How to Make Smoked Chicken Leg Quarters

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Who came first, the chicken or the egg? Well, for us lovers of the culinary arts, this question doesn’t pose a problem as long as we have the perfect recipe to cook one, the other, or both of them at the same time.

Today, I will introduce you a new way to cook chicken leg quarters that is so good it will blow away your taste buds. If you have never tried making Smoked Chicken Leg Quarters, then you should definitely try this one.

I would know, because since I was first introduced to this delicacy, I wouldn’t want to eat them any other way.

So, let us take a deep look on how to prepare chicken leg quarters for smoking, how to properly brine them and all the important temperatures and cooking times needed.

First, let’s start by the first task, selecting a good chicken for smoking.

Selecting Chicken Leg Quarters


Selecting Chicken Legs for Smoking

When it comes to selecting a chicken, it is a not-too-difficult task as many think.

For the best results, you’d want a medium chicken, not too big, not too small. Also, have in mind to pick a light skinned one. Darker skins might take longer to cook.

Once you have obtained a chicken on your local supermarket, prepared it and put it on your table, you have to understand what a Chicken Leg Quarter is.

As the name suggests, it’s technically a quarter of the chicken. It’s comprised of the drumstick (which is the leg of the chicken, not the stick you play drums with), and attached to it still has the thigh, with which so far we have a so-called whole chicken leg.

But, the difference between the whole chicken leg and the chicken leg quarter, is that the latter still has a piece of the back attached to it. So you’d want a whole quarter of the chicken: the drumstick, the thigh and part of the back all in one.

Preparing the Chicken Quarters for Smoking

On this step, you should have cut the perfect chicken leg quarter, and its time to move onwards with the preparing process.

Before jumping to making smoked chicken leg quarters, there are a few steps we must take. Do not immediately smoke them, as most times the skin gets rubbery and it’s not that pleasant to masticate.

Some solutions would be to boil it for 5-6 minutes before brining it, or searing it on pan just as it starts to get that golden-brown color. Both of these processes help when we’ll smoke the quarter, but personally I prefer searing in the pan. It gives a bit more taste to the whole thing. After we have seared it slightly, we are ready to brine it.

Brining the Chicken


When it comes to smoking leg quarters, brining the chicken is an optional step in this process, but, I personally think that brining the chicken leg quarter is what it brings out the best in its taste, and not just for this recipe, but also for every other smoking meat recipe! I always choose to brine the meat over not brining it!

Here’s a simple and classic recipe for brining 2 pounds of chicken leg quarters:

Classic Chicken Leg Quarters Brine Recipe

(For 2 Pounds of Chicken Leg Quarters)

  • Half a cup of salt
  • Half a cup of white sugar
  • A whole cup of hot water
  • Half a cup of cold water
  • And to make it spicier, 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper


First, we start by putting the salt and sugar in a dish, and then we add the hot water.

After everything has dissolved, we add the pepper and lastly the cold water, and that should make an orange mixture.

To brine the leg, the process is made much easier if we have a zip bag. We put the chicken leg quarter inside with the brine recipe, remove most of the air, zip it and we shake it, and the leg gets brined all over.

If you don’t have a zip bag, we can use the old fashion way, by pouring the brine mixture over the leg using a spoon in a deep dish that can handle the chicken and the brine.

After we have brined it, we need to put it in the fridge for 4 - 5 hours, or better yet, leave it overnight. When we take it out of the fridge, the leg is now ready to be seasoned and smoked.

Seasoning the Chicken

Seasoning the chicken will require some olive oil, a bit of vinegar, and some herbs that are up to your choice.

I personally prefer some parsley, a bit of garlic and chive but you are free to use whatever you like and suits your preferences.


When seasoning, you want to start with placing the chicken leg quarter over a chopping wood (as it is easier to transport). We rub the olive oil over the leg, then add a bit of vinegar over it. Then, we chop the parsley, chive and garlic and sprinkle it on top. Now the chicken leg quarter is ready to be smoked.

Smoking the Leg Quarters

Before putting the chicken leg in the grill, we have to make sure that the grill is preheated up to 250°F. Only after you make sure that the temperature has reached 250°F, you can add the chicken quarters on the grill.

Smoked Chicken Leg Quarters Smoking Times

Quick Summary: The target internal temperature for chicken leg quarters is at around 165°F and smoking them at 225-250°F for 2-3 hours, depending on the cut. For a more detailed process and how to get a crisp skin on the outside, you can read the process below.

The cooking times for this recipe is around 2.5 - 3 hours. Keep the lid closed at all times, and open only when you need to change sides or check the temperature.

On the last 30 minutes we will need to raise the temperature of the grill to 400°F. Chicken leg quarters need to be grilled on both sides for 15 minutes.

We can check with our naked eye how much the leg has cooked, but still using a thermometer to check the leg’s inside temperature is a great help.

You want the inside temperature of the leg to be around 165°F. When you are around the end of the smoking process, remove the leg, dip in in BBQ sauce and put it again on the grill for an additional 10 – 15 minutes. This step and using the BBQ sauce is crucial for the meat to get the bbq sauce taste, and to make the skin crispier on the outside. After this, we can put it in a plate and leave it to rest before 10 minutes before digging in.



Since smoked chicken leg quarters is one of the best meats to smoke, there are a lot of options when it comes to serving it with other side dishes.

I personally, in my house, like to serve them with a side of oven baked potatoes.

There is something about the combination of potatoes and chicken that makes me want to lick my fingers when I am finished.

Also, this is a dish that I personally want to accompany with a cold beer, preferably a pilsner.

Now you may dig in. Bon appetite!

Frequently Asked Questions - FAQs

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to smoking chicken legs:

How Long to Smoke Chicken Leg Quarters?

In general, you should smoke chicken leg quarters for around 2-3 hours, at 250°F. To exactly determine the smoking time, you should cook them until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F.

How Long to Smoke Chicken Quarters at 225 degrees?

When making smoked chicken leg quarters, you should aim to smoke them at 225-250°F for around 2-3 hours or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.

About Kendrick

Kendrick is an outdoor cooking enthusiast, living in Kansas. He loves to share his passion about outdoor cooking with everyone on various Social Media platforms (Read More)

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