Grilled butterflied chicken legs aren’t new to the grilling scene but they have really grown in popularity since the price of wings has skyrocketed over the last few years. Even though wing prices are starting to come back down, I’ve found these legs to be a great (dare I say better?) main dish no matter what. They cook quickly and very evenly. They eat like thighs but are usually much cheaper. I sauced mine with an OG BBQ sauce. The sauce and skin got a nice little char on them, making this some of the best chicken I’ve had. Over charcoal or gas, this is a winner.
Don’t be intimidated by the prospect of making grilled butterflied chicken legs. Butterflying the legs is super-easy, specially after you finish the first one. Just cut down the bone first, then along side the bone, pulling the meat flat around it. I thought they looked a little odd at first, kind of ‘bat-like’ but the (minimal) amount of time it takes to do is worth it in the end. Butterflying also gives you a ‘peak inside’ as it were, allowing you to trim out any tough pieces before cooking. That’s a win.
I don’t mess around when it comes time to sauce my legs. I like a good bit of sauce and that means I need a good brush. And one with a long handle. The grill gets hot and saucing (in particular, heavy saucing) takes a bit of time. No reason to sacrifice some arm hair saucing dinner, I’ve always said.
My quick fix BBQ beans are a great side for these legs.
Grilled Butterflied Chicken Legs
- Set up your grill for cooking at 400 F. I prefer to use a charcoal grill set up for indirect and direct cooking, but you can use any grill you want. You can also cook the chicken over direct heat entirely but the cook time will be shorter and you'll have to watch out that you don't burn them.
- Place the legs onto a cutting board. Working one at a time, hold the legs so that the least-meaty part of the drumstick (known as the shallow side) is on top. Using a sharp knife (I prefer to use a paring knife), make a cut down from the top of each leg down to the bottom, cutting all the way to the bone right down the center.
- Push the meat down and away from the bone while cutting along the sides of the bone from top to bottom. I use my thumb to slide between the meat and bone, pushing the meat down and away from the bone. Make sure you don't cut all the way through the meat. You'll end up with a relatively flat piece of meat on each side of the bone, with the mostly detached bone in the middle. I take this opportunity to trim out and tough bits, like tendons, that might be present on the legs so they are more tender.
- Season both sides of the butterflied legs. Don't be shy. For extra flavor, refrigerate the wings for 1 hour before grilling.
- Place legs onto the grill bone-side down. Grill for 25-30 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 145 F.
- Flip the legs and cook until they reach 165 F, another 5-10 minutes. The legs are now bone-side up.
- Sauce the butterflied legs liberally with BBQ sauce, flip and with move to direct heat. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Sauce the tops of the legs and flip. Cook another 5 minutes over direct heat to get the meat-side of the legs a little char.
Nutritional values are approximate.