Chicken drumsticks are one of the cheaper animal proteins you can pick up for dinner. They cook relatively quickly, and are also, typically, more flavorful than a lean breast. You can pan-fry, roast, braise, broil, or grill these gams making them super versatile. Chicken drumsticks, and their smaller counterparts, drumettes (a trimmed portion of the wing), are also fun for party nights with friends.
We recently laid in a new alternative for quick smoking on the grill.
These little smoke bombs go under the grate, directly on the coals or over the flames for a gas grill, and burn up completely releasing delicious smoky goodness into your food.
You soak them in water for about 5 minutes before placing them on the grill. They burn up within 15 minutes or so, giving you the flavor of the smoke, but not really suitable for large cuts of meat that would need several hours to cook through. However, these are great for week night dinners of faster grilling meats, vegetables, or fruits.
Ingredients for bacon-style marinade:
- 12-16oz “cola”, root beer, or honey Kombucha (Or a natural “cola”/root beer Soda)
- 1/2 c Dark Brown Sugar
- 2tsp Salt
- 1/4 tsp Smoky Paprika
- 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1 tsp ground Black Pepper
- 1/2 tsp Chipotle powder
- heavy dash of Cayenne
- 8 Chicken Drumsticks, or 18 Drumettes
Use a container with a good seal for the marination process, you are playing with raw chicken and lots of liquid here. Do your best not to spread the the bacteria all over the place unless you have time to scrub down your refrigerator and half the kitchen.
Mix the liquid, sugar and spices in a separate bowl than the one you will be using for marinating.
After rinsing and drying them, arrange the chicken pieces loosely and evenly in the marination container. Pour the liquid mixture over the top. Be sure that the chicken is completely covered by the liquid, shake the container gently to help settle the drumsticks. Seal and place in the refrigerator to let those little kickers cure. Allow at least 4 hours for them to sit. Anything longer than 6 is great for the little ones, and 8 or overnight for the big ones.
A few notes on the bacon-style marinade.
Why kombucha? Kombucha is a naturally fermented tea which is probiotic and fizzes delightfully. It makes a great replacement for syrupy sodas (it’s a small soapbox, but it’s mine.)! The active enzymes in the ‘buch act in the same way as the enzymes in the live yoghurt used in making tandoori chicken. As the enzymes break down the proteins in the chicken, the salt and sugar carry the spice (flavors) into the meat fibers. Yes, it not only speeds up the process, it also adds another layer of flavor.
Speaking of flavor, let’s talk bacon.
Smoke, sweet, salt, and hot. Yes, please. Bacon should be a balance of all four of these flavors, allowing it to achieve optimal taste perfection. You will be smoking these legs with a maple smoke bomb, but you need to build that flavor from the beginning for best effect. Do yourself a favor and use a good Smoked Spanish Paprika for this marinade. If you are using soda rather than the kombucha, you will need to lessen the called for brown sugar otherwise you will have glazed wings. Be very careful with the salt here. Yes, bacon is very salty; bacon is also the tough, streaky meat of pigs that isn’t really used for anything else. Chicken is delicate, and much easier to flavor. Maybe add a bit more salt if you like, but the flavor carries well. Make these as spicy hot as you like, that heavy dash can become a teaspoon if you have the palate for it.
Prepare the smoke bomb by soaking it in water for 5 minutes. If you are using a charcoal grill you will place the wet bundle directly on the hot coals. If you are using a gas grill, you will need to wrap the bomb in a piece of aluminum foil and pierce through the foil and cotton bag, then place under grate directly over flame in the back corner of the grill. You will only have one side of the grill hot.
After marinating, arrange the drumsticks on grilling racks. Shake off, but do not rinse the excess marinade from the chicken, the moisture will hold more of the smoke when you grill them. Wait until you see the first smoke coming out before placing the rack on the cold side of the grill and closing the lid. The smoke should last about 15-20 minutes.
When smoke has cleared out, check the chicken, The skin should have begun to dry, and pull down from the top. Turn on the heat under the legs to low. Close the lid. Allow to cook for another 10 minutes or until the skin is browned and beginning to crisp.
Serve with a your favorite dipping sauce.
Have alongside a salad of baby greens, tomatoes, onions, and a crumbly cheese.