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Chicken drumsticks

A practical guide to buying, storing and perfectly cooking chicken drumsticks.

We kiwis just love chicken, it's New Zealand's most popular type of meat, far outselling all others. You can buy a whole chicken to feed the family, or convenient pre-packed portions of chicken breasts, chicken legs, chicken drumsticks and thighs to make midweek dinners simple and quick to prepare.

The humble chicken drumstick punches well above its weight as one of the tastiest, most affordable cuts of chicken that the whole family can enjoy on a budget. Oven baked chicken drumsticks are hard to beat, delivering crispy skin, juicy chicken and lots of flavour, for minimum effort. We show you how to make the most of this versatile ingredient and share our favourite recipe ideas with you.

Chicken drumsticks

What's the difference between a chicken leg and a chicken drumstick?

There are very clear differences between a chicken leg and a chicken drumstick and chicken thigh. Its important to understand which part of the chicken you are buying, so you can prepare and cook it successfully.

Chicken legs are made up of two parts.

Chicken legs

  • A chicken drumstick is the lower portion or calf of the chicken's leg where the bone ends.
  • A chicken thigh is the top portion of the leg which is wider and flatter.
  • A chicken leg is one whole connected piece incorporating the thigh and the drumstick.
  • Drumsticks are not the same as chicken thighs.
  • Drumsticks are not chicken legs although some people mistakenly use the names interchangeably.

What is a chicken drumstick?

Chicken drumsticks

Chicken drumsticks are sold with the bone in and the skin still on. This is important when cooking as the skin helps to retain the chicken juices which tenderise the chicken meat. They are kid friendly, enabling kids to serve themselves and hold the bone to eat the drumstick - just like King Henry VIII and his courtiers.

Chicken drumsticks have the same amount of edible meat as a chicken thigh portion, ranging from 70-75% edible meat. The dark meat is tougher than lean chicken breasts but is also considered to be one of the tastiest parts of the chicken.

Are chicken drumsticks healthy?

Yes, chicken drumsticks are a healthy, lean, low fat meat, with a high protein content which is important for muscle building. Whilst the skin protects the meat from drying out during cooking, it can be fatty and should be removed before eating.

When cooked simply, oven baked chicken drumsticks are low calorie with just 106 calories per drumstick. They're also an excellent dietary source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin B5.

Buying and storing chicken drumsticks

When buying fresh chicken drumsticks, look for a fresh light pink colour and springy flesh which feels plump to the touch. Drumsticks and chicken legs should always have their skin intact as this helps to retain the juices when cooking. A clean, neutral aroma is an indicator of freshness.

Fresh chicken should be covered and stored below 4 degrees Celsius, on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator away from cooked meats and deli products. Once cooked they should be stored separately from uncooked meat, on the second shelf of the refrigerator.

Chicken drumsticks can be frozen on the same day of purchase and should be defrosted thoroughly before cooking.

Cooking chicken drumsticks

If you're buying pre portioned drumsticks, they should come fully trimmed and ready to cook which is super convenient. The meat on chicken legs can be tough and chewy so it needs long and slow cooking or cooking at high temperatures.

Perfectly Baked Chicken Drumsticks Recipe

Chicken drumsticks

Everyone loves baked chicken drumsticks especially when the skin on chicken drumsticks are deliciously crispy and the meat succulent and juicy. Here we show you how to achieve great results every time you bake them and answer your most frequently asked questions.

  1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius
  2. Pat the chicken dry first or you won't get crispy chicken skin. Brush a little olive oil all over and sear in a pan to brown lightly. Add seasoning with a mix of onion powder, garlic powder and sea salt.
  3. Line a baking sheet with baking paper to make cleaning up easier.
  4. Place a rack on the baking pan and place the seared chicken drumsticks on the rack in a single layer. This will ensure even cooking on all sides. Place in a very hot oven. Bake chicken drumsticks for 45 minutes, flipping them over halfway through baking.
  5. Check the internal temperature of the chicken which should be 85 degrees C (that's 10 degrees hotter than a whole chicken breast).
  6. Remove the baked chicken drumsticks when done and serve immediately.
FAQ's and Tips for perfectly baked chicken drumsticks

How long does it take for chicken drumsticks to cook in the oven?

If you preheat the oven first, chicken drumsticks need 40 to 45 minutes baking time in a hot oven. This should be adjusted for larger or smaller than average drumsticks.

What is the best temperature to cook drumsticks at?

Chicken legs and chicken drumsticks need to be cooked at a high temperature to break the tough muscle fibres down. The best temperature to cook drumsticks is 200-220 degrees Celsius. If you are using a meat thermometer the secret to a great chicken leg or drumstick is to bring the internal temperature up to 85 degrees Celsius.

Do you need to flip drumsticks in the oven?

Yes chicken drumsticks should be flipped over half way through the cooking time to prevent burning and create even browning.

Do you cover drumsticks when baking?

No you should not cover baked chicken drumsticks. Roasting helps to create a crisp, brown skin, if you cover them they will cook in their steam and go soggy.

Should you sear chicken legs before baking?

If you want to prevent baked drumsticks with a pale, wet chicken skin, sear them quickly on both sides in a hot pan with olive oil first.

Why are my chicken drumsticks tough?

If the chicken is tough it could be one of three things. The oven temperature was too low, the chicken wasn't cooked for long enough or perhaps it has steamed if you cover it when cooking.

What is a chicken lollipop?

Chicken lollipops are often served as inexpensive appetisers in restaurants. You can easily do this at home too. The chicken drumstick is 'frenched' or trimmed to loosen the meat from the bone which is then moved down to form a lollipop shape which is covered by the skin. The chicken is then seasoned and baked or pan fried.