Smoked Chicken Quarters

Smoking chicken quarters is an easy way to make your next backyard BBQ a hit

By Mark Hinds  |  Updated April 21, 2021  |  0 Comments 

Slowly smoked chicken quarters have a rich smoky flavor and warm buttery texture that melts in your mouth.

This recipe includes everything you need to learn how to smoke chicken quarters, including a flavor-packed smoked chicken rub, time and temp info to get the chicken to turn out just right, and tips for getting the skin nice and crispy.

One of the things we like about smoking chicken leg quarters, compared to thighs or drumsticks on their own, is that you get the best of both worlds. You get the most flavorful part of the chicken in the thigh along with an easy to use handle in the drumstick.

Smoking Chicken Quarters
Smoking chicken quarters is an easy & inexpensive way to feed lots of people

All About Chicken Quarters

Whole chicken legs, sometimes called chicken quarters, are a great choice when you’re cooking for groups. One of the most inexpensive cuts of chicken, quarters are packed with flavor and are easy to cook, making them an ideal choice when you’re learning to smoke meat.

Chicken leg quarters include a little less than a quarter of the meat on a chicken and consist of the thigh, drumstick, and a part of the back. Many places sell chicken legs that are almost identical to quarters but only include the thigh and drumstick. When you’re looking at recipes, the terms leg and drumstick are often used interchangeably. This recipe will work equally well for quarters, legs, and drumsticks.

The advantage chicken quarters have over other cuts is they’re relatively inexpensive, develop great flavor when cooked low and slow, and come with a handle that makes them easy for people to eat at picnics and barbecues. They’re also are big enough that one per person is usually enough for a meal.

How to Smoke Chicken Quarters

A few things to keep in mind when you smoke chicken quarters. Using a lower temperature gives them time to develop layers of flavor and produces juicy chicken with a better texture than higher temperatures.

We recommend smoking chicken quarters at 250ºF for an hour and a half or so until the chicken has cooked all the way through and its internal temperature reaches 165ºF.

There is so much variation in smokers that the chicken’s internal temperature is a better way to tell if the chicken is done than time alone.

Chicken Quarters With Handles
A nice thing about quarters is the handles are included

To take the chicken’s temperature, put the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. Using a wireless thermometer makes the process a lot easier and lets you lounge in the backyard with a beer or get other things done without having to constantly check on the chicken.

The best wood chips we’ve found for smoking chicken are hickory and mesquite. Hickory and mesquite bring out the chicken’s natural flavors while adding the rich smoky flavor that defines great smoked chicken. Another good choice is apple or pecan which give the chicken a sweeter, fruitier flavor.

How to Get Smoked Chicken Skin Crispy

One of the most common questions people ask about smoking chicken is how to get the skin crispy.

Over the years, we’ve tried and read about a lot of different techniques things such as turning up the heat in the smoker for the last 30 minutes, air-drying the chicken in the fridge, and pan-searing the quarters before smoking.

The best way we’ve found to crisp up the skin on smoked chicken is to use a hot grill for a few minutes at the end of the cooking process.

To crisp the chicken up on a grill, wait until it has finished cooking, then place it skin side down on a medium-high grill for 2 to 3 minutes or until the skin has reached the desired level of crispness. It’s important to watch the chicken and have a pair of long-handled tongs handy to move it if it starts to flame up.

If you like to sauce your smoked chicken, use the Flip, Fire, and Paint method with some Old No. 44 BBQ Sauce.

Smoked Chicken Rub

The spice rub for this recipe has a little sweet and a little heat that helps the chicken develop complex flavors as it smokes. If you like your smoked chicken with more heat increase the chipotle by 1/2 tsp and reduce the brown sugar by 1/2 tsp.

The best way to infuse the rub’s flavors deep into the chicken is to get it under the skin and into all of the nooks and crannies. The rub can be applied up to a day in advance, giving it time to bond with the chicken.

Prepped Chicken Quarters
The secret to adding flavor is to get the rub into all the nooks & crannies

This spice rub will work with whole birds, wings, thighs, drumsticks, and quarters.

How to Reheat Chicken Leg Quarters

The best way to reheat quarters is on a medium grill. It usually takes 10 to 15 minutes over medium heat to warm them all the way through.

The chicken should be placed skin side up for the first 10 to 12 minutes. Once the chicken has been warmed through, it can be flipped over for the last few minutes to crisp the skin up.

Quarters can also be warmed in a 350℉ oven in a baking dish or roasting pan for 15 to 20 minutes.

What to Serve With Smoked Chicken Quarters

Quarters are easy to make for larger groups or backyard barbecues. The chicken has enough flavor that we usually serve it straight from the smoker. It can also be coated with BBQ sauce for sticky deliciousness.

Smoke Chicken Quarters
One of our favorite ways to serve smoked chicken is with cheesy polenta and grille aspargus

If we’re serving the chicken for a BBQ, we like to pair it with Taco Salad and Grilled Corn on the Cob. When we’re serving it as the main course for dinner, we like to serve it with Cheesy Polenta and Grilled Asparagus.

Smoking Chicken Quarters

Smoked Chicken Quarters

4.13 from 8 votes
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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings: 4 servings


  • 4 to 6 whole chicken legs

Smoked Chicken Rub

  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle powder


  • In a small bowl mix the brown sugar, smoked paprika, cumin, chili, garlic, and chipotle powders along with the salt and pepper.
  • Spread the rub on the chicken, taking the time to get it under the skin and around the legs.
  • Smoke the chicken quarters at 250ºF for an hour and a half or so until the chicken has cooked all the way through and reached 165ºF.
  • Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before serving it with a good BBQ sauce for dipping.

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Making this RecipeTag us on Instagram at and hashtag it #umami_site
Calories: 289kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 120mg | Sodium: 998mg | Potassium: 286mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 665IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 12mg | Iron: 1.4mg

Mark Hinds

A passionate writer, overly curious cook, and Umami's founder. Mark can often be found cooking for friends.

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