With their built-in handles and small size, economical chicken drumsticks are tailor-made for a cookout. So we decided to devise a foolproof way to roast them on the grill to ultra-tender perfection with nicely browned skin and wonderfully juicy meat.
We usually don't brine fattier dark meat, but since we were roasting the drumsticks for a fairly long time in the grill's dry heat we brined them first in salt water to help them retain their juices as well as to season them. A light coating of spice rub also upped their flavor.
We set up a half-grill fire with two zones: On the cooler side we roasted the drumsticks beyond their usual doneness temperature of 175 to 190 degrees, at which point most of their connective tissue had turned into rich gelatin and their skin had rendered gently.
Indirect grilling is largely hands off, but halfway through roasting we rearranged the drumsticks, moving those closer to the heat to the outside and those on the outside closer to the heat to ensure all of the drumsticks were done at the same time.
We moved them to the hotter side until the skin was nicely charred and crisp, which took only 5 minutes. Before applying the spice rub, smooth the skin over the drumsticks so it is covering as much surface area as possible. This will help the skin render evenly and prevent the meat from drying out.
GRILL-ROASTED SPICE-RUBBED CHICKEN DRUMSTICKS
Start to finish: 40 minutes plus 30-60 minutes brining
1/2 cup salt
5 pounds chicken drumsticks
1 recipe spice rub (recipes follow)
Dissolve salt in 2 quarts cold water in large container. Submerge drumsticks in brine, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Place spice rub on plate. Remove drumsticks from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Holding 1 drumstick by bone end, press lightly into rub on all sides. Pat gently to remove excess rub. Repeat with remaining drumsticks.
• For a charcoal grill: Open bottom vent halfway. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent halfway. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
• For a gas grill: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave primary burner on high and turn off other burner(s). (Adjust primary burner as needed to maintain grill temperature between 325 F and 350 F.)
Clean and oil cooking grate. Place drumsticks, skin side down, on cooler side of grill. Cover and cook for 25 minutes. Rearrange pieces so that drumsticks that were closest to edge are now closer to heat source and vice versa. Cover and cook until drumsticks register 185 F to 190 F, 20 to 30 minutes.
Move all drumsticks to hotter side of grill and cook, turning occasionally, until skin is nicely charred, about 5 minutes. Transfer to serving dish and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve.
Barbecue Spice Rub
Makes about 1/3 cup
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder (You can substitute granulated garlic for the garlic powder, if desired)
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients in small bowl.
Jerk-Style Spice Rub
Makes about 1/4 cup
If you can't find whole allspice berries, substitute 2 teaspoons of ground allspice.
1 tablespoon allspice berries
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Grind allspice, peppercorns, and thyme in spice grinder or mortar and pestle until coarsely ground. Transfer to bowl and stir in sugar, garlic powder, mustard, salt, and cayenne.
Nutrition information per serving: 642 calories; 303 calories from fat; 34 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 311 mg cholesterol; 1215 mg sodium; 5 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; g sugar; 72 g protein.