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How to boil Chicken Legs (Thighs, Drumsticks, Quarters)

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Learn how to boil chicken legs: thighs, drumsticks, or quarters. It’s fast, easy, and delicious! And there are so many ways you can use the tender, flavorful boiled chicken legs.

close up of boiled chicken thighs and drumsticks in a brown bowl.

Why should you boil chicken legs?

  • Best answer: Boiling chicken thighs, drumsticks, or quarters is a great first step for cooking so many other recipes. How about a fricassee, enchiladas, pie, salad, sandwiches or soup? Learn how to boil a whole chicken or chicken wings as well; it’s also super easy!
  • Convenient: Boil chicken legs on a Sunday and use the meat to prepare several different, quick meals during the following week (it keeps well for 3-4 days in the fridge; freeze it if you plan to keep it for longer).
  • Budget meal: Especially if you use quarters, they are cheaper than already cut parts.

Safety tips when dealing with raw chicken

  • NEVER wash any chicken parts.
    • The USDA – Food Safety and Inspection Service says: “Washing raw poultry before cooking it is not recommended. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can be spread to other food, utensils, and surfaces. This is called cross-contamination. Rinsing or soaking does not destroy bacteria. Only cooking will destroy any bacteria that might be present on fresh chicken.”
    • NHS in the UK says that about 50% of the chicken sold in the UK carries the Campylobacter bacteria, which can cause belly pains, diarrhea, and vomiting. “Washing raw chicken before cooking it can increase your risk of food poisoning from campylobacter bacteria. Splashing water from washing it under a tap can spread the bacteria onto hands, work surfaces, clothing, and cooking equipment.”
  • Ensure that the meat doesn’t touch the working surfaces and clean those surfaces well (and your hands) after dealing with the poultry.
  • Always use a separate cutting board for chicken (and meat generally). I have one that looks different from all the others, and I use it exclusively for chicken. Wash it with hot water, preferably in the dishwasher.

Recipe ingredients

raw chicken, carrot, onion, spices, bouillon, parsley on the table.
  • Chicken legs: You can boil chicken thighs, drumsticks, or quarters. Cook as many as you need for a recipe.
  • Fresh vegetables: 1 medium onion, 1 medium carrot. I often add a small piece of celeriac or 2 small celery stalks (optional)
  • Spices: about ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt or Kosher, ½ teaspoon black peppercorns, 4-5 cloves, 5-6 juniper berries, 2-3 bay leaves, a small bunch of parsley (or other fresh herbs). Except for salt and pepper, all the spices are optional, but I like to use them because they impart flavor to the meat and the stock. And I always use the stock for cooking something else.
  • Chicken stock cube or bouillon paste or powder. It might sound unusual, but it adds great flavor. 30 minutes are not long enough to make the stock super flavorful; by adding a stock cube or bouillon paste, you can be sure to have a tasty broth after boiling the chicken legs.

Step-by-step instructions

  • Place the pieces in a large pot. Make sure the pot is not overcrowded (1).
  • Add the peeled and halved onion, the clean and halved carrot, and all the spices.
  • Cover with COLD water; there should be enough liquid to come about 1 inch/ 2.5 cm above the meat.
  • Cover and bring the water to a gentle boil on medium-high heat. Don’t let the water come to a rolling boil; reduce the heat once it starts to boil gently.
  • Simmer gently on medium-low heat until the meat cooked through. See below regarding the cooking times for different cuts of the leg (2).
  • Check that they are cooked through with a meat thermometer or by cutting the leg at the thickest part, the juices should run clear, and the meat should be completely white.
collage of two pictures of a pot with chicken and vegetables before and after cooking.

How long to boil chicken legs?

  • The boiling time depends on the cut and size of the chicken you are boiling; drumsticks, thighs, and quarters differ in size; that’s why the cooking time will vary slightly. So it takes between 15 and 30 minutes from the moment the water starts to boil gently.
  • But make sure to check every time and add a few minutes extra cooking time if the parts are not cooked through, especially if you are cooking some cuts that you think are larger than the average.

How long to boil chicken drumsticks?

  • They are small, so once the water starts to boil, they will need about 15 minutes.

How long to boil chicken thighs?

  • Boiling chicken thighs takes between 20 and 25 minutes, depending on the size of the thighs.

How long to boil chicken quarters?

  • They are the largest parts; they need between 25 and 30 minutes, depending on size. Maybe 35 minutes if they are extra-large, but make sure to check and not overcook them.

How long to boil boneless chicken thighs?

  • They need less time than the thighs that still have the bone-in, about 10 minutes.

How to check the internal temperature of the chicken?

  • Always check that any parts you are boiling are cooked through. But also pay attention not to overcook the legs just because you are worried it might not be done yet.
  • The best way to check is with a meat thermometer; the internal temperature should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit/ 74 degrees Celsius. Insert the thermometer’s tip into the thickest part of the juicy chicken drumstick, thigh, or quarter (Amazon affiliate link).
  • Cut a piece at the thickest if you don’t have a meat thermometer. The juices should run clear, and the meat should look moist and white; no pink is allowed.
overhead view of boiled chicken legs and carrots in a bowl with a spoon beside it.

How to reheat cooked chicken?

Reheat in the microwave, stovetop, air fryer, or oven.

  • Microwave: It’s convenient, but it tends to make the meat dry. Place the parts in a microwave-safe bowl and sprinkle them with a bit of water and oil. Cover and microwave for 2 minutes. Check! If the parts are not warm, continue reheating in 30-second intervals, checking every time to see if the chicken legs are heated through.
  • Stovetop: It’s easier to reheat it on the stove if you pick the meat off the bone. Place the meat in a saucepan and add a little water. Cover and reheat, stirring regularly, until heated through.
    • To reheat whole parts on the stove, add a little water as well, and reheat gently and covered, turning the pieces from time to time. It will take a bit longer.
  • Oven: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit/ 200 degrees Celsius. Place the parts on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and reheat for about 15 minutes or until heated through.
  • Air fryer: One of my favorite methods because it makes the skin crispier and it’s fast. Preheat the air fryer. Place the tender chicken legs in the air fryer basket in a single layer and reheat at 375 degrees Fahrenheit/ 190 degrees Celsius for 4-5 minutes or until heated through.

Recipe FAQ

Can I boil frozen chicken?

Yes, increase the cooking time by about 50% and check that the legs are cooked through. Check out these posts to learn How to Boil Frozen Chicken Breast, cook Frozen Chicken Breast in the Air Fryer, or make Air Fryer Frozen Chicken Wings.

Can I remove the skin before cooking?

Sure, it won’t affect the cooking time.

Why should you start with cold water?

It will keep the stock clear by helping dissolve specific proteins, like albumin. The slow heating procedure will also help extract the most flavor.
However, if the stock gets cloudy, don’t worry too much about it; it also happens if the stock boils too violently before you remember to turn down the heat. Darker stock tastes excellent as well.

What to do with the cooking liquid?

Never throw it away; the poaching liquid it’s great for making soups, stews, casseroles, risotto, and so on. Transfer it to a jar and refrigerate it for about 5 days.
Freeze it to keep it for longer; it will be great for at least 4-5 months, probably longer.

What to do with leftovers?

Refrigerate chicken meat in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Freeze in airtight containers or freezer bags for about 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator and reheat before serving.

What to make with boiled chicken?

Bake, air fry, or grill after boiling. Rub the legs with a seasoning mix or brush it with your favorite sauce and bake, air fry, or grill it until the skin is crispy and the parts are heated through.
Remove the skin and the bones and use the shredded chicken to make sandwiches, salads, enchiladas, chicken tacos, rice with chicken, add to soups, stews, casseroles, pot pies, and so on.

Recipes using boiled chicken legs

close up boiled chicken quarter with carrots.

More ideas for cooking frozen food

Do you like this recipe?

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close up of boiled chicken thighs and drumsticks in a brown bowl.

How to boil Chicken Legs (Thighs, Drumsticks, Quarters)

Learn how to boil chicken legs: thighs, drumsticks, or quarters. It’s fast, easy, and delicious! And there are so many ways you can use the tender, flavorful boiled chicken legs.
5 from 1 vote
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Course: Poultry
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 267kcal
Author: Adina

Equipment

  • Large pot

Ingredients 

  • 4 chicken legs Note 1,2
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 small piece celeriac or 2 celery sticks optional
  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt or Kosher
  • ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 4-5 cloves optional, Note 3
  • 5-6 juniper berries optional
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • a small bunch of parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon paste or powder or 1 chicken stock cube Note 4
  • cold water

Instructions

  • Chicken: Place the chicken legs in a large pot, don’t overcrowd the pot.
  • Vegetables: Clean and halve onion, carrot, and celeriac/celery sticks. Add to pot.
  • Add spices: salt, peppercorns, cloves, juniper berries, bay leaves, and chicken stock cube.
  • Cover with COLD water, about 1 inch/ 2.5 cm above the meat.
  • Cover and bring the water to a boil on medium-high heat. Don’t let the water come to a rolling boil; reduce the heat once it starts to boil gently.
  • Simmer gently on medium-low heat until the chicken parts are cooked through.
  • Chicken drumsticks: about 15 minutes.
    Chicken thighs: between 20-25 minutes, depending on size.
    Chicken quarters: between 25-30 minutes, depending on size.
  • Check that the chicken legs are cooked through with a meat thermometer; the internal temperature should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit/ 74 degrees Celsius).
    If you don’t have a thermometer, cut the leg at the thickest part, the juices should run clear, and the meat should be completely white.

Notes

  1. You can use chicken drumsticks (4 pieces only serve 2, cook 8 of them if serving 4), chicken thighs (4 pieces for 4 modest servings), or chicken quarters (4 pieces for 4 generous servings).
  2. The nutrition is calculated with chicken thighs.
  3. All the spices except salt and pepper are optional, but I recommend using them; they add a lot of flavors.
  4. Also optional, but it adds a lot of flavor to the broth. The cooking time is not long enough to make chicken stock really flavorful; the bouillon or stock cube helps.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 267kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 111mg | Sodium: 542mg | Potassium: 331mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 2644IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 25mg | Iron: 1mg
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