Sure, chicken breasts get a lot of attention these days as people look for easy and delicious ways to eat healthier, but you can't deny the deliciousness of a well-cooked chicken leg. While the white meat parts of the chicken—the breast and wings—are often considered healthier than the dark meat part—chicken legs and thighs or quarters—the truth is, there isn't really that big a health difference between them. Dark meats do contain a bit more fat than their light meat counterparts, but chicken is still one of the healthiest proteins you can consume. And chicken legs are also inexpensive, versatile, meaty, and moist. Many chicken lovers consider them the most flavorful part of the bird.
There are lots of different ways you can cook chicken legs and thighs, but one of our favorites for flavor and ease has to be oven baking. This technique results in a moist, juicy chicken with a crisp, flavorful outer crust that everyone in the family will love.
Strictly speaking a whole chicken leg is comprised of a thigh and a drumstick in one piece. Pictured above, a whole chicken leg is also known as a thigh-drumstick piece.
When a thigh-drumstick piece has a portion of the back attached to it, these cuts are called chicken leg quarters.
Thigh-drumstick pieces and chicken leg quarters may be used interchangeably; however, because chicken pieces vary in size, be sure to cook whichever cut you use long enough to reach a safe internal temperature of 180 degrees F.
Often, thigh-drumstick pieces are separated into two portions: the drumstick (pictured above) and the thigh. Sometimes, the separate drumstick portion is also referred to as a chicken leg.
Many of our recipes for baked chicken call for "meaty chicken pieces." These include drumsticks, thighs, and breasts. That means any of our baked chicken recipes that call for meaty chicken pieces can be used as a recipe for baked chicken legs (drumsticks).
Here's our basic method for 2-1/2 to 3 pounds of baked chicken legs (drumsticks) or any combination of meaty chicken pieces. Of course, you can use all drumsticks, if you wish.
Tip: To reduce fat and calories, you can skin chicken legs. Bake the chicken with the skin on to keep it moist. Cool slightly and pull the skin off, starting at the thigh end. Have kitchen shears or a knife handy to snip off the skin if needed.
Most of our recipes call for baking chicken legs or quarters at 375 degrees F or 190 degrees C, but you can adjust temperatures as long as you also adjust your cooking times. Adjusting cooking temperatures allows you to cook other dishes with different baking temperature requirements at the same time.
Here’s a quick guide to recommended cooking times by temperature, but you should always use a meat thermometer to check whether chicken is cooked completely whenever possible. Chicken thighs and legs should have an internal temperature of 180 degrees F when fully cooked.
One of the all-time great recipes for baked chicken legs is Oven-Fried Chicken (also known as baked breaded chicken). While you can make this recipe with 2-1/2 to 3 pounds meaty chicken pieces, you can use all drumsticks, if you like.
For the egg wash, combine the following in a bowl large enough to fit the chicken pieces:
For coating, in a shallow dish like a pie pan, stir together:
Once the dry ingredients are mixed, stir in 2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine.
Remove the skin from your chicken legs or quarters. Dip the chicken pieces, one at a time, into the egg mixture. Coat each chicken piece with crumb mixture.
In a greased 15x10x1-inch baking pan, arrange chicken, bone sides down, so the pieces aren't touching. Sprinkle chicken pieces with any remaining crumb mixture so they are generously coated.
Bake, uncovered, in a 375 degree F oven for 45 to 55 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink (170 degrees F for breasts; 180 degrees F for thighs and drumsticks). Do not turn chicken pieces while baking. Makes 6 servings.
With just a handful of ingredients and a few minutes of hands-on prep time, you can transform four chicken leg quarters or thigh-drumstick pieces into an irresistible bistro-style roast chicken dish. Just follow these steps:
Place your pieces of chicken skin side up in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan or shallow roasting pan. Lightly brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
For the rub, place the juice and finely shredded lemon peel of 1 lemon in a small bowl. Stir in the garlic, fennel seed and crushed red pepper.
Carefully slide your fingertips between the meat and skin of each chicken leg quarter or thigh-drumstick piece to loosen the skin from the meat. Spread the spice rub between the two layers and drizzle the rest on top of the chicken.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the chicken leg quarters or thigh-drumstick pieces, uncovered, for 35 to 40 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer.
Alternatively, you can bake the chicken leg quarters or thigh-drumstick pieces in a 375 degree F oven. Increase the baking time to 45 to 50 minutes. Either way, because chicken pieces vary in size, be sure to check the chicken for doneness by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the thigh, avoiding the bone. It should read 180 degrees F when the chicken is done.
BH&G Test Kitchen Tip: Use the above steps as a guide and come up with your own chicken quarter recipes by using seasonings you love.
Note that many of these recipes call for meaty chicken pieces in general. This means that you can use any combination of chicken thighs, legs (drumsticks), or breast halves—you can even use all drumsticks, if you wish. Here are some of our most popular baked chicken leg recipes.