Learn how to make delicious smoked chicken legs using an electric smoker such as a Masterbuilt!
We take you step-by-step through seasoning and dry brining your smoked chicken drumsticks, setting up your electric smoker for the cook, and smoking and saucing them to perfection.
Some nights you just want something nice and simple but still done right, like our crispy electric smoker smoked chicken legs.
We've previously done our famous smoked whole chicken in an electric smoker, some simple smoked chicken breasts, smoked chicken thighs, boneless skinless chicken thighs, and even some simple smoked chicken quarters.
We've also shown you exactly how to smoke great chicken drumsticks on a Traeger and on a Pit Boss.
But we thought, what could be more classic than some simply smoked chicken drumsticks right in the good old trusty Masterbuilt Electric Smoker?
You can really use any electric smoker, it doesn't have to be a Masterbuilt, and follow our step by step instructions below!
- Crispy Chicken Skin in an Electric Smoker
- Baking Powder
- Dry Brine Overnight
- Best Store Bought Rubs for Chicken Legs
- Best BBQ Sauces for Chicken Legs
- The Best Wood Chips for Smoking Chicken Legs
- Refilling Wood Chips
- Start the Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
- Smoker Temperature
- Amount of Wood Chips
- Target Internal Temperature
- Cooking Time
- Serving Suggestions
- 📖 Recipe
Crispy Chicken Skin in an Electric Smoker
The problem with "most" smoked chicken is that while the meat inside gets tender and delicious, the skin is usually a little rubbery and unappetizing.
Typically, we would roast the chicken legs anywhere from 325-375°F in order to render out the fat underneath the skin and crisp it up that way.
Many electric smokers, including those made by Masterbuilt, only go up to a 275°F cooking temperature.
Rather than using HEAT to get crispy skin on our smoked chicken drumsticks, we need to use CHEMISTRY.
If you want the crispiest skin possible at the end, it all starts with dry brining at the beginning.
This is what will separate you from all the chicken smoking amateurs out there.
Mixing a little baking powder into your smoked chicken leg rub will go a long way to give you crispier skin, even at the lower temperatures of an electric smoker.
You don't need a lot, we add about ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon for every 4 tablespoon of BBQ Rub.
This works best if you combine it with dry brining the chicken overnight in the refrigerator to allow the alkali baking powder to interact with the skin of the chicken along with the salt in your rub to dry everything out before putting the legs in the electric smoker.
Dry Brine Overnight
First rinse and then dry the raw chicken legs really well with a paper towel.
Then simply sprinkle them with kosher salt, or your favorite BBQ rub that has salt in it, along with some baking powder mixed in as described above.
Do NOT use oil to help the rub adhere.
As you apply the rub the skin will start to get more wet as the salt in the rub pulls the moisture up to the surface.
This is all the moisture you need to get the salt and rub to adhere.
Store the chicken legs on a wire rack set on top of a baking sheet in the refrigerator overnight.
We like this wire rack and baking sheet combo because you want maximum airflow around every side of the chicken.
This overnight seasoning does 3 things:
- That salty moisture that formed on the surface will work its way BACK into the meat to help flavor the chicken meat.
- The salt inside will help the chicken retain moisture and not dry out while it smokes in the Masterbuilt.
- It pulls moisture OUT of the skin allowing it to dry out before you smoke it and therefore crisp up better while it cooks.
Moist meat, and dry crispy skin.
Exactly what we want.
The next day the skin may look kind of powdery and dry.
This is OK.
It means the salt has penetrated down into the meat where you want it to be and has taken all the moisture from the skin with it.
The skin will now crisp up nicely in the electric smoker while the inside meat stays moist.
If you need to add MORE BBQ rub, go ahead and do this before putting it in the Masterbuilt.
Pro Tip: DO NOT use cooking oil to help additional rub adhere to the chicken skin. The more oil you apply, the less the skin will crisp up when it cooks.
Best Store Bought Rubs for Chicken Legs
You can use ANY of your favorite BBQ rubs for smoked chicken.
Since we are only smoking these at 275°F (the highest many electric smokers such as a Masterbuilt will go) we don't need to worry about burning any sugary rubs.
So choose any rub you like and sprinkle it on generously on both sides of each chicken leg after mixing it with your baking powder.
Three Little Pigs Kansas City Championship Rub is a great spice rub with a big savory hit of garlic and onion and just enough spice and sweetness.
If you want a quality rub without ANY sugar, we are also big fans of Bad Byron's Butt Rub Seasoning.
Although we typically use it on cuts of beef and steaks where we are going for a more savory flavor, there is no real reason you can't apply it to your Masterbuilt smoked chicken legs if you are looking for big flavor without all the sugar.
Homemade "In a Pinch" Rub
Sometimes, you forgot you ran out of your favorite rub, or don't have all the ingredients on hand to make a complex one from scratch.
If you just want to get a good classic BBQ rub on your electric smoker smoked chicken legs before throwing them in, then we've got you covered with this simple rub recipe with seasonings most people have on hand in the pantry:
- 2 tablespoon Dark Brown Sugar
- 2 tablespoon Paprika
- 1 tablespoon Kosher Salt (Or ½ tablespoon table salt, go easy, you can always add more salt later)
- ½ tablespoon Chili Powder
- 1 teaspoon Coarse Ground Black Pepper
- 1 teaspoon Granulated Garlic or Garlic Powder (adjust to taste)
- 1 teaspoon Onion Powder (adjust to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (optional for heat)
We find this makes enough for about 6-8 chicken legs, so double the amounts if you are making more or if you just like a lot of rub!
Mix thoroughly, (using a re-usable plastic shaker works best), and then sprinkle directly on your chicken.
Don't forget to mix in about ¼ teaspoon baking powder if you want to dry up that skin too.
If you don't want that much sugar, you can replace with more paprika, smoked paprika. or increase the amount of chili powder and other savory seasonings.
Best BBQ Sauces for Chicken Legs
Blues Hog again wins the day here with their amazing lineup of sauces. While their rubs are great, their sauces are WORLD CLASS.
Their Original BBQ Sauce is VERY thick and incredibly heavy on flavor, so we think it works great on simple meats like smoked chicken legs to really amp up the flavor
You can pick up both and mix them like we sometimes do. In fact, Blues Hog started making their own mix of these two sauces called Champions Blend, which we really like.
You can mix some Blues Hog Original in with one of your other favorites sauces. We suggest a more savory sauce to balance the sugar, like this one from Aaron Franklin.
The Best Wood Chips for Smoking Chicken Legs
You want to go fairly easy with the woodsmoke on chicken legs.
Poultry absorbs smoke fairly quickly and you don't want your smoked chicken legs tasting like an ashtray when they come out of the electric smoker.
A subtle smokiness that sits on the back of the palate after taking a bite is what we are going for, not an "in-your-face" campfire taste that knocks you out of your chair.
Hickory has a distinctive flavor compared to oak or the fruitwoods and if you've never cooked with it before, go easy until you know whether you like it or not.
Mesquite is even more distinctive will give a very aggressive smoke flavor.
While hickory and mesquite CAN be used on smoked chicken drumsticks, they should probably be used only in combination with some other varieties of milder wood chips rather than as the sole type of wood.
Pecan, oak, apple, beech, alder, and cherry are all milder woods that great results on smoked chicken legs in an electric smoker.
We especially like these cherry wood chips from Cowboy Brand on smoked chicken.
There's no reason you can't mix a few different kinds of wood chips together in your Masterbuilt!
For smoked chicken legs, you will likely only need one or two loads of wood chips in the electric smoker at the beginning of the cook and no more after that.
You will get plenty of smoke flavor without overdoing it.
More on that below.
Refilling Wood Chips
As we mentioned, you will not need to refill more than maybe once or twice for the smoked chicken legs. For other types of meat such as pulled pork or brisket, you DO need to refill the wood chips multiple times every 30-40 minutes as they smolder out.
Now, if you are using a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker, we recommend you check out their Slow Smoker Accessory Attachment.
It allows you to preload the wood chips, much like a pellet hopper on a pellet grill like a Traeger, and smokes them more slowly so that you don't need to constantly refill.
This works great for longer smokes like beef brisket in your electric smoker!
Start the Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
If you aren't quite familiar yet with how to use your electric smoker, don't worry, we've got plenty of good resources for you.
Rather than make your own stand, consider using the Masterbuilt stand to raise the height up for easier access.
Set the temperature of your electric smoker to 275°F, and let the electric smoker come up to temperature.
275°F is the highest temperature many popular electric smokers, including Masterbuilt electric smokers, will go.
Any lower than 275°F and you risk drying out the chicken legs by the time they fully cook, and even with the baking powder, it will be very hard to get the skin crispy at all.
If your electric smoker DOES go higher than 275°F, you can cook them as high as 325°F without burning any sugar in your BBQ rub.
Do NOT fill the water pan, and make sure to keep the upper vent completely OPEN during the cook.
This will keep the air dry and circulating in the cooking chamber and help get the skin crispy.
You can place an empty disposable aluminum pan on the bottom shelf to catch drippings and make for easier cleanup.
Amount of Wood Chips
Chicken, like most poultry, and fish for that matter, absorbs a lot of smoke in a short amount of time.
You don't want to overdo it, especially if you are new to smoking chicken in your electric smoker.
Once the electric smoker is up to 275°F, fill the wood chip loader with wood chips and turn clockwise to dump them into the wood chip tray.
We wouldn't recommend refilling with any more than maye one more load of chips after that, this will be plenty of wood smoke flavor for chicken legs.
Once the chips have smoldered out and stopped producing smoke you can empty them from the chip loading tray so that the now burnt and used up wood chips don't taint the flavor of the chicken while it is still cooking.
Target Internal Temperature
You HAVE to use a good instant read meat thermometer to know where the internal temperature is of smoked chicken drumsticks or any other chicken you are smoking in the electric smoker.
If your smoked chicken legs are big enough, you can use a good leave in probe thermometer like the ThermoPro as well as a second instant read thermometer to spot check as you get close to pulling them out of the Masterbuilt.
If you don't yet own an instant read thermometer, ThermoPro makes a good one of these too.
While we have used and recommended ThermoPro for years, lately we have also become big fans of the MEATER leave in thermometer.
It is extremely accurate and has an incredible 165 foot Bluetooth range and works right with your smartphone so you don't need to carry a separate controller around with you like many other remote thermometers require.
It's got a great free app that is constantly being updated and even has an algorithm to predict how much longer your type of meat will take to cook based on cooking temperature, target temperature, current internal temperature.
It's like a GPS for your meat!
We are going to bring the internal temperature of our smoked chicken legs up to 175°F.
Since the smoked chicken drums are dark meat, they need to cook a little higher than smoked chicken breasts which only need to hit 165°F.
If they are small chicken legs, you can try taking them off at 170°F and letting the residual heat from the outside bring the inside up to 175°F while they rest so as not to risk overcooking them.
You'll want to monitor the internal temperature of the chicken legs closely for doneness.
This is really the only way to know when they are close to being done.
Because we are cooking them "low and slow" (for chicken at least) they WILL take longer than you are used to in a conventional oven.
Remember, we are bringing them up to 175°F on your instant read thermometer.
In a 275°F electric smoker, it will take roughly 2 to 2.5 hours to smoke large chicken legs.
Depending on the size of your chicken drums, how often you open the electric smoker door, and the humidity outside, your cooking time may be more or less, so be prepared.
For the fastest results, keep the door closed as much as possible, and use leave in temperature probes to tell you when they are done!
Pro Tip #2: If you're going to apply a BBQ sauce at the end to the chicken legs, wait as long as possible until the skin has fully crisped up and the internal temperature is already at least 165°F. If you add sauce before the skin gets crispy, IT WILL NEVER GET CRISPY at that point.
Brush the BBQ sauce on the chicken legs using a silicone basting brush.
Serve your smoked chicken legs while they are still hot, and before the skin starts to soften up from the sauce.
You can always keep the sauce separate and serve it warmed up on the side just for those that want it to make sure the skin stays nice and crispy.
Smoked chicken legs are great on their own, or you can pair them with our maple bourbon smoked pineapple for a Hawaiian theme.
If you want something a little richer, check out our Sticky Smoked Sweet Potatoes to cook and serve alongside the chicken.
If you have leftover smoked chicken legs, you can always remove the meat to use in our smoked chicken salad, delicious smoked chicken enchiladas, smoked chicken tacos, or just pull it and mix with some BBQ sauce for yummy smoked pulled chicken!
Electric Smoker Chicken Legs
- Masterbuilt Electric Smoker or any brand electric smoker
- Wood chips Hickory, Oak, or Fruitwood
- Paper Towels
- Large Baking Sheet with Wire Rack
- Internal Meat Thermometers
- Basting brush
- BBQ Tongs
- 8 Chicken Legs
- Your Favorite Barbecue Sauce such as Blues Hog Original or Tennessee Red.
- 6 tablespoon Your Favorite BBQ rub or our "In a Pinch BBQ Rub" below
- ¼ teaspoon Baking Powder to crisp the skin
In a Pinch BBQ Rub
- 2 tablespoon Dark Brown Sugar
- 2 tablespoon Paprika
- 1 tablespoon Kosher Salt add more as desired
- ½ tablespoon Chili Powder
- ½ tablespoon Course Ground Black Pepper
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1 teaspoon Onion Powder
- ¼ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper optional
- Rinse and pat dry the chicken legs well with paper towels.8 Chicken Legs
Dry Brine the Chicken Legs Overnight
- Place the chicken legs on a wire rack placed on top of a baking sheet.
- Mix together the In a Pich BBQ rub with the baking powder, or use your favorite BBQ rub that contains salt mixed with the baking powder, and sprinkle generously over all sides of each chicken legs. DO NOT use cooking oil to adhere or skin will not get crispy.6 tablespoon Your Favorite BBQ rub or our "In a Pinch BBQ Rub" below, ¼ teaspoon Baking Powder, 2 tablespoon Dark Brown Sugar, 2 tablespoon Paprika, 1 tablespoon Kosher Salt, ½ tablespoon Course Ground Black Pepper, ½ tablespoon Chili Powder, 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder, 1 teaspoon Onion Powder, ¼ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
- Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 4-6 hours.
- Take the chicken drumsticks out of the refrigerator the next day as you are getting the electric smoker started.
Start the Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
- Open up the electric smoker door and make sure the racks are all cleaned off and in their proper place. Spray some canola oil on the racks to keep the chicken from sticking.
- Do not fill the water pan. You can place an empty aluminum foil pan on the bottom shelf to make clean up easier later. Close the door.
- Plug in and turn on the electric smoker and set the temperature to 275°F, or as high as it will go, up to 325°F. (275°F is the limit on most Masterbuilt electric smokers.)
- Once the electric smoker is up to temperature, load your wood chips in the chip loading tray. There is no need to soak the wood chips in water first.
Smoke the Chicken Legs in the Electric Smoker
- Once smoke is being produced, place your seasoned chicken legs on the grates at least about 1-2 inches apart from each other for good air circulation.
- Place an internal temperature probe if you have one into the center of one of the largest legs but not touching the bone.
- Close the door.
- You can add another load of wood chips when the smoke has subsided but we wouldn't recommend any more than the two loads total. Keep the vents completely OPEN for maximum airflow to keep the skin crispy.
Sauce the Smoked Chicken Drumsticks
- Warm up some of your favorite barbecue sauce in a microwave safe bowl and set aside.Your Favorite Barbecue Sauce such as Blues Hog Original or Tennessee Red.
- When the internal temperature of the chicken legs has reached 165°F and the skin is crispy, baste some of the barbecue sauce all sides of each one. Then close the door.
Remove and Serve
- Once the smoked chicken legs reach an internal temperature of 175°F as measured on an instant read thermometer, remove them from the electric smoker and transfer to a cutting board or plate. Do not cover with foil or anything else.
- Plate and serve immediately with some extra BBQ sauce on the side!