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Smoked butterflied chicken drumsticks opens them up to more smoke and more flavor and it only takes a few extra minutes to knock out a dozen of them. You'll have to decide if it's worth your time but they are off the charts in the flavor department!
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Brine Time: 2 hours
- Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- Smoker Temp: 225°F (107°C)
- Meat Finish Temp: 175°F (79°C)
- Recommended Wood: Maple, hickory, cherry mix
What You'll Need
- 10-12 chicken drumsticks
- 2 tsp coarse kosher salt (I use Morton's blue box)
- Jeff's original rub
- Jeff's Barbecue Sauce
Why Smoked Butterflied Chicken Drumsticks?
Well, first, butterflying them opens up the meat for more smoke flavor and that's only a good thing. Another great benefit is more surface area for adding Jeff's original rub which just means a lot more flavor!
An additional benefit that I really didn't think about until we started writing up the instructions for this is the additional char on the meat. We end up giving these some high heat at the end which gives us a little of that nice charred finish and with more surface area, comes more charred surface area baby!
How to Make Smoked Butterflied Chicken Drumsticks
Step 1: Brine the Chicken Drumsticks
I chose to dry brine these but you could also wet brine them if you prefer.
The general prescription is ½ teaspoon of coarse kosher salt per pound of meat. Since drumsticks contain about 1.5 ounces of meat each (not counting the bone), I just figured on 1 teaspoon of salt for every 5-6 chicken legs.
I tend to dry brine a little heavier than most people recommend.. I've been doing it a while which gives me confidence that I'm not going to over-salt them. ½ teaspoon per pound of meat is very conservative but it's a great starting place until you see what you and your family like.
I also chose to dry brine these BEFORE I butterflied them but this could easy have been done in the reverse and it might even have been a better option.
Once the chicken legs are salted, place the pan of chicken in the fridge for a couple of hours. During this time, the salt will draw some of the moisture out of the meat, the moisture dissolves the salt then that naturally-created brine will absorb back into the meat.
It's magical and it amazes me every single time.
By the way: if you want to read a little more on brining, here's an article I wrote a while back.
Step 2: Butterfly the Chicken's Legs
This is pretty easy to do.. look at the legs and you will notice that one side of the legs have less skin than the other.
On the side with less skin, make a cut along each side of the bone but don't cut all the way through the meat.
Cut it just enough so you can lay the meat open a little and call it done.
Step 3: Season the Butterflied Chicken Drumsticks
You might think that because we salted the chicken, that it is now seasoned but alas, no it is not.
Make sure you use a low-salt rub.. I use Jeff's original rub on these because it's really, really good AND because it's very low in sodium but you can use what you like.
Step 4: Get the Smoker Ready to Go
You can use ANY smoker for these smoked butterflied chicken drumsticks. Just follow the same temperature recommendations and use your grill or even the oven broiler to get a little char on the skin for that perfect finish.
Set up your smoker for cooking at 225°F (107°C) and if your smoker uses a water pan, leave it dry if possible. The extra humidity this imparts does not do the chicken skin any favors.
Once the smoker is ready to cook, move to the next step.
Step 5: Smoke Cook the Drumsticks
Place the butterflied chicken drumsticks directly on the smoker grate and let them cook for about an hour. Chicken legs have plenty of fat so you don't have to worry too much about them overcooking.
Check the internal temperature of the meat using an instant read meat thermometer such as the Thermapen ONE. When the chicken reaches around 160°F (71°C), it's time to start searing them with some fire or very high heat.
Brush on a little of my barbecue sauce just before they finish up.
Step 6: Sear them Drumsticks
Because I needed some fire action to crisp the skin a little, I had opted to use the Camp Chef Woodwind.
The Woodwind has this nifty pull bar on the side that lets you slide the heat barrier out of the way mid-cook. When you do this, the flames will leap up through the notches in the grease pan and give a good searing to anything in its path.
Give the legs some super high heat until they get as charred as you like them and call them done. Mine took just a few minutes on each side to get some of that nice char that I wanted.
Step 7: Finish and Serve
When the Smoked butterflied chicken drumsticks are finished cooking, serve them up immediately. We just stood around eating them like a bunch of barbarians but you can serve some sides with these if you so choose.
Smoked Butterflied Chicken Drumsticks
- 12 chicken drumsticks
- 2 tsp coarse kosher salt (I use Morton’s blue box)
- ¼ cup Jeff's original rub
- ¼ cup Jeff's barbecue sauce
- Place chicken legs in baking sheet.
- Sprinkle on coarse kosher salt at a rate of about ½ teaspoon per lb. 10-12 drumsticks require ~2 teaspoons of coarse kosher salt.
- Place chicken in fridge for 2 hours to dry brine.
- With a sharp knife, cut along both sides of the bone. Do not cut through the meat just down into it enough to lay it open.
- Sprinkle the legs generously with Jeff's original rub and let them sit while you go get the smoker ready.
- Set up the smoker for cooking at 225°F (107°C) using a mix of hickory, cherry and maple or whatever smoking wood you have available. If your smoker uses a water pan, leave it dry to help the skin crisp up.
- Once the smoker is ready, place the drumsticks directly onto the grate and cook for about 1 hour or until they reach approximately 165°F (74°C).
- Just before they are finished cooking, brush on a layer of Jeff's barbecue sauce.
- Immediately place them on a very hot grill or under the oven broiler to give them a little char.
- Once they are the right color, serve them up right away.