Follow this detailed guide on how to boil chicken legs for juicy and flavorful meat with only a few ingredients and minimal effort. Enjoy them as a main dish or repurpose the meat for other recipes.
Boiled chicken legs (drumsticks)
I am a person who gets excited to eat boiled chicken legs or thighs. Maybe, because I grew up eating boiled meat quite often.
My grandma always had plenty of chickens, so at least every other month, she would give us a whole bird.
To make the meat last longer, my mom would often boil the whole chicken and used it in different dishes throughout the week.
And the same day, she would fry the livers, gizzards, and a few pieces of meat with skin for me and my brother, which were our favorite.
The broth was used throughout the week to make red borscht or other soup.
We do not have a large family, so I often boil only the leg or thighs. Because of the dark meat, skin, bones, and fat content, the meat comes out very tender and full of flavor.
I enjoy boiled chicken drumstick with only a little bit of salt and pepper and a slice of bread. So easy on the digestive system and quite tasty.
Kids also prefer legs or thighs over the breasts, because it is easier to eat and not as tough.
By boiling, you will have both meat and broth, which I use to make soups for my son.
We often chose to fry, grill, bake or air fry the meat, but often skip one of the easiest and healthiest methods - boiling.
I believe that the simplicity of this dish becomes its biggest strength.
And if you prefer the crispy skin, just broil boiled legs for a few minutes in the oven.
How long to boil chicken legs
From start to finish, the whole process, which includes the prepping time and the time for the water to start boiling will take about 40-50 minutes for fresh chicken legs and 50-60 minutes for the frozen ones.
The boiling process for chicken legs, including prepping and water boiling time, typically takes 40-50 minutes for fresh drumsticks and 50-60 minutes for the frozen ones.
The boiling time depends on the size of the chicken legs, whether they are fresh or frozen
Below is the table you can refer to see the approximate boiling times for chicken legs. I always recommend using a food thermometer to make sure the chicken reaches 165°F.
And if you do not have one, check by cutting the largest leg lengthwise and if the juices run clear, the chicken is ready.
Fresh chicken legs (Min)
Frozen chicken legs (Min)
Small (6-8 oz)
Medium (8-10 oz)
Large (10-12 oz)
You will need only a few ingredients to boil the chicken. If you would like to see the exact quantities and nutritional information, see the recipe card at the end of this post.
Chicken legs (drumsticks) - you can use fresh or frozen chicken legs. If you plan to use the broth, try getting pasture-raised organic meat.
Vegetables - the meat absorbs the water during the boiling process, and vegetables will add lots of flavor to the meat and broth itself. Today, I am using carrots and onion. You can also use celery, garlic, parsnip, and more. You can also skip the vegetables and use only the water.
Seasonings - I added a good amount of salt, to make the broth taste good to enjoy on its own. I also added a few bay leaves. If you have whole peppercorns, add 6-7 of those in there for more flavor.
Fresh herbs (optional) - if you have any rosemary, sage, thyme, add some to the pot as well.
Water- if you are going to use broth, I always boil the meat in filtered water. Tap is also OK if you know it is clean.
Place chicken legs in a medium or large pot. Add coarsely chopped carrot, half of the onion, and a few bay leaves.
Fill the pot with water. I like to do it in this particular order because if you add chicken last, it will be splashing all over.
Place the pots with chicken legs over medium-high heat and bring it to a gentle boil. Cover the pot and simmer the meat for about 20-35 minutes over low-medium heat.
The chicken legs are ready when the juices run clear and the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
Let the meat sit in a hot broth for another 10 minutes. Carefully remove the legs using tongs. You may serve them now or broil them for a few minutes to crisp up the skin.
- Chose pasture-raised or organic chicken.
- Flavor the broth by adding vegetables, herbs, and salt.
- Gently boil the drumsticks and avoid overcooking to prevent the meat from being tough.
- Adjust the cooking time depending on the size of the legs and whether they are fresh or frozen.
- You can grill or broil boiled drumsticks to make the skin crispy and browned.
How to use boiled chicken legs
You can shred the meat and use it to make a soup, or quesadillas, or add it to any casserole that requires shredded meat.
How to use the broth
After you remove the chicken, use a mesh strainer to make the broth clear. Discard the onions and herbs.
Store boiled chicken in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
If you decide to freeze boiled chicken legs, I recommend shredding the meat and discarding the bones.
It will last in the freezer for about 3 months.
The broth can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days and about 3 months in the freezer.
Frequently asked questions
Boiled chicken legs, without added oil or fat, are a healthy choice as they are high in protein, Vitamins B6 and B12, and essential fatty acids. You can remove the skin to further remove the fat content.
Yes, you can boil frozen chicken legs without thawing them. It will take about 40-45 minutes to boil frozen legs.
Boil chicken legs for about 20-35 minutes until they are fully cooked before grilling. Season to taste and grill for a few minutes on each side until the skin is golden-brown.
How to Boil Chicken Legs
- 1 medium or large pot with a lid
- 1 meat thermometer
- 6 ea (about 2 pounds) fresh chicken legs *see notes below for frozen
- 1 large carrot
- ½ yellow
- 1 teaspoon salt, adjust to taste
- 2-3 bay leaves
- In large pot add chicken legs, roughly chopped carrots and ½ of onion, bay leaves and salt.
- Pour enough water to fully cove the chicken.
- Place the pot on the stove over medium-high heat and bring it to a gentle boil.
- Reduce the heat to low-medium and let the chicken boil covered for about 20-35 minutes. The meat is cooked when the juices run clear and the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
- Turn off the heat and let the chicken legs sit in hot broth for about 10 minutes to absorb even more flavor. Using tongs, remove the legs from hot broth and serve as main dish or use for other recipes.
- You can strain the broth and store it in the fridge for up to 3 days to make some soup.