The Best BBQ Chicken Legs on the Grill

Summer is in full swing, and there’s nothing better than firing up the grill to cook up some delicious food. If you’re looking for a great grilled dish that’s sure to please, look no further than BBQ chicken legs.

These juicy, flavorful chicken legs are cooked to perfection on the grill and then basted with your favorite barbecue sauce. The result is a dish that’s both smoky and sweet that’s simply irresistible.

Whether you’re grilling for a backyard barbecue or just cooking for yourself, BBQ chicken legs are always a crowd-pleaser. So fire up the grill and get cooking!

BBQ chicken legs on a plate with a couple lime slices and extra BBQ sauce on the side ready to serve.

BBQ chicken legs on the grill is my favorite way to eat them! Yeah they are messy to eat, but they are so worth it. Sometimes we make grilled chicken legs which are made with just a dry rub, but I definitely prefer them with BBQ sauce.

While I do love chicken breasts as well like our grilled chicken with garlic sauce, I do make legs and thighs more often. Thighs and legs do not dry out like chicken breasts do, they actually get better when you slightly overcook them like our grilled chicken leg quarters!

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The ingredients

Ingredients prepped for making the BBQ chicken legs.

These BBQ chicken legs on the grill have a mix of a dry rub, lime juice and BBQ sauce.

Legs – It is best to get legs that have the skins on them still for the best flavor and texture.

Lime juice – Highly recommended but can be left out if you do not have it. It is not being used as a marinade so it is mainly for some extra flavor. When using lime juice, it helps the other flavors to soak into the meat during cooking. You will not have a strong lime flavor.

BBQ sauce – Use your favorite here! Typically we use a honey BBQ sauce here, but you can use a different flavor. Spicy sauce is always good too if you like a little spice.

The dry rub

We add the dry rub to our BBQ chicken legs before putting them on the grill for an incredible flavor! I don’t add the BBQ sauce until they are almost cooked all the way.

Brown sugar – This can be light or dark brown sugar. We use dark brown for just about everything so we also use it for these legs. Light brown will work great too.

Chili powder – No substitutions here

Garlic – As much as we love fresh garlic, we do recommend garlic powder here. It is easier to mix throughout the dry rub and then easier to evenly coat it on all the legs.

Smoked paprika – We recommended smoked for a slight smoky flavor, but you can use regular paprika if you do not have smoked.

Minced dried onion – You can substitute this with 1 teaspoon of onion powder.

Salt – Optional and we only use a little bit. Can leave it out if preferred, it is used to enhance some of the other flavors.

Cayenne pepper – You can use more or leave it out. Your BBQ chicken legs on the grill will not be spicy with a couple dashes. If you like spicy, you will want to add more!

Prepping the chicken

chicken legs on a plate coated with lime juice and dry rub ready for the grill.

These BBQ chicken legs on the grill do not require much prep and they are easy to get ready to cook.

First the lime juice – I like to hand squeeze the lime over all the chicken here, but if you prefer to juice it with a hand juicer you can do that also. This is the easiest because you squeeze the lime juice directly over the legs.

If you have a juicer that you can not squeeze the lime directly over the chicken while using it, you can put the chicken in a large bowl and pour the lime juice over it. Toss the chicken to coat with lime.

The dry rub – Coat the chicken evenly with the dry rub. Use your hands to gently pat it onto the chicken so it sticks and is an even coating.

Allow to sit for about 5-10 minutes before placing on the grill that has been heated to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cooking the BBQ chicken legs on grill

Cooking the BBQ chicken legs is pretty easy, but they do require more frequent flipping then most other meats you cook on the grill.

Once your grill has reached about 400-425 degrees, add the chicken legs to direct heat and close the lid. Cook for about 40 minutes flipping every 10 minutes (or more often if they are flaring up.) Cook until chicken reaches at least 165 degrees.

Chicken needs to be at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit, but for legs and thighs 175-185 is best. At 165 they may have a slight rubbery texture but at 175 and up, they have a very tender texture!

While you shouldn’t ever overcook chicken breasts (they get really dry), I do encourage you to over cook chicken legs – you won’t be disappointed!

Adding the BBQ sauce

Chicken legs on the grill with BBQ sauce just added to them.

When you add the sauce matters when it comes to flavor and texture of these BBQ chicken legs on the grill.

BBQ sauce tends to dry meats out when it cooks on them the whole time. It’s ok with a piece of meat that takes a short amount of time to cook, but meats like chicken legs and even grilled baby back ribs take longer to cook. They will dry out easier if you add the sauce right away.

The best way to keep them juicy and not dried out is to cook them most of the way first. Then you can add the BBQ sauce.

Once your chicken legs are up to temperature, we are going to add the sauce.

Add the BBQ sauce with a silicone basting brush to top side of legs, flip and add the sauce to the other side. Cook for about 5 minutes with the grill lid closed, flip and cook another 5 minutes. You can repeat this if you like a lot of sauce on your chicken, but this is when we take them off and serve them.

Frequently asked questions

Can I make these on a charcoal grill?

Yes you can! The cook times may vary slightly and it depends on the temperature of your grill. We cook over direct heat at about 400 degrees Fahrenheit on a gas grill, adjust accordingly. Chicken needs to be at least 165 when it is cooked, but for chicken legs 175-185 is best.

Why do I keep flipping chicken legs during cooking?

It helps to cook them evenly when both sides are getting heat every 10 minutes. If you keep them on one side for too long you will likely have burned the side that is on the grill. The fat in them sometimes flares up and sometimes the skin burns.

Do you boil drumsticks before grilling?

No we do not. Boiling takes away some of the flavor of the chicken and really isn’t needed. Cooking them on direct heat and flipping them every 10 minutes is the best way to keep the flavor of the chicken and ensuring that the legs are fully cooked through.

Do you grill chicken legs with the lid open or closed?

Closed is best for even cooking of these BBQ chicken legs on the grill. You will be opening the lid every 10 minutes to flip, but otherwise keep the lid closed to keep the heat inside the grill.

Equipment

As an Amazon affiliate we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase from one of our links. Here are a few things that we use when making this recipe.

  • Silicone basting brush – why silicone? It has a high heat tolerance and it doesn’t leave any bristles behind on your food like the traditional bristle basting brushes do.
  • Meat thermometer – Instant read is best here
  • Hand juicer – If you prefer to use a juicer for you lime instead of your hand.
  • Grill tongs – Quite often you can get these in a set with other grilling utensils as well.

Other great grill dishes

If you love our BBQ chicken legs on the grill, you will love some of these great recipes!

BBQ chicken legs on a plate ready to be served with some extra sauce in a small bowl.

The Best BBQ Chicken Legs on the Grill

Dawn
Full of flavor and always juicy, these BBQ chicken legs on the grill are easy to make and sure to please a crowd. With the perfect combination of smoky and sweet, these chicken legs are the perfect backyard cookout meal!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Dinner, Grilled dishes
Cuisine American
Servings 5
Calories 571 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
  

  • 4 pounds chicken legs approximate
  • 1 lime
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce your favorite

Dry Rub

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar light or dark, we prefer dark
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 dashes cayenne pepper optional, can use more if spicy is desired

Instructions
 

  • Preheat grill to about 400℉.
  • In a small prep bowl mix together all the dry rub ingredients.
    2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon dried minced onion, 1 teaspoon chili powder, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, ¼ teaspoon salt, 2 dashes cayenne pepper
  • Cut the lime in half and hand squeeze the juice over the legs. See notes for a juicer if you prefer not to hand squeeze.
    1 lime
  • Evenly coat the chicken legs with the dry rub using it all and allow them to sit for about 5-10 minutes before grilling.
    4 pounds chicken legs
  • Place on direct heat on your grill that is heated to 400℉ and close the lid.
  • Cook for 30-40 minutes flipping every 10 minutes. Chicken should be at least 165℉, but 175-185℉ is best for the best texture and flavor. See notes
  • Add the BBQ sauce with a silicone basting brush to the top of the legs, flip and coat the other side.
    1 cup BBQ sauce
  • Cook for about 5 minutes, flip and cook another 5 minutes. Can repeat if more sauce is desired.
  • Remove from grill and rest about 5 minutes before serving.

Notes

Nutritional values are estimated and so are serving sizes.  Legs are mostly bones and people often eat more then one.
Chicken legs and thighs are best when they are slightly overcooked.  They need to be at least 165 degrees to be safe, but 175-185 gives you the best flavor and texture.  At 165 they often have a rubbery texture (no matter how you cook them), but by 175 degrees they are much more tender.
If you prefer to use a juicer for your lime, you can either juice it over the chicken (if using a hand juicer) or place the chicken legs in a bowl and pour the lime juice over.  Toss in the bowl to coat.

Nutrition

Calories: 571kcalCarbohydrates: 31gProtein: 35gFat: 34gSaturated Fat: 9gPolyunsaturated Fat: 7gMonounsaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 192mgSodium: 888mgPotassium: 613mgFiber: 1gSugar: 24gVitamin A: 709IUVitamin C: 6mgCalcium: 51mgIron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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