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There is something about a drumstick that in some way, takes each of us back to Thanksgiving at Grandma's table. That, and a mess of black olives perched on the tip of all ten of my fingers for me anyway! I remember my Grandfather showing me that olive trick, which was simply annoying to my Mom after what had to be my 100th demonstration of it at our own table. Back to drumsticks for a minute; they were prized. Maybe because we only had a roasted turkey once, maybe twice a year, I don't know. You 'called' the drumstick. You had to declare you wanted it, and you had to be quick. After all, there were a whole bunch of hungry relatives sitting around the same table as you, and that bird still only had two legs; so...you had to call it - "I get the drumstick!" To this day, I prefer the drumstick at Thanksgiving. In this recipe, I will share how to grill perfect barbecued chicken drumsticks.
This weekend, my Mom and I checked out our newest local grocery store to move into the area, Lowes Foods. To say we are in love with this store would be an understatement. The customer service is TOP NOTCH. We did not encounter one team member who was not 'for the customer.' That, combined with F.I.S.H-esque attitudes, we were inspired by all they had to offer by way of displays, hands-on classes and live demos, samples galore (!!!), and recipe idea cards at every turn. There was so much to see! It was when we first walked in, I recognized what was meant to appear like a farmer's wagon, with the ability to circle and pick from all sides, a massive and vibrant selection of tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes in all colors and all sizes, dried tomatoes in bags and in some packages, dried and still clinging to their vines, tomatoes packed in jars in oil, tomato chutneys, sundried tomato garlic paste - you name it, Lowes Foods had it, and the display inspired an entire dinner in that one moment. A gorgeous and bright fresh tomato salad to accompany grilled chicken, and some fresh corn on the cob which is now in season for us here in the South. A quintessential perfect summer supper.
I have finally found a combination of dry spices that I have been using almost exclusively for all kinds of slow smoked or off-set heat grilled meats. In this recipe, I am going back to the crowd pleasing drumstick - the chicken drumstick this time, and a rather large family sized package of them. The key to the success of this recipe is a quick 30 minute to one hour brine. Brining is generally reserved for white meat to achieve a juicier result, but here, brining the dark meat is going to yield the ultimate in what is to some, this lowly cut. You will need a large sterile brine bucket for this process depending on how many pieces you plan to grill. A brine bucket is an excellent one-time investment that can be used over and over and works especially well at Thanksgiving for the almighty turkey. They are relatively inexpensive, and can be picked up at your local hardware store or shipped direct from Amazon. The brining step in this method is going to give us 1. juicy and tender meat, 2. no bloody collegians that oftentimes collect around the bone, and 3. perfectly rendered crispy skin.
Ingredients for Perfectly Perfect Barbecued Chicken Drumsticks
5lbs fresh chicken drumsticks, skin on
2 quarts cold water
1/2 cup table salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon Paprika (I used smoked Paprika for this recipe)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon table salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Stir 1/2 cup table salt into 2 quarts cold water and whisk to dissolve. Make sure you really allow the salt to dissolve or this crucial step will be lost. I whisk for several minutes until the water is no longer cloudy from the salt, rather turns somewhat clear. Submerge the drumsticks into the brine and place the entire bucket into the refrigerator. You can brine for as few as 30 minutes or for as long as one hour, however, not for longer than one hour or the muscle will begin to break down.
Prepare the dry rub while the chicken drumsticks are brining. Combine all remaining ingredients and whisk together. Be sure to break up any lumps in the brown sugar as you incorporate. Pour the rub onto a large plate and spread it out. You will be coating each drumstick on this plate and will want it large enough to brush off excess rub without it going everywhere. I also like to line a large cookie sheet with aluminum foil for easy transport to my grill.
Once brining time is up, remove all of the drumsticks and pat dry. One at a time, coat each drumstick completely, brushing or tapping off any excess. You do not need a ton of rub to effectively do the job in this recipe, as the sugar will melt during the grilling process and act as a sauce which will coat both thickly and nicely.
Time to fire up the grill. Light all burners on high and close the lid. Wait 10 minutes before raising your grill lid and killing at least one of not two of your burners. We are using an off-set heat grilling method. Using tongs and a paper towel, oil all of the grill grates thoroughly with cooking oil. Arrange the drumsticks on the cooler side of the grill. Close the lid and grill for 25 minutes without turning. My grill thermometer reads about 450 for the entire 25 minutes in this step with two burners going, two burners off. After 25 minutes, and using the same cooler side of the grill, turn the drumsticks over. Close the lid and grill for another 20 minutes. Using tongs and making sure grill grates are still oiled, transfer the drumsticks to the hot side of the grill. Do not walk away! These go fast. Turn and grill and slightly char the drumsticks on all sides. Transfer to a platter and tent with aluminum foil for 10 minutes. This grilling step takes on a whole new meaning when using a charcoal grill. Simply follow this same method with lit coals spread over only half of the base of your cooker. The aromas are incredible. Just be sure your coals maintain a consistent temperature throughout the cooking times.
Chicken drumsticks are economical and can be prepared easily for a crowd. Since they are grilled over off-set heat, you have time to arrange them, close the lid, and spend time with your party-goers instead of being glued to the grill. I like to serve mine with just some green onion sliced thin diagonally and sprinkled over them. You could also serve over a bed of homemade coleslaw. Served with fresh corn, tomato salad, and a hearty loaf of crusty garlic bread, this is a hearty summer supper if for nothing else.