Exactly How to Bake Chicken Legs and Chicken Quarters for a Juicy Main Course
Baked chicken legs and chicken leg quarters are the ultimate in effortless, budget-friendly cooking. All you have to do is simply season and pop into the oven while you prep the rest of your meal. Here, we'll cover how to long to bake chicken legs and chicken quarters in the oven and share our favorite baked chicken quarters and chicken leg recipes.
Sure, chicken breasts get a lot of attention 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 a big 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.
What Are Chicken Leg Quarters?
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 175°F. (Technically, chicken is safe to eat at 165°F, but our Test Kitchen found these dark meats have better texture and flavor cooked to 175°F.) Often, thigh-drumstick pieces are separated into two portions: the drumstick and the thigh. Sometimes, the separate drumstick portion is also referred to as a chicken leg.
How to Bake Chicken Legs
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 2½ to 3 pounds of baked chicken legs or any combination of meaty chicken pieces.
- Place chicken, bone sides down, in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan ($14, Walmart) or shallow roasting pan.
- Brush with vegetable oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. You can also sprinkle the pieces with crushed dried herbs, such as thyme, oregano, or herbes de Provence.
- Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 45 to 55 minutes or until a meat thermometer ($13, Amazon) registers 175°F (170°F for bone-in white meat and 165°F for boneless white meat).
Test Kitchen Tip: To reduce fat and calories, you can skin chicken legs. It can be slippery, so use a paper towel to grip it. Pull the skin away from the meat, starting at the meaty end and pulling toward the knuckle. Have kitchen shears ($8, Target) or a knife handy to snip off the skin where attached if needed.
Cooking Temperatures & Times for Baked Chicken Legs
Most of our recipes call for baking chicken legs or quarters at 375°F (or 190°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 175°F when fully cooked.
- Oven temperature at 350°F: Bake chicken uncovered for 45 to 60 minutes
- Oven temperature at 375°F: Bake chicken uncovered for 45 to 55 minutes
- Oven temperature at 400°F: Bake chicken uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes
- Oven temperature at 425°F: Bake chicken uncovered for 25 to 35 minutes
- Oven temperature at 450°F: Bake chicken uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes
How to Bake Chicken Quarters
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 oven-roasted chicken dish. Use these steps as a guide and come up with your own chicken leg quarter recipes by using seasonings you love.
- Place your pieces of chicken skin side up in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan or shallow roasting pan ($17, Amazon). Lightly brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- If desired, prepare a simple rub (or use your favorite seasonings) by combining 1 small lemon, 3 cloves minced garlic, 1½ tsp. crushed fennel seed, and ¼ tsp. 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°F. Bake the chicken leg quarters or thigh-drumstick pieces, uncovered, for 35 to 40 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 175°F on your meat thermometer.
Alternatively, you can bake the chicken leg quarters or thigh-drumstick pieces in a 375°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.
Since many of our recipes call for meaty chicken pieces in general, you can use any combination of chicken thighs, legs (drumsticks), leg quarters, or breast halves. Here are some of our most popular baked chicken leg recipes. One of our favorite recipes for baked chicken legs is oven-fried chicken (aka baked breaded chicken). You can also try this delicious 5-ingredient baked chicken leg recipe with honey that's perfect busy weeknights. Or go with green onion chicken that's usually grilled but also makes a great baked chicken quarters recipe.