Roasting a whole chicken isn't always a practical weeknight meal, and someone usually ends up mad because they didn't get one of the coveted chicken legs. Whether they disappear because of their delicious flavor or because of their built-in handle, there are never enough legs to go around. Why not make a whole pan of chicken legs to satisfy everyone? We have researched the proper way of baking chicken legs.
When baking chicken legs, the chicken must reach an internal temperature of at least 165°F. A good recommendation is to bake chicken legs for 35-45 min in a 400°F oven—a higher cooking temperature results in crispier skin. Chicken leg size and oven temperature are variables in the cooking time.
Chicken legs, or drumsticks, have dark and juicy meat, which is much more flavorful than white meat. This cut of meat is also very inexpensive, making it great for a large family or gathering. Using different seasoning, marinades, and sauces can make them taste different every time. Keep reading for tips on making chicken legs. We have even included some easy recipes for your enjoyment.
Steps to Baking Chicken Legs
Crispy chicken legs are so simple to throw together and can be sitting on your table in no time. Both delicious and affordable, drumsticks will quickly become a family favorite at mealtime.
Step 1: Pat the Chicken Dry
This may seem like an unnecessary step, but it's actually an extremely important step to achieving that desired crispy skin everyone loves. Grab a paper towel to pat the chicken legs dry. Removing the extra moisture in the chicken helps to acquire that perfectly crispy skin.
Step 2: Trim Off Any Extra Skin or Loose Joint Pieces
Sometimes the chicken may have extra skin that doesn't look very appealing. Using a sharp knife, trim off the extra skin. Also, check for any pieces of loose joints or bone. These tiny bone fragments can cause choking in young children and even adults.
Step 3: Season to Taste
Here is where you can jazz up those drumsticks and season them any way you'd like. If you're going for an Asian flavor, use flavors like garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and hoisin.
Maybe you want BBQ-style chicken legs. Spices such as chili powder, cumin, or smoked paprika would work well in that instance. Your chicken legs are an empty canvas to season how you'd like. Have fun and be creative!
Step 4: Place Chicken Legs in Pan
You have several options when deciding what type of pan you want to use to cook your chicken legs. The size of your cooking vessel will depend upon how many legs you're cooking at a time.
A large baking sheet or a 9x13 baking dish both work well. Lining your baking pan or dish with foil or parchment paper is strongly encouraged. Clean-up will be much easier!
How Do You Use a Chicken Leg Rack?
Another way to cook the chicken is by using a baking rack. Placing the rack on top of the baking sheet will allow the air to circulate the chicken, making it more crispy.
The rack elevates the chicken, allowing it to cook more evenly. Another bonus is the fat will drain away through the cooking rack onto the baking sheet. Again, use foil or parchment under the rack for easy clean-up.
Step 5: Cook the Chicken Legs
As mentioned above, chicken needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165°F for safe consumption. When cooking chicken breasts, oftentimes, the chicken becomes dry when cooked to a higher temperature.
However, that tends not to be the case with chicken legs. Cooking them to an internal temperature of 175°-185°F makes the meat more tender and less stringy.
Baking times and temperatures can vary by oven type. Convection ovens usually need to be set at a lower temperature than conventional ovens.
Cooking drumsticks at a higher temperature will give chicken legs a crispier skin than cooked at a lower temperature. Your preference will depend on cooking time and temp.
Just remember, the internal temperature needs to be at least 165°F! Here are some recommended cooking temps and times:
- Convection oven 350°F or conventional oven 375°F - cook for 45-50 minutes
- Convection oven 375°F or conventional oven 400°F - cook for 40-45 minutes
- Convection oven 400° or conventional oven 425°F - cook for 35-40 minutes
Step 6: Let the Chicken Rest and Enjoy
It is important to let any kind of meat rest when it comes out of the oven. Resting the meat will give the juices a chance to redistribute.
If the meat is cut open right after coming out of the oven, the juices will run right out of the meat and onto your plate. This also gives your meat a chance to cool down so you can eat it without burning your mouth.
After your chicken legs have rested for about ten minutes, it's finally the moment you've been waiting for. Enjoy those glorious, crispy, juicy chicken legs.
How Do You Know When the Chicken Legs are Done?
The best way to know if your chicken legs are cooked thoroughly is by using a meat thermometer. Baked chicken should, again, cook to at least 165°F.
You could try cutting into the chicken to see if it's fully cooked, but it is sometimes hard to determine if the meat is cooked through with dark meat. Only by using a meat thermometer do you know with certainty if your chicken legs are fully cooked. Try to get as close to the center of the leg as you can when checking the meat's temperature.
Do You Need to Flip the Drumsticks in the Oven?
If you're using a rack, it is not necessary to flip the drumsticks in the oven. However, if you are not using a cooking rack, it is a good idea to flip the chicken legs halfway through the bake.
This allows for both sides to get that crispy skin everyone loves. Not flipping the chicken will make the side facing down soggier than the side facing up.
What is the Black Stuff That Comes out of Chicken Drumsticks?
Bones on chicken legs have not been calcified completely, so pigment from the bone marrow can seep through the permeable bones. Therefore, when the chicken is cooked, the pigment turns a dark color. While this can look unappealing, consuming the chicken meat with these dark bone marrow spots near the bone is safe.
Chicken Leg Recipes
Here are a couple of simple recipes you may want to try when cooking chicken legs for the first time. These take very little time and are sure to please a crowd.
Baked Chicken Drumsticks
You likely already have all of the necessary ingredients on hand for this simple and delicious recipe. This no-fuss recipe only takes a few minutes to prepare, so it can be on the dinner table in no time. This no-fail chicken drumstick recipe will result in flavorful, crispy drumsticks everyone will love!
Baked BBQ Chicken Drumsticks
If you are craving chicken legs dredged in a sticky BBQ sauce, this recipe is for you. These chicken legs will taste like they've been cooked on the grill when they've only been baked in your oven.
Rub these legs down with a delicious spice rub and finish baking them in your favorite BBQ sauce. Make sure you have napkins on hand for these finger-licking-good BBQ chicken legs.
How to Store Crispy Chicken Legs
If by chance you have any leftover drumsticks, you can store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days. Just be aware, the chicken will lose its crispiness sitting overnight.
When reheating the drumsticks, think about heating them in the oven rather than the microwave. Reheating the drumsticks in the oven will bring back some of the crispiness. If they aren't as crisp as you would like, place them under the broiler for a couple of minutes.
The Wrap Up
As you can see, baking chicken legs in the oven is a great way to prepare these budget-friendly cuts of meat. Baking chicken legs at a high temperature will ensure crispy skin and be moist and tender inside. Don't forget to invest in a meat thermometer so you know your chicken is just the right temperature every time. So, don't be a chicken and try this cooking method tonight!
For more information on cooking chicken, check out the following links: