Shabnam's Secret Chicken Recipe
Yield: 12-14 drumsticks
Skinless drumsticks are tender and juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside thanks to this clever marinade. If possible, allow the chicken to marinate overnight.


  • 12-14 skinless chicken drumsticks
  • 1 large onion or two medium onions
  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) freshly squeezed lemon
  • 1½ tablespoons (30g) honey
  • 2 teaspoons paprika (I use half smoked, half regular; Shabnam says Kashmiri Mirch, a type of chili powder available in South-Asian stores may also be used)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt to taste
  • A pinch of saffron (about 8-10 strands; in a pinch you may omit)
  • 2 tablespoons (28ml) olive oil


  1. With a sharp knife, make a deep slit in the flesh of each drumstick. (Shabnam calls this slashing: make a cut that goes almost to the bone in the meatiest part. This allows the marinade to permeate and aids in thorough cooking.) Set aside.
    Peel the onion and coarsely chop it. Grind it in a food processor, mini chopper, or blender to make a fine pulp. Using a fine sieve or cheesecloth, squeeze the onion pulp with a spoon to extract the juice of the onion. You want at least ½ cup, but a little more is fine.

    To the onion juice, add the lemon juice, honey, paprika, salt, saffron, and olive oil, and stir to combine.

    Place the drumsticks in a large zip-top bag, and pour the marinade overtop, making sure to scrape out all the seasoning. Seal the bag, and then turn it over a few times to evenly distribute the marinade among all the drumsticks. Place on a rimmed baking sheet (just in case there are drips), and refrigerate for 24-36 hours, if possible, flipping the bag several times to redistribute the marinade.

    When ready to grill, remove the chicken from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Preheat the grill to medium and cook over direct heat until the outer layer of the chicken legs is brown and crispy, and the internal temperature is about 180℉. (See notes below for helpful grilling tips.)

Tips perfectly grilled drumsticks:

Allow the drumsticks to come to room temperature prior to grilling.
Keep the grill temperature around 350℉ or medium heat. This lower-than-normal grill temperature is perfect for grilling drumsticks because it allows the meat to cook perfectly but does not cause the skin to burn or scorch. (My husband likes a little char, so he often starts a little higher when he grills.)
Quarter turn your chicken pieces to ensure each side is on the grill.
Grill for 7-10 minutes per side, and then flip with tongs, lifting the drumsticks gently to ensure that the skin isn’t sticking to the grate.
Keep the lid closed as much as possible. This will surround the drumsticks with heat, ensuring they cook more evenly and quickly.
Reduce heat and/or move the chicken to indirect heat if the drumsticks are sufficiently browned but not cooked through.
Cook until the internal temperature of the drumsticks reads 180℉. This is higher than the required 165℉ but ensures far more tender dark meat that pulls off the bone more easily.

This recipe calls for skinless drumsticks and no added sauce, but a few more tips are helpful when grilling with skin and/or added sauce:
Do not brush BBQ sauce, if using, on the chicken until the last few minutes.
Watch for flare ups. They often happen when the skin starts to render and the fat drips down in the grill. If you get flare ups, turn the heat to low and move the chicken away from the flames.

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