Crispy Fried Chicken Drumsticks

Crispy Fried Drumsticks
The Spruce
  • Total: 50 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Marinate: 60 mins
  • Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Drumsticks have fatty flavors and a delicious firm and dark meat that is great for frying. Most recipes use breast and thigh meat, but if you regularly buy budget-friendly frying chickens and cut them up yourself, save the breast and thigh meat for casseroles, salads, sandwiches, and pie, and use the drumsticks for more casual gatherings like picnics, potlucks, game day parties, or children's celebrations.

For our recipe, you could use whole chicken legs, and add some wings if you have any. Simply adjust the cooking time for the smaller pieces of chicken. These juicy pieces of chicken are a great party food because no utensils are needed, just offer some dipping sauces, like honey-mustard or blue cheese, and plenty of napkins. Use them as appetizers, or enjoy them as a main dish along with coleslaw, potato salad, and baked beans.

1:30

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Ingredients

  • 16 chicken drumsticks (or a combination of drumsticks and thighs)
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Tabasco sauce
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper (divided)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Vegetable oil (for frying, about 3 cups)

Steps to Make It

  1. Heat the warming drawer or oven to 200 F.

  2. Pat the chicken with paper towels to dry. Do not rinse your chicken, as the splatter of water and raw chicken juices can only increase the chance of cross-contamination in your kitchen.

    Pat chicken legs with paper towels
    The Spruce
  3. In a large bowl, combine the buttermilk, Tabasco sauce, salt, and 1 tablespoon of black pepper. Add the chicken legs to the mixture and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate with the marinade for at least 1 hour (or up to 24 hours).

    Combine ingredients for chicken marinade
    The Spruce
  4. After the marinating period is done, remove the chicken from the buttermilk and let any excess buttermilk drip off. If you have a cooling rack, put the chicken pieces on it, placing paper towels underneath to collect the drippings.

    Remove chicken from buttermilk
    The Spruce
  5. In a large, heavy saucepan, deep skillet, or sauté pan, heat at least 3 cups of oil to about 365 F.

  6. In a large clean bowl, combine the flour, the remaining black pepper, and the cayenne. Shake the chicken legs in the seasoned flour and place on the rack while waiting for the oil to heat to the right temperature.

    Add chicken to seasoning flour
    The Spruce
  7. Once the oil has reached 350 F, place the chicken pieces in the oil, working in batches. Leave each piece for about 10 minutes, turning once. To check for doneness, use an instant-read food thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the largest drumstick, away from bone or fat. The minimum safe temperature for poultry is 165 F.

    Fry chicken legs in skillet
    The Spruce
  8. Once done, remove the chicken pieces to paper towels to drain. 

    Drain fried chicken legs
    The Spruce
  9. Place the drained chicken on a baking sheet, cover loosely with foil, and move to the warming drawer or oven to keep warm while frying subsequent batches.

    Finished crispy chicken legs
    The Spruce 
  10. Serve and enjoy!

Deep-Fry vs Pan-Fry

  • In deep-frying, the food is completely immersed in the oil, while in pan-frying the food is placed in enough oil to cover the bottom and sides, making it necessary to turn the pieces over to fry both sides. Three cups of oil will give you a depth of 1/2 inch in a deep 10-inch skillet and is sufficient to pan-fry. 

Oven-Fry Your Chicken

If you need to avoid deep-fried food for dietary concerns or simply because you want to reduce the calorie content, use your oven to cook and crisp up the chicken drumsticks:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 F.
  2. Once your chicken is well coated with the spiced flour, grease a baking pan with olive oil or butter and place the chicken on it.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes, turning once. When the chicken is golden brown on all sides, check for doneness with a food thermometer and be sure it is at least 165 F when inserted in the thickest part of the meat away from bone or fat.