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Juanita's Smoked Chicken Legs

For quite a while, every weekend we used to hot smoke whole chicken on our Weber Kettle Grill. Until, on a Saturday in June, Juanita (the Chief of our Purchasing Department...) got to the supermarket and found out that the whole chickens were sold out. The only thing chicken left were a few loose chicken legs...

Of course we are used to do the best we can out of any given situation. In this case, however, this "not-so-super"-market caused the beginning of a new era. With Juanita's Smoked Chicken Legs we were heading for a long hot summer!

Hot Smoke - Juanita's Barbecue Chicken Legs

Eight chicken legs will nicely fit in the small Weber grill. You will even have some grate area left to smoke some Hot Smoke Barbeque Fries on the side.

Don't be afraid to buy more chicken legs than strictly needed.

Nothing will add more to the barbecue party than an abundant supply of food. (well, except for an abundant supply of booze, maybe ;o)

And in any case, the next day these barbeque chicken legs will still taste excellent.

Hot Smoke BBQ Charcoal Briquettes


For this bbq chicken leg recipe you will need the following ingredients:

5 Tablespoons
Chicken Legs (about 5 pounds)
Juanita's Dry Rub USA #1 (see below)

Hot Smoke BBQ Charcoal Briquettes

Dry Rub

Juanita's Dry Rub USA #1 For the dry rub on chicken we prefer what we call Juanita's Dry Rub USA #1.

We have been using this rub on grilled chicken once or twice a month for two years now and it is an absolute winner.

US Flag To us, this mix represents a true American taste. My wife Juanita developed this rub using a recipe from one of Steven Raichlen's wonderful barbecue cookbooks as a starting point.

Hot Smoke BBQ Charcoal Briquettes


Before you take the meat out of the fridge, measure the required quantity of dry rub and set aside in a cup. You should need about one tablespoon of Juanita's Dry Rub per pound of meat.

Check the top and bottom ends of the chicken legs for any bone fragments, rinse under colf running water, remove any loose parts, dangling fat, excess skin, etc., and blot dry using paper towels.

A word of caution here: when working with raw meat, make sure all work surfaces, utensils and your hands are thoroughly clean before you start, and clean thoroughly immediately after you finish.

These chicken legs have had a good massage with Juanita's Dry Rub USA #1 Put the chicken legs - one by one - in a wide bowl and sprinkle the rub on all sides of the leg while turning it around. I prefer to do this with my bare hands, working the rub nicely and evenly into all corners and crevices of the meat.

Hot Smoke BBQ Charcoal Briquettes

The Barbecue

While the chicken legs are absorbing the rub, prepare your barbecue for indirect grilling. I top off a Weber starter chimney with charcoal briquettes, although in summer a bit less should do the trick also.

Weber barbecue set up for indirect grilling Pour about half an inch of water in the drip pan. Some fanatics will replace the water with beer or wine. It may sound idiot, but you will notice the difference!

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Hot Smoke BBQ Charcoal Briquettes

Charcoal Briquettes

Hot Smoke BBQ - Charcoal Briquettes I always use charcoal briquettes because of their even shape and size. I also found they have a more constant quality when compared with regular "lump" charcoal (mostly small lump charcoal, that is...).

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Hot Smoke BBQ Charcoal Briquettes

Smoke Wood

Once the charcoal in my barbecue is glowing and grey, I put a few water soaked chunks of wood (say about 1"-2" thick and 3"-5" long) on top of the charcoal.

Juancho's BBQ Tip
Smoke is like a condiment, adding a specific taste to your food, like salt and pepper. And just like you don't want your food to get too salty or too spicy, you don't want too much smoke either.
Too much smoke will leave a bitter and/or creosote taste on your food. In general: do not exaggerate on the smoke.
                                            Just a whisp should be enough.

Click HERE to read more about SMOKEWOOD

Because of the fairly high temperature of the charcoal fire during hot smoking, and to prevent the smoke wood from burning too fast, I soak my smoke wood in a bucket of water for a couple of days prior to use.

Hot Smoke BBQ Charcoal Briquettes

Let's Go For a Smoke!

Put the chicken legs on the grill above the drip pan. You may want to use one of these "spare rib" racks to keep the chicken legs upright.

The chicken legs have just been put on the grill, above the drip pan. In this way the same grill area will accommodate more chicken legs without the legs touching eachother and thus allowing a free flow of hot air and smoke around the meat during smoking.

You don't have such rack? Bamboo skewers or steel shashlik pins will work just as well to keep legs upright and separated.

Close the lid of the Weber and check if the vent holes in the lid and the bottom are fully open.

Wait a couple of minutes until you see a clear whisp of Hot Smoke escaping from the top vent holes. At this point in time, close the bottom vent holes, then open a bit ("quarter open"). The top vent-holes will ALWAYS remain fully open.

Hot Smoke BBQ Charcoal Briquettes

Time to Relax

With those chicken legs sitting in your black backyard coal-fired microwave, take it easy.

Get yourself a drink, sit down, read your favourite magazine, check the fire, listen to some cool music, watch that whisp of smoke curl up and follow a path to the neighbours. Aaah, enjoy that lovely smell. There's nothing that can make you feel more down to earth and relaxed.

The idea is to slow roast the meat, so the trick is to keep the fire low without killing it.

Every ten minutes or so, check if the fire is still going "not too low and not too high". To prevent too much heat loss, try to do this without opening the lid, but when in doubt don't hesitate. Better safe than sorry.

After half an hour of smoking, these chicken legs have acquired a nice sun tan After half an hour of smoking, I always peek under the lid to see how things are going. This is not strictly necessary but I simply love nice brown legs...

After about forty five minutes you should check under the lid to see if the chicken skin is not turning too dark. Once you like the color of the skin, cover the chicken loosely with aluminium foil and return the lid.

For the rest of the smoking time, try to resist peeking under the lid too often. Every time you open your barbecue you will loose heat, and the cooking process will take longer. On the other hand, if you have time anyway, what the heck...

Hot Smoke BBQ Charcoal Briquettes

Dinner Time

After about an hour of hot smoking without opening the lid too often, the chicken legs should be well done.

Juanita's Smoked Chicken Legs - ready to be eaten! To check whether they are really done, I simply cut into a leg to see if the meat inside has the proper texture and prefereably comes off the bone easily.

You could also check this by inserting an instant read thermometer in the thickest parts which should read about 180oF (just over 80oC).

While really well done, the chicken meat inside the leg can still have a pinkish colour. This is a reaction on the smoking process and means that you have been doing well!

Once you are sure these hot smoked chicken legs are indeed well done, transfer them from the grill to a cutting board or (pre-heated) plate. Leave covered in aluminium foil for about 10 minutes to allow the juices and temperature inside the meat to re-distribute and so obtain a more tender and juicy effect.

Hot Smoke BBQ Charcoal Briquettes

The PitBoss Suggests:

Hot Smoke Chicken with Barbecue Fries and Colslaw These hot smoked chicken legs combine particularly well with a potato salad and baked beans, or with Hot Smoke Barbecue Fries and Juanita's American Coleslaw or other fresh salad.

Favourite Drinks

Cold beer (!) goes very well with every barbecue, summer and winter. Also: cold mineral water with fresh lime or lemon slices, or a real cold dry white wine.

A fruity red wine is very well possible too, especially when served a bit chilled.

OK, and then there's Juanita herself! Nobody will drive her crazy. Whatever's on the menu, she'll stay with her ever smooth and elegant Merlot...

At Hot Smoke BBQ we love Chile Peppers!

Keep Smokin' !