Simply seasoned with spice rub and basted on the grill, these BBQ Grilled Chicken Leg Quarters are a juicy & delicious addition to any cookout! Brush on some of your favorite barbecue sauce for a perfectly sticky and smoky summer dinner.
We’re in deep, friends. Deep into grilling season, that is.
Let’s put it this way – as long as there’s no nasty thunderstorms rolling through on a given afternoon, our grill is cooking dinner.
And this year, I’ve taken over the title of grillmaster from Abe! I’ve always deferred to him to mess around with the coals and the propane, but I’ve totally gotten the hang of this grillin’ life in the past couple of months.
From hot dogs to steak to burgers to these juicy chicken leg quarters, nothing is off limits – even dessert. There’s a whole lotta grilling goodness coming your way next month, including my first annual Grilling Week in mid-July!
Abe and I eat a heck of a lot of chicken, but in the interest of smart eating, it’s usually chicken breasts. We have a crazy amount of them on hand at all times, but every once in a while we get a craving for darker meat on our menu.
Can we just talk about leg quarters for a sec?
They are incredibly underrated. Not only are they moist and meaty, they’re crazy inexpensive and you can do so much with them. Baked, roasted, pressure cooked and shredded.
But they’re beyond perfect for grilling.
Ingredients for grilled chicken quarters
Making this flavorful BBQ chicken is super easy – and cheap if you’ve got a well-stocked pantry!
- Chicken leg quarters – these are large pieces of chicken that are composed of the attached drumstick and thigh, and often come in packages of 4 or 6. You can make them all, or freeze the pieces you don’t use for future grilling afternoons!
- Barbecue sauce – your favorite brand or homemade will do
- Dry rub ingredients – you can really tune this to your own personal tastes, but this is what we love in our dry rub!
- Seasoning salt
- Smoked paprika – any paprika you like
- Kosher salt or sea salt
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
- Black pepper
- Basting sauce ingredients – again, this can be tweaked to your liking
- Apple cider vinegar
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt or sea salt
- Lime juice – fresh is best, but the bottled stuff works too
- Liquid smoke – for that fresh out of the smoker flavor even if you’re cooking with gas
What’s the difference between chicken legs, thighs, and drumsticks?
If you’ve ever broken down a rotisserie chicken or a turkey, you know that there are essentially four parts to a bird – the wings and breasts contain the white meat, while the thighs and drumsticks are dark meat.
Chicken leg refers to the whole leg quarter of a chicken, including the thigh and the drumstick. If you were to cut through the joint of a chicken leg, you would end up with two pieces of chicken.
That being said, if you only have drumsticks and thighs on hand, you can still make this recipe as written – with a bit less cooking time involved!
How to grill Chicken Quarters
- Combine the dry rub ingredients in a small bowl. Rub the chicken leg quarters all over and under the skin, making sure you get some on the meat beneath. Allow the chicken to come to room temperature for about 1 – 1 1/2 hours.
- Oil the grates of a gas grill or charcoal grill, then heat it to 500 degrees F. Combine the basting sauce ingredients in a medium bowl and set it aside.
- Place the chicken in the middle of the grill and let them sear for about 2 minutes over direct heat. Then, turn off the middle burner and lower the heat on the outer burners, which will gradually bring the temperature to about 350 degrees F. Baste the chicken on top, then close the grill lid and allow the leg quarters to cook in the indirect heat for 10-12 minutes.
- Turn the chicken legs over and baste again. Repeat this step 2 more times, about every 10-12 minutes for a total of 45 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 155-165 degrees F when probed with a meat thermometer.
- Now, baste both sides of the chicken with your favorite BBQ sauce, then close the lid and allow to cook another 5-8 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165-170 degrees F.
- Remove the fully cooked chicken from grill and allow it to rest at least 5 minutes before serving. Feel free to brush more barbecue sauce on top before serving.
How long does it take to grill chicken leg quarters?
Depending on the size of your quarters, they take anywhere from 40-55 minutes to thoroughly cook on the grill. Always use a meat thermometer to check for proper temperature to avoid any risk of food poisoning. You want to aim for 165-170 degrees F.
You may still see some pink meat inside, but as long as your grilled chicken temp is right, you’ve got no reason to worry.
Can you cook chicken leg quarters frozen?
In the air fryer or Instant Pot, sure – but not on the grill! The outside of the chicken would burn long before the inside would have time to thaw and cook fully.
If you’re craving this chicken recipe tonight, you can quickly and safely thaw your chicken quarters by following one of the following methods:
Microwave (immediately) – use the thaw function on your microwave according to manufacturer’s instructions. If you use this method, grill the chicken right after thawing to take it out of the temperature danger zone before bacteria begins to breed.
Cold Water (2-3 hours) – place the chicken quarters in a large, plastic zipper bag. Submerge the bag in a large bowl filled with cold water, changing it out with colder water every 30 minutes.
Refrigerator (24 hours) – highly recommended as the safest thawing method. Chicken typically takes a full day to thaw, and can remain in the refrigerator for 1-2 days before cooking.
Tips for perfectly grilled chicken legs every time:
- Rub your grill grates with oil prior to cooking. This helps keep the chicken from sticking during cooking.
- Cook chicken over medium heat to avoid burning it. The basting sauce helps give the chicken color, but heat that’s too high may scorch the skin before the chicken is cooked. Preheat the grill to 500 degrees F, and lower it to about 350 degrees when the chicken is over the coals. This combination of cooking the chicken quarters in both direct and indirect heat is crucial in getting that perfect juicy meal!
- Cover the grill. A covered grill creates a seal that surrounds the chicken on all sides, ensuring even cooking. No lid? Turn a disposable foil roasting pan upside down over the chicken for a similar effect.
- Don’t baste with the BBQ sauce until the end. The sugars in the sauce are guaranteed to burn your chicken skin prematurely, so save it for the last 5-8 minutes. Stick with a sugarless dry rub for flavor, and a vinegar-based basting liquid during grilling.
- Use a thermometer. Chicken needs to be cooked to a safe temperature of 165 degrees F, and the easiest way to ensure that is by using an instant-read meat thermometer. Insert it into the thickest part of the chicken, and make sure the tip of thermometer avoids the bone. No thermometer? Cut into a thick part of the chicken and looks for clear juices and opaque meat.
LOVE COOKOUTS? THESE TASTY SIDES WILL PAIR PERFECTLY WITH THIS CHICKEN RECIPE!
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BBQ Grilled Chicken Leg Quarters
- 4 chicken leg quarters
- 1 cup barbecue sauce
- 1 tablespoon seasoning salt
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 lime juice of
- ½ teaspoon liquid smoke
- Combine the dry rub ingredients in a small bowl. Rub the chicken leg quarters all over and under the skin. Bring the chicken to room temperature, about 2 hours.
- Heat a gas or charcoal grill to 500 degrees F. Combine basting sauce ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.
- Place the chicken in the middle of the grill. Turn off the middle burner and lower the heat on the outer burners, bringing the temperature to about 350 degrees F. Baste the chicken on top with the basting sauce, then close the grill lid and allow to cook for 10-12 minutes.
- Turn the chicken over and baste again. Repeat this step 2 more times, about every 10-12 minutes for a total of 45 minutes. Check the temperature of the chicken with a meat thermometer. It should read 155-165 degrees F.
- Baste both sides of the chicken with BBQ sauce, then close the lid and allow to cook another 5-8 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165-170 degrees F.
- Remove chicken from grill and allow it to rest at least 5 minutes before serving. Feel free to brush more barbecue sauce on top before serving.