Every home cook needs a really good baked chicken legs recipe in their back pocket—and we’re giving you ours today! This chicken drumsticks recipe is so easy to make, so packed with flavor, and such a family favorite that you’ll be putting it on your menu weekly!
Baking dark meat chicken—like these drumsticks—is a fast way to get tender, juicy meat with minimal prep time. Let’s get baking!
What’s the difference between chicken legs and chicken drumsticks?
It depends! The terms are used pretty interchangeably, but sometimes they can refer to two different cuts of chicken. Sometimes, “chicken legs” can mean just the chicken drumstick, but sometimes, you’ll also see chicken thighs and drumsticks together sold under the name “chicken legs” or “chicken quarters.”
For this recipe, we tend to rely on using just chicken drumsticks, but it’ll also work great with chicken quarters (the leg and the thigh). So use whatever you can easily get!
How do you make baked chicken drumsticks?
If you can whisk together a few ingredients and turn on an oven, you can make this baked chicken legs recipe! Here are the basics:
- If using frozen chicken, make sure to remove from the freezer and thaw completely before cooking. Pat dry with paper towels.
- Whisk together a simple, sweet marinade in a small bowl.
- Place the chicken drumsticks in the marinade, toss to coat, and then stash in the fridge for at least two hours, but preferably overnight.
- When it’s time to cook, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil, lay out the drumsticks, and bake.
- While the legs are cooking, reduce the marinade in a saucepan until thick and sticky.
- Brush the reduced marinade on the legs, and the pop them under the broiler to caramelize and finish cooking.
How long should you cook drumsticks in the oven for?
Because we are cooking the chicken legs at such a high temperature, they will be cooked all the way through in under half an hour. This high temperature during baking time gets the marinade to caramelize and begins the process of creating a truly sticky and delicious chicken leg!
The “sticky” in this recipe name is no joke! Line your baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and spray liberally with cooking spray to save yourself a major cleanup job later.
Do you cover chicken when baking?
No need! In fact, you want the heat to be able to get to the skin of the chicken to get it crispy, sticky, and caramelized.
What should the temperature of chicken be?
To make sure your chicken is safe to eat, you’ll want the internal temperature at the thickest part of the drumstick to read 165°F when it’s time to serve. However, because we put these chicken legs back under the broiler to finish them off, we recommend taking them out of the oven the first time around 160°F—the 3-5 minutes under a hot broiler will then finish off the cooking time.
When reading with an instant read thermometer, make sure the probe doesn’t touch the bone to get an accurate temperature.
What should I serve with baked chicken legs?
These baked chicken drumsticks are a great pair for a ton of amazing side dishes. Here are some of our favorite recommendations:
- Sweet Potato Fries
- Loaded Roasted Cauliflower
- Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Summer Split Pea Salad
- Roasted Beets with Balsamic Glaze
- Grilled Potato Wedges
- Sweet and Creamy Coleslaw
- Bacon and Sriracha Mac and Cheese
- Southern Style Green Beans and Potatoes
- Buffalo Blue Cheese Potato Salad
How do you keep chicken from drying out in the oven?
One of the biggest benefits of working with dark meat (chicken legs and chicken thighs) is how much fat and moisture the meat inherently has. It’s much harder to overcook dark meat than it is white meat (like chicken breasts)! Follow our directions, keep an eye on the internal temperature using a meat thermometer, and you’ll be golden.
Is it really safe to use this marinade as a sauce?
Yep, we’ve taken a few precautions to make sure that there are no food safety issues with having this marinade do double-duty as a glaze:
- We keep the chicken refrigerated through the whole marinating time, so it never gets into the temperature “danger zone” where bacteria can quickly multiply.
- We are bringing the marinade to a rapid boil before brushing it on the chicken. This boil time kills any microorganisms that might be present in the marinade.
- The drumsticks are then put until the broiler for a few minutes, which really makes sure to nix any bacteria that could cause issues.
- We do recommend making sure you use clean utensils and bowls when you brush the sauce onto your finished drumsticks.