Grilled chicken leg quarters may be one of the simplest, down-home meals you can make. An easy marinade and simple rub goes a long way for ensuring juicy, tender dark meat with that flame-kissed flavor you can only get from a grill.
Table of Contents
- The Cut: What are chicken leg quarters
- Ingredients for grilled chicken legs
- How to make grilled chicken legs
- Girl Carnivore Expert Recipe Tips
- What to Serve With
- Leftovers and Reheating
- Recipe FAQs
- More Grilled Chicken Recipes
- Grilled Chicken Leg Quarters Recipe
But grilled chicken is one of life’s simple pleasures, and this cheap cut is perfect for throwing over a bed of lit coals with our step-by-step guide, packed with tips and techniques. This simple recipe for juicy, flavorful results is perfect for mixing and matching with a variety of flavor profiles, from tangy bbq, finished in sauce like our smoked chicken thighs, to a robust North African spice rub, herbaceous Mediterranean flavors, or vibrant Latin American seasonings. Once you master perfectly grilled chicken quarters, quick and easy chicken dinners will never be the same.
The Cut: What are chicken leg quarters
One of our favorite cuts, the chicken leg quarter, is the best of the bird. Whole chicken legs are a popular cut of meat from the lower limbs of a chicken, consisting of two main parts: the drumstick and the thigh (as we said the best parts). The rich dark meat is perfect for grilling because it can withstand the heat while still remaining juicy.
This cut is great for a variety of dishes, from oven-roasted chicken quarters to smoked without drying out like a breast can. They are also often significantly cheaper than chicken breasts at the grocery store. This bone-in cut is our go-to option for delicious savory dinners that the whole family loves with minimal effort.
Ingredients for grilled chicken legs
- Chicken leg quarters – this recipe also works with chicken drumsticks or chicken thighs.
- Grilled chicken marinade – or your favorite bottled marinade.
- Salt and Pepper – we use Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper when cooking.
- Spices – this recipe works with a variety of spice blends like Girl Carnivore Over Easy for an herbaceous blend or GirlsCanGrill CK Chicken rub for a BBQ flavor. We use Berbere spice mix on our smoked chicken quarters and love it on these as well. Stick to the blends you love to start with and get a little more adventurous every time you make these.
How to make grilled chicken legs
Marinade the chicken
- Start by removing your chicken from the package and patting it dry with paper towels.
- Then make the grilled chicken marinade and pour it over the legs in a large resealable bag.
- Seal the bag and chill it in the fridge for 30 minutes to up to 6 hours.
Grill the Chicken
- When ready to cook, prep your charcoal grill by building a 2-zone fire. Stack lit charcoal to one side of the grill. If using wood chips, add them now.
- Add the grill grate, and clean and oil it quickly before covering the grill with the lid to allow the grill to preheat. Adjust your air vents to get the grill temperature to 350 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. This usually involves the vents set to fully open for a traditional kettle-style grill.
- While the grill preheats, remove the chicken from the marinade.
- When the grill is hot, place the chicken skin side up on the grill grates over indirect heat, the cooler side of the grill. Cover the grill with the lid and allow the chicken to cook. Rotate the chicken once or twice, only opening the lid as needed, so the thighs and chicken drumsticks cook evenly.
- Then, after about 20 to 25 minutes, transfer the grilled chicken legs to the hot side of the grill, directly over the hot coals, skin side down. Use long tongs to rotate the chicken to avoid flare-ups or burning while getting crispy skin; 5 to 10 more minutes of grilling. Chicken is done when the internal temperature reaches 165F with an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh; however, we like to take our dark meat to 175-180 F.
- Flip the chicken one final time to quickly sear the bone side for added char-grilled flavor.
Rest and Serve
- Using the grilling tongs, transfer the chicken leg quarters to a serving platter or cutting board and let them rest 5 minutes before serving.
Girl Carnivore Expert Recipe Tips
For a gas grill:
Preheat the gas grill by turning all the burners on, cleaning and oiling the grill grate, and closing the lid. When the grill has reached 400 degrees F, turn off 2 of the 3 burners. Add the chicken legs to the cooler side of the grill over and cook as instructed in the recipe card.
Curious how to smoke on a gas grill? Add a smoked box filled with Maple, Apple or Pecan wood chips. Remember, don’t soak your wood chips.
For a pellet grill:
Preheat your Traeger grill or pellet smoker to its sear setting. Allow the grill to preheat for 20 minutes. Add a smoker box filled with wood chips to the grill grate for added flavor. When the grill has preheated, add the chicken leg quarters to the grill and cook, rotating as needed as instructed above. However, with no cooler side to maneuver the meat to, watch the chicken carefully to avoid burning.
What to Serve With
The thing about perfect grilled chicken is it goes well with all of your favorite side dish recipes. We love pairing it with crisp cole slaw, roasted broccoli, duck fat fries, or even smoked cabbage and rajas con crema (one of our favorite low-carb dinner combos). It’s also great with creamy Dutch oven mac and cheese or Mama’s mashed potatoes.
Pair this grilled chicken leg quarters recipe with Malbec or a buttery Chardonnay.
Leftovers and Reheating
Store leftover chicken in an airtight container, in the fridge, for up to 4 days.
To reheat, preheat the broiler and place the chicken legs on a baking sheet lined with foil. Reheat, skin side up, under the broiler for 7 – 8 minutes until heated through. Alternatively, microwave in short 30-second burst, but we find the broiler – or even air fryer – is a great option to reheat the whole leg quarter while keeping the skin nice and crispy.
It’s recommended to marinate chicken legs for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to penetrate the meat. For a more intense flavor, you can marinate them for up to 4 to 6 hours.
Set up your grill for medium-high heat, approximately 350-400 F, by building a 2-zone fire, as we explain in the recipe card. This temperature allows the chicken to cook evenly and develop a nice char without drying out.
Grilled chicken legs are done when their internal temperature reaches 165°F when measured with a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat, being sure not to hit the bone, according to the USDA. The juices should run clear, and the meat should be opaque and no longer pink near the bone. However, for dark meat, we like cooking it past that all the way to 177-180 degrees F for succulent chicken.
There’s something about amazing grilled chicken legs that are just finger-licking good. Have you mastered this yet? If not, don’t worry; everyone drys out a few pieces on their way to becoming an expert grill master! Be sure to rate this recipe and drop a comment below, letting us know what flavor combo you use on the best grilled chicken legs ever.
Grilled Chicken Leg Quarters
- 3 – 4 lbs chicken leg quarters
- 1 Grilled chicken marinade
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tbsp Spice blend*
Marinate the chicken
- Remove the chicken legs from the package and pat them dry with a paper towl.
- Whisk the ingredients together for the marinade and place the leg quarters in a large Ziplock bag.
- Pour the marinade over the top, seal the bag, and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or up to 6 hours.
Prep the Grill
- When ready to cook, prep your grill for a 2-zone fire by adding charcoal in a charcoal chimney.
- Ignite from underneath the chimney with an all-natural fire starter and lighter.
- When the charcoal is 70% ashed over, about 10-15 minutes, carefully pour the charcoal on one side of the grill.
- Add the grill grate and clean and oil it.
- Cover the grill with the lid and open the air vents to allow the grill to preheat to 350-400 degrees F.
- Meanwhile, remove the chicken from the marinade.
Grill the Chicken
- When the grill has preheated, using long tongs, add the chicken, skin side up, to the cooler side of the grill.
- Cover the grill with the lid and allow the chicken legs to cook for about 20-25 minutes, Rotating as needed to ensure even cooking from the chicken leg to thigh.
- Then, transfer the chicken to the hot side of the grill, skin side down to sear, keeping a watchful eye and long tongs to easily maneuver the chicken and avoid flare-ups.
- Flip the chicken skin side up when the skin is crispy to get a char on the bone side.
- The chicken is cooked when it reaches 165 degrees F with an instant-read thermometer, but we like to take our dark meat to 175-180.
Rest and Serve
- Transfer the chicken from the grill to a clean serving platter or cutting board and tent with foil to rest for 5 minutes.
- Serve the grilled chicken legs hot with your favorite sauces and side dishes.