chicken leg rack would help you achieve the even cooking. Arrange your chicken with the bone hanging at the top of the rack and put in the preheated smoker. Smoke the chicken legs for 2 hours. Brush them with a little barbeque sauce after the first hour and second hour. Add wood as needed.

If you are using a grill, arrange the chicken legs opposite the burning coal and wood. Smoke for 1 hour, then brush a little barbeque sauce over the chicken legs. Turn it on the other side. Add more wood and smoke for another 1 hour. Brush a little more barbeque sauce over it.

Step 5: Sear the chicken on the grill

We finish cooking our smoked chicken legs on the grill. For this step, we use direct heat to make the chicken skin a little crispy. We char the chicken skin by moving the chicken legs over the coals while keeping a close watch not to actually burn the chicken. This will take you about 5 minutes.

Step 6: Check temperature


Whether you smoked your chicken legs on the smoker or the grill, you have to check for the temperature to make sure it is safe for human consumption. Place the meat thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken leg, being careful not to touch the bone. The internal temperature of the meat should read at least 165 o F.

Step 7: Serve with your favorite dip

Although this recipe will already give you flavourful and satisfying smoked chicken legs, you could never go wrong with a little dipping sauce like barbeque or ranch on the side.

There you have your healthier option for chicken legs! Since smoking does not need a large amount of oil to make your chicken legs tastier, you can have an extra helping with less guilt. To make it even healthier, a serving of vegetables on the side would do the trick.

I hope you had fun with this simple yet powerful recipe. Do you have other ways to make smoked chicken legs? Why not make us happy by sharing it with us in the comments section? Make sure to share this recipe with your friends and family. Enjoy!

Melissa Novotny

Hello friends, I'm Melissa from San Diego. I created because I'm obsessed with food. I love cooking, eating and sharing. The Kitchen is the heart of my home.

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