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.
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.
Once all of the chicken is in the container, pour the brine over the chicken to cover.
Cover with the lid, plastic wrap, etc. and place the brining chicken into the fridge for 3 hours.
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.
I rinsed the brining container and used it for the seasoning process to contain the mess.
Drizzle olive oil or vegetable oil onto the chicken and use a basting brush to spread it out.
Move the chicken around to make sure it is well coated.
Season generously with Jeff's Texas style rub* then roll each piece over and season the other side.
Make sure the Texas style rub* is on all sides of the chicken.
*Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub
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.
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.
Setup your smoker or grill for cooking at 275-300°F with indirect heat. You can cook them lower at around 225°F (I do this sometimes) but the skin will not have as good of a bite through.
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.
The Best Instant Read Digital Thermometer
The Thermapen Mk4, made by ThermoWorks, is by far the fastest reading (reads in 2-3 seconds) and highest quality in quick read thermometers on the market.
If you are on a tight budget and still want a good handheld thermometer, the Thermopop, also made by ThermoWorks, is just a hair slower (reads in about 4-5 seconds) than the Thermapen and can be purchased for around $30.
You really can't go wrong with a Thermapen or a Thermopop if fast and accurate is what you're after.
When the drumsticks reach 160°F, spoon some beer barbecue sauce (recipe/instructions below) onto the drumsticks.
Beer Barbecue Sauce
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.
*Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled sauce
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 and takes about 1.5 hours at 275-300°F.
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.
Once the chicken is done, serve it up right away while it's still hot!