Grilled chicken legs are not only a delicious summer meal, but they are also economic as legends are one of the cheapest parts of the chicken. Just because they are cheap, does not mean they have to lack in flavor. Actually, the dark meat of poultry has more flavor as it contains more fat.
One of the biggest problems grilling enthusiasts face however is with cooking times and temperatures. One of the most frequently asked questions is: how long do you grill chicken legs?
It really is not possible to give an exact answer to this question as it really depends on the type of grill you are using, the grilling method and how big the chicken legs are.
It really is an excellent idea to invest in a good quality cooking thermometer. I personally own a voice alert electronic thermometer. It really is a fantastic little cooking gadget and I would be lost without it. It is extremely accurate and eliminates all guessing, and guessing is not an option when cooking meat, especially chicken.
CHICKEN GRILLING METHODS
Boil the Chicken Legs First
The goal with this method is to cook the meat all the way through before it goes on the grill. This greatly reduces the risk of any food born illnesses and also cuts down the grilling time significantly. The downside to this method is a serious lack of flavor. Since you will be cooking the meat on the grill for a much shorter period of time, the meat will not have a chance to pick up that delicious grilled flavor.
Marinate Then Grill
Marinating your chicken legs first is always a good idea. Not only does it give your food a fantastic flavor, but it also keeps the meat moist during the cooking process. For the best results, marinate the chicken over night. Below is an excellent marinade that I use often and it is quite versatile. It works well with seafood like shrimp and scallops as well.
Citrus Herb Marinade
4 Chicken Legs
1/4 Cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 1/2 Tablespoons of Fresh Lemon Juice
1 1/2 Tablespoons Fresh Orange Juice
1/3 Cup of Freshly Chopped Parsley
1/3 Cup Freshly Chopped Cilantro
2 Cloves of Garlic Minced
1 Teaspoon of Salt
1/4 Teaspoon of Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients except the chicken legs. Add chicken to the bowl with the marinade and toss to coat. Refrigerate for several hours, over night if possible.
Let's Start Grilling!
I have found that the best method for cooking chicken legs on the grill is to first sear the meat and then finish the cooking process over indirect heat. The result is a nice moist chicken leg with a delightfully crispy skin.
Step 1: Remove chicken from marinade and rinse. This is to remove any ingredients from the marinade that are stuck to the chicken. If left on, this can burn. Coat the chicken with some oil to prevent it from sticking to the grill.
Step 2: Clean the grill. The best method for cleaning a grill is to turn the grill up high and allow the heat to burn off any grease and grime. Use your grill brush to scrape the grates clean. For charcoal grills, just light up the charcoal and allow the fire to heat up the grains and scrape the grains clean.
Step 3: Heat the Grill. We are going to set up our grill for the searing / indirect cooking method. For gas grills, this is pretty easy. All you do is turn one burner up high and leave the others off. For charcoal grills, it is a little more involved, but not rocket science. All you do once your charcoal is ready, is push all of your charcoal over to one side leaving half of the grill without charcoal. The side with charcoal is for searing and the other side is for the indirect cooking.
Step 4: Begin Cooking. Once your grill is good and hot, go ahead and put your chicken legs on the hot part of the grill and sear on all sides. Only sear your legs for a few minutes per side. You are looking for a nice sear, so avoid burning the skin. After you sear them, go ahead and move them on over to the cool side of the grill and cover.
Let them cook for a good 20 minutes and then get out your baking sauce. If you used the citrus herb marinade from above, try and find a thick baking sauce that compliments the citrus flavors. Baste the legs on all sides and then cover. After another 20 minutes or so, using your thermometer, go ahead and check to see if the legs are done. You are looking for an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once the legs are done, if they are not as crispy as you like, put them on the hot side of the grill again for a few minutes before removing them from the grill.