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Smoked Drunken Drumsticks

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These smoked drunken drumsticks are brined in beer then seasoned with Jeff’s Texas style rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) for a flavor that will please the most persnickety taste buds.

The chicken legs are then smoked at higher than normal temperatures to help crisp them up and finished perfectly by brushing on a beer barbecue sauce using my very own barbecue sauce as the base.

Helpful Information
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  •  Brine Time: 3 hours
  • Cook Time: 1 to 1.5 hours
  • Smoker Temp: 275°F (135°C)
  • Meat Finish Temp: 165°F (74°C)
  • Recommended Wood: Cherry

What You’ll Need

*If you do not want to use beer in the brine or in the barbecue sauce below, I have tried this with root beer (and various other soft drinks) as an alternative and it works very well.

Make the Brine

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Fill a large container such as a pitcher or bowl with 40 ounces (1 quart + 1 cup) cold water.

Add two 12-0z bottles of beer

Stir in ½ cup of kosher salt and continue to stir until salt is diluted into the water and the water becomes clear.

Stir in ½ cup brown sugar making sure it is melted into the water.

I usually use a 1-gallon pitcher for this but it was in use for something else so I used a large mixing bowl with a pour spout.

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Brine the Chicken Drumsticks

Add the drumsticks to a lidded container for brining.

If you see any large clumps of fat or extra skin, now is a great time to go ahead and remove it with kitchen shears or a sharp knife.

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Once all of the chicken is in the container, pour the brine over the chicken to cover.

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Cover with the lid, plastic wrap, etc. and place the brining chicken into the fridge for 3 hours.

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At the end of the brining time, discard the liquid brine and rinse each piece of chicken to remove any residual salt.

Lay the chicken on several layers of paper towels to drain before proceeding to the next step.

Season the Chicken

I rinsed the brining container and used it for the seasoning process to contain the mess.

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Drizzle olive oil or vegetable oil onto the chicken and use a basting brush to spread it out.

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Move the chicken around to make sure it is well coated.

Season generously with Jeff’s Texas style rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) then roll each piece over and season the other side.

Make sure the rub is on all sides of the chicken.

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Add Some Herbs

This is optional but I highly recommend it.

I chopped 2-3 tablespoons of parsley and chives and sprinkled it all over the chicken making sure it was well represented.

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These are not strong tasting herbs so don’t be afraid of it. It will add great color and another layer of subtle flavor.

Place the chicken legs/drumsticks on a Bradley rack or Weber grill pan for easy transport to and from the smoker.

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Smoke the  Drumsticks

Setup your smoker or grill for cooking at 275°F (135°C) with indirect heat. You can cook them lower at around 225°F (107°C)  (I do this sometimes) but the skin will not have as good of a bite through.

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If you normally use a water pan, I recommend leaving it dry. When cooking chicken legs, thighs or quarters, I seem to get better results in a smoking environment with lower humidity.

Keep the smoke going for the entire time for great flavor. I recommend cherry, apple or pecan if you have any of these.

Use a quick read thermometer to check the temperature after about 1 hour or you can use a thermometer with a leave-in probe to keep you aware of the temperature throughout the entire process.


Readers are always asking me for personal recommendations so here’s a couple:

The Best Wireless Digital Probe Meat Thermometer

The digital probe meat thermometer that I use most right now is the ThermoWorks Smoke. This is an excellent leave-in thermometer that allows me to know the temperature of the smoker and the meat at all times from the receiver that I carry in my pocket or around my neck using the built-in lanyard.

This model comes with dual probes (one for the meat and one that clips to the grate to tell you the smoker temperature) and is wireless and has a range of more than 300 feet.

It truly love using this thing!

The Best Instant Read Digital Thermometer

The Thermapen ONE, made by ThermoWorks, is by far the fastest instant-read thermometer in the world (reads in only 1 second)!

It’s also a tough little bugger.. Don’t tell ThermoWorks because I don’t think they intend for them to suffer this kind of abuse but, I use the Thermapen ONE to stab pieces of chicken and move them to the pan.

As fast as I can poke them, I know the temperature and I can either put the chicken in the pan to go in the house or move the chicken to the side for more cooking if it’s not done yet.

No tongs required😬

Try using those cheaper instant-read thermometers to move big, fat chicken legs from the grill to the pan! It will simply break in half under the load.. go ahead and ask me how I know😉


When the drumsticks reach 160°F (71°C), spoon some beer barbecue sauce (recipe/instructions below) onto the drumsticks.

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Beer Barbecue Sauce

Beer barbecue sauce is simply about a cup of my barbecue sauce (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled sauce)mixed with equal parts of beer or until it gets to the consistency that you like.

I say “spoon it” simply because we do not want to disturb or brush off the seasoning that we applied.

A turkey baster would also work well to pick up some of the sauce and apply it to the drumsticks in a way that does not wash away the seasoning.

The chicken is done at 165°F (74°C) and takes about 1.5 hours at 275°F (135°C).

A few words on skin crispiness..

Outside of a frying pan, chicken skin is never going to truly be crispy. You are going for various levels of bite-through and anti-chewiness but, not really crispy. I say this so you won’t be disappointed when it doesn’t snap, crackle and pop when you bite into it.

It’s all about heat and if you cook chicken with high enough heat, it will get really good bite-through. The problem for us is that most smokers are not designed for high heat and therefore leaves chicken lovers wanting a little more.

I can tell you that I have played around with smoking and then frying chicken for great results but I have also grown to love smoked chicken even if the skin is not crisp.

When cooking chicken, go high with the heat if you can or smoke it for half the time and then use the oven or grill to finish if that’s what you have to do.

Serve it Up

Once the chicken is done, serve it up right away while it’s still hot!

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Printable Recipe

Print

Smoked Drunken Drumsticks

My smoked drunken drumsticks are brined in beer then smoked at higher than normal temperatures to crisp the skin. Finished perfectly with beer barbecue sauce.

  • Author: Jeff Phillips
  • Prep Time: 3 hours 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 -6 1x
  • Category: Entree
  • Cuisine: Hot Smoking

Ingredients

Scale

Instructions

  1. Fill a large container such as a pitcher or bowl with 40 ounces (1 quart + 1 cup) cold water.
  2. Add two 12-0z bottles of beer
  3. Stir in ½ cup of kosher salt and continue to stir until salt is diluted into the water and the water becomes clear.
  4. Stir in ½ cup brown sugar making sure it is melted into the water.
  5. Add the drumsticks to a lidded container for brining.
  6. If you see any large clumps of fat or extra skin, now is a great time to go ahead and remove it with kitchen shears or a sharp knife.
  7. Once all of the chicken is in the container, pour the brine over the chicken to cover.
  8. Cover with the lid, plastic wrap, etc. and place the brining chicken into the fridge for 3 hours.
  9. At the end of the brining time, discard the liquid brine and rinse each piece of chicken to remove any residual salt.
  10. Lay the chicken on several layers of paper towels to drain before proceeding to the next step.
  11. Drizzle olive oil or vegetable oil onto the chicken and use a basting brush to spread it out.
  12. Move the chicken around to make sure it is well coated.
  13. Season generously with Jeff’s Texas style rub then roll each piece over and season the other side.
  14. Make sure the Texas style rub recipe is on all sides of the chicken.
  15. Chop 2-3 tablespoons of parsley and chives and sprinkle it all over the chicken.
  16. Setup your smoker or grill for cooking at 275-300°F with indirect heat. You can cook them lower at around 225°F but the skin will not have a good bite through.
  17. If you normally use a water pan, I recommend leaving it dry. When cooking chicken legs, thighs or quarters, I seem to get better results in a smoking environment with lower humidity.
  18. Keep the smoke going for the entire time for great flavor. I recommend cherry, apple or pecan if you have any of these.
  19. Use a quick read thermometer to check the temperature after about 45 minutes or you can use a thermometer with a leave-in probe to keep you aware of the temperature throughout the entire process.
  20. When the drumsticks reach 160°F, spoon some beer barbecue sauce onto the drumsticks.
  21. Beer barbecue sauce is simply about a cup of my barbecue sauce mixed with equal parts of beer or until it gets to the consistency that you like.
  22. I say “spoon it” simply because we do not want to disturb or brush off the seasoning that we applied. A turkey baster would also work well to pick up some of the sauce and apply it to the drumsticks in a way that does not wash away the seasoning.
  23. The chicken is done at 165°F.
  24. When cooking chicken, go high with the heat if you can or smoke it for half the time and then use the oven or grill to finish if that’s what you have to do.
  25. Once the chicken is done, serve it up right away while it’s still hot!

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17 Comments

  1. I did these a couple of times a while back and they came out great. The first time I usually stick strictly to the recipe. The second batch I just added some sage to the Texas rub and they were much better! (no offense to the original recipe but, WOW!)

  2. Try marinating in Gin and soy sauce – the juniper and other botanicals produce a terrific flavor. I got that recipe from a local restaurant. They also then fry them to get that crispy skin but I’ve done it on a grill and smoker and it is darn close.

  3. I made these a couple of weeks ago, and I’m doing a couple of dozen again today. I went by Jeff’s recipe to the T and they came out perfect. A huge hit here. I used root beer in the brine and mixed beer with the bbq sauce. I’m getting hungry.

  4. Well let me say i just did this recipe and as per the company it went over awesome… my only suggestion would be to cut the salt by at least half or more with the beer. The taste was awesome and tender but to my liking way to salty. I will make it again but cut to at least 1/4 cup or maybe less and the beer…. not a complaint just a desire for a less salty taste….

    1. Brine them for a shorter period of time. The standard ratio for a brine is usually 1 cup salt to 1 gallon. I find 30 min to 1 hour works well for chicken breasts. Drumsticks may take a bit longer.

  5. Jeff,
    Have you ever done a brine like this with whisky instead of beer. I am on a huge Fireball Whisky kick and thought that the cinnamon flavor might work with chicken.

  6. Do you think it would be ok to brine the chicken over night in the fridge? or would the 3 hoUrsula be your recommendation?

    1. Erin,

      Thank you for your patience.. it is not a good idea (in my opinion) to brine chicken any longer than you have to. Brining changes the texture of the meat and if you leave it in too long, it can get an odd texture that is not desired. It would be fine to brine the chicken, rinse it then place it back in the fridge to hold it till the next morning if that would be helpful.

  7. I just thought everyone should know this makes the most amazing chicken you’ve ever had. Tried it twice and both times we were blown away.

  8. Made these on my Pitt Boss pellet smoker, wow!! Awesome recipe, everybody was blown away by how delicious these were! Made no changes to the recipe and am doing this recipe again for a Mother’s Day cookout!

  9. Jeff: Another great sounding recipe!! I have 2 questions on it.
    1. Have you tried or any recommendation on adjustments to do Chicken breasts with it, my family are not into drumsticks.
    2. Any type or style of beer you recommend? IPA, amber, lager, Stout, red…..

    1. 1. I have not tried chicken breasts with this recipe but it would work just fine. If you get the boneless/skinless variety, you may want to lay a few short slices of bacon over the top to keep the outside of the chicken from drying out while it cooks. Chicken breasts are not as forgiving to over cooking due to having less fat so the brining is important. Be sure to watch the temperature carefully and remove the chicken when it hits about 165°F.

      2. I normally use Shiner Bock but any dark lager will work great in my opinion.