Smoked Chicken Quarters

by Erin @ Food Doodles on July 25, 2021

These smoked chicken leg quarters are tender, moist and juicy. They’re made with the simplest (and surprisingly tasty!) dry rub. 

I think chicken leg quarters are one of the easiest things to smoke. These things are huge, so just one or two per person is enough.

It’s way less fussy to deal with 1-2 quarters per person in comparison to something like wings, which have a dinky amount of meat on them. So these smoked quarters are perfect for feeding a crowd!

So many people have tried my Chicken Leg Quarters Recipe and loved it. This is the smoked version and it’s even more delicious (simply because it’s smoked!). It uses the same seasoning.


  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (2 if you like things salty – I use 2)
  • 2 teaspoons hot/spicy or smoked paprika (you can use regular paprika, if you prefer)
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • olive oil
  • 4 chicken leg quarters (mine were 3 1/4 lbs or 1.5 kilos total)

How to smoke chicken quarters

    1. Mix together the seasoning. Pat chicken dry and put on a tray.
    2. Brush the chicken with oil.
    3. Rub the seasoning on both sides (and under the skin).
    4. Place the chicken, skin side up, directly onto the smoker grates.
    5. Smoke for 1.5 – 2.25 hours or until an internal temperature reaches 185 °F to 190 °F (it’s safe at 165 °F but extra tender at 185-190!).
    6. Remove the quarters from the smoker and let them rest for 5 minutes.

What type of wood to use

Almost any kind of wood will work great for this recipe. Chicken is easy like that.

I probably wouldn’t use mesquite, though. I haven’t tried it with this recipe, so I could be wrong.

Hickory and oak are my favorites but if you prefer a slightly sweeter smoky flavor, go with fruit woods, like peach, apple or cherry. Maple will also give you a sweeter flavor than hickory or oak.

Here’s a nice article on The Best Woods for Smoking Chicken.

How do I crisp them up?

If you’ve smoked chicken before, you know that pretty much the only disadvantage of throwing chicken on the smoker is that it doesn’t crisp up as when you bake or fry it.

That’s because you smoke chicken at a much lower temperature. And that lower temperature doesn’t allow the skin to crisp up. 

If you want crispy quarters, you’ve got two options:

  1. When the chicken is about done on the smoker, heat the grill to high and then put the quarters on. Keep a close eye on them and turn after a few minutes to crisp the second side.
  2. If you don’t have a grill, you can use the oven. When the chicken is almost at an internal temperature of 175 °F, preheat the oven to 400 °F. When the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 175°F, remove it from the smoker and place it on a baking sheet. Bake for about 5-10 minutes. Baking it in the oven will crisp up the skin and continue cooking it to an internal temperature of 185-190 °F.

I didn’t do either when I made the chicken in the photos. My family happily eats the skin as is, without any further crisping. It’s never been rubbery or difficult to eat.

What are chicken leg quarters?

This was a cut of chicken I was unfamiliar with until I moved to Germany. So for anyone else who may not know what they are:

Chicken thigh + drumstick (which is the lower part of the leg) + part of the back = chicken quarters. 

What makes baked leg quarters so perfect?

If your family fights over the dark meat, chicken quarters are for you.

They’re pretty inexpensive, moist, meaty and super easy to prepare. Compared to white meat, they have a juicier flavor, are richer and they’re more difficult to dry out. 

I love whole roasted chickens, but I have a knack for overcooking them. I also don’t like preparing them. These quarters are just so much easier.

There’s nothing not to love about them.

How long to smoke chicken leg quarters

This is another reason why chicken quarters are easier than roasting a whole chicken. Chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 °F. It’s often recommended to stop cooking at 160 °F and then letting it come to 165 °F while it rests.

White chicken meat is the best right at 165 °F. Once you start going over that, it starts to dry out. 

Dark meat, however, gets even more succulent when you cook it to between 185 °F and 190 °F. If you do that with a whole chicken, the white meat will be overcooked and dry.

To actually answer the question – at 275 °F, you’ll need to smoke them for 1.5 – 2.25 hours.

How will I know if they’re cooked thoroughly?

In the past, they said that once the juices are clear and the meat isn’t pink, then it’s done. But that’s not really true.

You can’t tell by just looking at the meat, bones or juices. You need a good digital thermometer. And the smoked meat is going to be pink, anyway!

Can I use a different cut of chicken for this recipe?

You can use the seasoning mix on any kind of chicken, but you’d need to look up exactly at what temperature and for how long to smoke the cut of chicken you’re using.

Different cuts will need different smoking times.

Can I omit the salt / paprika / garlic / black pepper?

Of course, but they won’t be as delicious. 😉

We’ve made these smoked chicken quarters with hot/spicy paprika and smoked paprika. I’ve never tried it with regular paprika (which is sweet paprika), but I’m assuming it’d work fine. 

If you have little ones and you’re worried about using hot paprika – you can just not put as much of the seasoning mix on the pieces for the kids. Or you could use half hot and half sweet paprika.

My kid eats them with the full amount of spice with no complaints, and I can’t handle much heat, so I don’t think they’re very spicy.

What can I use instead of olive oil?

Melted butter or another type of oil works just as well.

What to serve with it

That’s it! If you try this smoked leg quarters recipe or any recipe you find on the site, I’d love to see pics. Just tag 📸 and follow #fooddoodlesrecipes so that I can find them easily. You can also find me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Smoked Chicken Quarters
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 2 if you like things salty - I use 2
  • 2 teaspoons hot/spicy or smoked paprika you can use regular paprika, if you prefer
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • olive oil
  • 4 chicken leg quarters mine were 3 1/4 lbs or 1.5 kilos total
  1. Preheat your smoker to 275 °F.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the salt, paprika, garlic powder, and black pepper.
  3. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels to get rid of any excess liquid. Place them on a tray.
  4. Use a basting brush to brush both sides of the quarters with the olive oil.
  5. Rub the seasoning on both sides of the chicken - on and under the skin (if you can).
  6. Place the chicken, skin side up, directly onto the smoker grates.
  7. Smoke for 1.5 - 2.25 hours or until an internal temperature reaches 185 °F to 190 °F (it's safe at 165 °F but extra tender at 185-190!).

  8. Remove the quarters from the smoker and let them rest for 5 minutes.
  9. Let any leftovers cool completely. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

  10. You can reheat them skin-side up on the grill. It takes 10-15 minutes over medium heat to warm them up. Turn them after about 8 minutes to crisp the other side up. You can also reheat in the oven at 350 °F (175 °C) for 15-20 minutes. You can turn on the broiler for the last few minutes to get the skin crisper.


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