I really love grilled chicken leg quarters!
They taste amazing with just a simple dry rub so you don’t need any fancy and expensive ingredients. But you need some skills to grill them right — perfect and crispy outside and well-cooked inside.
Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to end up burning the surface of the chicken legs while the inside still remains raw.
Follow this guide and I guarantee you will get your chicken quarters right every time!
All it takes is a simple method of using indirect heat to make sure the chicken doesn’t burn and then moving them over to direct heat for the final sear.
What You Need – Equipment & Ingredients
This recipe is very simple so you don’t need any pricey equipment or ingredients to cook it.
Grill: You can cook the chicken on a charcoal or gas grill. I used my Weber-Go Anywhere charcoal grill for cooking the chicken quarters but I will also explain how to cook them with a gas grill.
You don’t really need anything else for this recipe. A small bowl and spoon can be used to mix the dry rub ingredients.
Chicken Leg Quarters: This recipe requires you to cook the chicken legs on indirect heat. So don’t try to grill too many of them — you should only fill about half of the grill grate!
I could only fit three chicken pieces on my small charcoal grill.
But what if you want to cook more chicken and load the grill full?
Then you can’t cook the chicken quarters on indirect heat and things will get a bit more tricky. I will give more specific instructions for direct heat cooking at the end of the article.
Dry rub ingredients:
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp smoked paprika powder
- 2 tsp dried thyme
This dry rub is very simple, but you don’t really need anything more in my opinion. You can also just use regular paprika powder instead of the smoked one and add other ingredients like garlic or chili powder.
The amount of dry rub is just enough for three chicken legs. If you are grilling more than that, just double the amount of the ingredients.
How Long to Grill Chicken Leg Quarters?
It takes about 45 to 60 minutes to grill chicken quarters so that they are properly cooked inside.
The exact time depends on the size of the chicken legs and how hot your grill is. But you don’t want to make the grill too hot or you will end up burning the skin before the inside is cooked.
The important thing is that your chicken reaches an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit (or 74 Celcius). But I recommend going a bit higher than that — about 175 to 180 degrees is perfect.
If you are looking for a chicken dish that has marinade and cooks faster, check out my recipe for Chinese chicken on a stick.
How to Grill Chicken Leg Quarters – The Process
The typical mistake when grilling chicken legs is to burn them on the outside while the inside is still raw. This kind of chicken doesn’t taste good — plus eating raw chicken is a health risk!
But if you use the method described in this guide you can easily avoid this.
Instead, you will get chicken legs that have nice and crispy skin and are well-cooked inside.
Step 1: Prepare the Chicken and Dry Rub
Take your chicken leg quarters from the ref and cut off any hanging pieces of extra fat and skin. Then pat the chicken dry with paper towels or a clean cloth.
Make a simple dry rub by mixing smoked paprika powder, dried thyme, salt, and pepper.
Step 2: Apply the Dry Rub
Sprinkle the dry rub all over the chicken on both sides and then rub it into the skin.
Leave the chicken at room temperature to be grilled later.
Step 3: Set Up the Grill
Place a decent amount of charcoal on the other side of the grill and then light it up. Wait for the charcoal to get properly hot.
Make sure that you leave enough space for the chicken quarters to be placed on indirect heat.
If you are using a gas grill, just light up one burner and turn it on to full heat.
Step 4: Grill the Chicken on Indirect Heat
Place the chicken legs on the grill so that they are not directly over the hot charcoal (or gas burner flame). You can start with the skin side up.
Grill the chicken legs under a lid for about 20 minutes. Then flip them around so that the skin side is down and grill them for another 20 minutes under the lid.
Step 5: Final Sear on Direct Heat
After 40 minutes of grilling, your chicken should look quite good. But it will still probably not be crispy enough.
This means it’s time for direct heat searing!
Place the chicken quarters directly over the hot charcoal skin side up and grill for about 5 minutes without closing the lid. Monitor the chicken legs constantly to avoid burning them and move them over to indirect heat if necessary.
Finally, grill the chicken skin side down over the charcoal for about 5 minutes to get that perfectly crispy skin you’re looking for!
If you are using a gas grill, you can just turn all of your burners on and set them to medium-high heat.
Step 6: Time to Eat!
You can check the internal temperature of the biggest piece of chicken before taking them off from the grill.
It should be at least 165 Fahrenheit (or 74 Celcius) in the middle of the thickest part. I usually aim a bit higher (about 175 to 180 degrees).
Let the chicken legs rest for a few minutes before serving them with your favorite sides.
Additional Tips and Suggestions
Add More Smoky Flavor
The chicken will get a mild smoky flavor just from grilling it with charcoal and from the drippings that vaporize when they hit the hot ember.
But if you want more of that smoky goodness on your chicken quarters, you can add some wood chips into the mix. You can either soak the wood chips and put some on top of the hot charcoal while grilling the chicken, or you can wrap the wood chips into a foil pouch to prevent them from burning out too fast.
Check out my guide about using wood chips on a charcoal grill for more detailed instructions.
Grilling Over Direct Heat
As you can see I could only fit three chicken legs on my grill so that they are on indirect heat. That was fine because I was cooking for three people so it was just the right amount.
But what if you want to cook more chicken and need to use the whole grilling surface?
This means that you can’t grill over indirect heat.
Instead, you need to spread the charcoal around so that you get even heat across the whole grilling surface. Then you will grill the chicken on direct heat from start to beginning.
The main problem here is that you might easily burn the chicken. To avoid this, make sure that the charcoal is not too hot when you start grilling, and monitor the chicken legs constantly.
If it looks like the skin starts burning right away you should remove the chicken legs from the grill or keep on turning them every few minutes.
Grilled Chicken Leg Quarters Recipe
- Chicken leg quarters
- 1 part Salt
- 1 part Black pepper
- 1 part Smoked paprika powder
- 2 parts Dried thyme
- Cut off any hanging pieces of fat and skin from the chicken legs and pat them dry.
- Mix the dry rub ingredients in a small bowl.
- Apply the dry rub all over the chicken legs.
- Set up your grill for indirect heat.
- Grill the chicken leg quarters on indirect heat, lid closed, for about 20 minutes then flip them over and grill for another 20 minutes.
- Move the chicken over to direct heat and grill for about 5 minutes per side to get a nice and crispy skin. Check that the internal temperature is at least 165 Fahrenheit (or 74 Celcius) before taking the chicken legs from the grill.
- Let the chicken rest for a few minutes and serve with your favorite side dishes.