How to Properly Cook Chicken Drumsticks: Cooking Times, Temperatures, and Food Safety Tips

Cooking chicken drumsticks properly involves understanding cooking times, temperatures, and food safety tips, including the importance of using a meat thermometer to ensure a safe internal temperature of at least 175F, even if the meat appears pink due to factors like marrow leaching.

how to tell if chicken drumsticks are done

Chicken drumsticks are generally simple to cook in a number of ways, but knowing when they’re done and ready to eat isn’t that simple. This is partly because of the bone in the drumstick and partly due to how the chicken was stored prior to cooking.

What should be an easy meal often becomes a confusing session of looking up odd colors and food safety guidelines.

However, when you know why chicken drumsticks turn out the way they do, it is easier to gauge whether or not you can go ahead and eat them.

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How Long Do Chicken Drumsticks Take to Cook?

First, cooking chicken drumsticks can take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the cooking method, the size of the drumsticks, and the temperature at which they’re cooked.

For example, cooking them at 400 to 425 degrees Fahrenheit in an oven can take about 40 to 45 minutes, while cooking them at 250F can take over 2 1/2 hours.

As for size, a small piece might take 10 minutes less than a larger piece to reach an internal temperature of 165F.

And, if you try to grill or pan-fry them, they can take around 25 minutes or so after they’ve been browned on all sides. An Air Fryer or Instant Pot recipe will have different times as well since they are a smaller space.

How Do I Make Sure Chicken Drumsticks Are Cooked Thoroughly?

If you really want to know when chicken drumsticks are done, you need to use an instant-read meat thermometer. Never rely on the “juices run clear” method because:

  • If you’ve marinated the chicken, the marinade can color the juices
  • If the chicken was frozen, the marrow or hemoglobin in the chicken can leak from the bones and color the juices
  • Your concept of “juices running clear” may be a lot different than what others think it should be

Chicken drumsticks can sometimes take on different colors, and using color as a way to test doneness is not safe. You need to use a meat thermometer – do not let it touch the bone – to verify that internal temp of chicken drumsticks of at least 175F.

That’s right; for drumsticks, you want them to be slightly hotter than the usual 165 F number you see everywhere.

That higher temperature helps tenderize some of the tougher tissues in dark meat chicken parts (same goes with chicken wings) without drying it out.

Is It OK if Chicken Drumsticks Are a Little Pink?

A light pink color in chicken drumsticks may or may not be OK; it depends on why the meat is pink. If the meat is pink because you didn’t cook the chicken to 175F, then no, that’s not OK. That’s undercooked chicken that isn’t safe to eat.

However, if you cooked the chicken properly, and that meat thermometer is showing 175F, you might still see colors ranging from pink to red to even purple inside the meat near the bone. This is actually very common and has to do with the age of the chicken you’re eating.

Chickens used for food in the U.S. tend to be young, and their bones tend to be porous. If the drumsticks were frozen before cooking, and then cooked for a relatively long amount of time (which can really just be that 40 minutes or so in the oven), the marrow, which is a nice reddish-purple due to myoglobin, can leach out into the meat.

This results in meat that gets redder as it gets closer to the bone. As long as the temperature reads 175F or higher, the chicken drumstick is ready to eat.

Note that you can also see brownish goop oozing out of the ends of the drumsticks if they were frozen before cooking. This too is related to marrow seeping out.

Again, if the meat is the correct temperature, you can discard the brown stuff and eat the chicken drumstick.

What Color Should Chicken Drumsticks Be?

Exterior color of skin-on drumsticks will vary due to seasonings, marinades, and cooking methods. Baked drumsticks, for example, will be golden-brownish on the outside if the skin was left on.

If the drumsticks were skinless, the meat on the outside should be, in general, the beige-ish color that you’d expect cooked chicken to look like. But again, leaking marrow and myoglobin can give the chicken meat a pinkish tinge.

And again, use that thermometer – that’s how you can tell if the drumsticks are done.

Can You Over Cook Chicken Drumsticks?

Chicken Drumsticks

Of course you can overcook chicken drumsticks – but did you know that some people like overcooked chicken drumsticks? They don’t want any hint of pink and want to be sure that chicken is cooked completely with crispy skin, so they purposefully overcook it.

That works better for chicken that is boneless, which kind of defeats the purpose of making drumsticks in the first place; the bone acts as a convenient handle that lets you chow down without utensils and is half the fun of eating a drumstick.

You do want to be sure you don’t burn the chicken meat, however, because then it’s simply inedible. If you want to try overcooking on purpose, start slowly, increasing the time by only a couple of minutes.

And never leave the chicken drumsticks unattended as they’re cooking, especially at this point!

Can You Avoid Pink Drumstick Meat?

If you prefer to avoid pink, red, or purple chicken meat, you have some options. You could debone the meat before cooking, but again, if you’re cooking drumsticks, you want the bone left in. Otherwise, it’s just random chicken meat.

You could also make an effort to cook only unfrozen chicken drumsticks. Buy them fresh from the market the day you plan to cook them (or the day before, but you can’t store them for any longer in the refrigerator).

Because freezing the drumsticks promotes that marrow-leaching that leads to red meat by the bone, using drumsticks that have never been frozen should reduce the chances of you seeing pink meat.

More Chicken Drumstick FAQs

How to tell if drumsticks are done without a meat thermometer?

To determine if chicken drumsticks are cooked without a meat thermometer, you can assess their doneness by observing their appearance and texture. Simply cut into the thickest part of the chicken and examine the color. Cooked chicken will appear firm, white, and opaque, and as you cut into the meat, the juices should run clear.

How do you know if chicken is cooked without cutting into it?

The way to determine if chicken is cooked without cutting into it is by inserting a food thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken, such as the breast for a whole chicken. The chicken is considered cooked when the thermometer registers a temperature of 180°F (82°C) for a whole chicken, or 165°F (74°C) for chicken cuts.

What is the final temp for chicken drumsticks?

The final temperature for chicken drumsticks is at least 165 degrees F to ensure safety, whether they are cooked in the oven or using any other cooking method.

What does undercooked chicken look like?

Undercooked chicken can be identified by its raw and pink appearance, both internally and externally. If the chicken exhibits a slight pink color or if the juices are still red or pink, it is likely not fully cooked. Moreover, when cutting into the thickest part of the meat, ensure there is no presence of blood.

Do chicken drumsticks cook quicker than thighs?

Chicken drumsticks do indeed cook faster than thighs. The cooking times vary for each cut, with whole legs requiring more time than thighs. However, drumsticks are the quickest to cook. Additionally, boneless chicken tends to cook faster than bone-in cuts.

Can chicken drumsticks be pink?

Chicken drumsticks can sometimes appear pink even when fully cooked, according to the USDA. This is especially common in young chickens with permeable bones and skin. The pigment in the bone marrow can affect the surrounding tissue, resulting in a dark appearance of the bones themselves.

Is slightly undercooked chicken OK?

Slightly undercooked chicken is not considered safe to eat due to the potential presence of harmful bacteria like salmonella and campylobacter. The USDA recommends cooking chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F to ensure it is safe for consumption.

How can you tell if chicken is done without a thermometer?

When determining if chicken is cooked without a thermometer, you can check by poking the meat and observing the color of the juices. Specifically for chicken, if the juices run clear when you cut into it, then the chicken is fully cooked. However, if the juices are red or have a pinkish color, your chicken may need to be cooked a bit longer.

Is chicken cooked if slightly pink?

Chicken can be slightly pink when it is cooked, as long as it has reached the recommended internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).

Do drumsticks have pink meat?

Drumsticks can have pink meat and/or redness in the joints or bones even when fully cooked. According to the USDA, the pink color in safely cooked chicken may be caused by the presence of heat-stable hemoglobin in the tissues. It is not uncommon for fully cooked chicken to release juices that are tinged with red.

Is chicken still pink at 165?

The chicken is safe to consume if its juices are running clear and its internal temperature registers at 165 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, even if it appears pink in the middle.

What color should chicken be when cooked?

The color of cooked chicken should be white, without any pink portions of meat, as pink flesh indicates that the chicken is not fully cooked. To ensure food safety, if you are storing leftover chicken, it should be kept in a sealed container in the refrigerator at a temperature of 40°F (4°C) or below, and consumed within 3 days.

Can chicken be white and undercooked?

Chicken can be considered safe to eat if it appears grayish or white throughout, indicating that it is fully cooked. To determine if chicken is undercooked, one can perform a color test by cutting into the thickest part of the meat. If the flesh appears pink or red inside, it is an indication that the chicken needs more cooking time.

What temp are chicken drumsticks done?

The chicken drumsticks are considered done when they reach an internal temperature of 170 degrees F, which typically takes about 25 to 30 minutes on the grill.

How do I make sure my drumsticks are cooked?

To ensure that your drumsticks are cooked thoroughly, you can use a digital meat thermometer to check their internal temperature, which should reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit/ 74 degrees Celsius (Amazon affiliate link). If you don’t have a thermometer, you can cut one drumstick near the bone and examine the flesh for a white and juicy texture, ensuring there are no traces of pink remaining.

What color is cooked chicken drumstick?

The color of a cooked chicken drumstick can vary and is not a reliable indicator of safety or doneness. Safely cooked poultry can range in color from white to pink to tan. It is important to ensure that all poultry reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F (73.9°C) as measured with a food thermometer.

Do you need to flip drumsticks when baking?

The drumsticks should be flipped halfway through baking in order to achieve optimal results. This will enhance their crispiness and ensure even cooking. It is recommended to cook the drumsticks until they reach an internal temperature of 170 degrees F for safety. Whether you are baking drumsticks in the oven or using any other cooking method, it is important to ensure they reach a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

Why are my chicken drumsticks tough?

Your chicken drumsticks may be tough due to overcooking, which can result in a dry and rubbery texture. When chicken is left in a pan, oven, or grill for too long, it can lose its moisture, causing the protein fibers in the meat to become elastic.

How do you cook drumsticks without burning them?

To cook drumsticks without burning them, the key is to utilize the long and slow grilling technique over indirect heat. This method ensures that the chicken drumsticks are thoroughly cooked, while preventing them from becoming dry or burnt.

How long to cook drumsticks at 400?

The drumsticks should be cooked at 400°F for approximately 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. It is recommended to flip them halfway through to ensure even cooking on both sides. Once they are done baking, you can savor the delightful taste of your chicken drumsticks.

Why are my drumsticks not crispy?

Your drumsticks may not be crispy because the oven temperature for baking chicken legs should be set fairly high at 425 degrees F. This high temperature helps to crisp up the skin and prevents the meat from drying out. To achieve the best results, remember to flip the chicken legs halfway through baking. This will ensure that they crisp up evenly and become more delicious.

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