Learn how to cook chicken drumsticks on the stove; it’s easy and delicious. All you need are the chicken legs, a pan, and some spices. A basic recipe ready in 30 minutes, perfect for busy weeknights.
Frying chicken legs in a pan is a standard affair in our house. Kids love drumsticks, and this recipe is quick and so tasty; they want me to cook stove top chicken legs every other week or so. And if you are searching for more pan-fried chicken, check out the Cast-Iron Chicken Breast or Cast-Iron Chicken Thighs. Or these tender and flavorful Italian Lemon Chicken.
Why should you learn how to pan fry chicken legs?
- Delicious: The chicken legs are moist, tender, and nicely spiced.
- Quick: 30 minutes, and dinner is ready. You can cook the sides while the meat is in the pan.
- Little effort: Rub the drumsticks with some spices and pan-fry them.
- Versatile: You can use any spices you like, or just salt and pepper. You can cook them with water, stock or beer.
- Budget-friendly: You could hardly find a cheaper chicken recipe.
- One skillet, and that means easier cleanup.
- Serving: Serve these simple pan-fried chicken drumsticks with anything you like: potatoes in any form, rice, pasta, couscous, and so on. Eat them immediately after cooking or take them to a picnic.
There are only four ingredients: drumsticks, olive oil, spices, and beer (stock or water).
- The lower part of the chicken legs also known as the drumsticks.
- You will need bone-in, skin-on parts, about 2 – 2 ½ lbs/ 900 g – 1.1 kg, which would be around 6-8 pieces. More than 8 would probably not fit in a regular-sized pan.
- Remove the skin, if you like, for an even healthier version of this dish; however, we do enjoy the crispy, spicy skin.
- Seasoning, salt, and ground black pepper.
- I keep the seasoning very simple; I always have a nice mix in the cupboard. Think lemon pepper, taco seasoning, Italian seasoning, Cajun, or a blend of your own spices.
- You can make your mix by adding paprika, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, chili powder, or dried herbs to salt and pepper.
- Caution: If using a ready-made seasoning that already contains salt, go easy on the salt you are adding, not that the meat is too salty in the end.
- Preferably chicken stock or beer, which impart the meat more flavor, but water should be fine if that is all you have. I love the beer version best.
- Cook the stove top chicken drumsticks with a bit of white or red wine for a little French-cooking feeling.
- If using stock, make sure it’s low sodium. If not, season the meat with less salt than you would use, and if the stock is really salty, thin it with some water.
What kind of pan to use?
- I use a large cast-iron skillet or a large nonstick frying pan. By large, I mean a 12-inch skillet (Amazon affiliate links).
- Pat the meat dry using paper towels.
- Mix seasoning in a small bowl and rub the parts well to coat all over.
- Heat the oil in a large pan on the stove top.
- Pan fry chicken legs in a single layer in the hot pan for about 4-5 minutes per side on medium heat (1). Use tongs to flip the drumsticks.
- Add liquid (2), cover the pan, turn the heat down to medium-low or low and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Flip the drumsticks, cover the pan again and continue cooking for 7 to 10 minutes or until cooked through but not overcooked.
How long to pan fry the drumsticks?
- It depends on the size of the drumsticks; if they are huge, you might want to add a few minutes to the cooking time.
- The best way to check if they are done is with a digital meat thermometer; the internal temperature should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit/ 74 degrees Celsius (Amazon affiliate link).
- If you don’t have one, cut one drumstick near the bone. The flesh should be white and juicy; there should be no traces of pink left.
Expert Tips and FAQ
- Seasoning: As mentioned above, feel free to use whatever you like. However, pay attention to the salt content of any ready-made seasoning. If it contains salt, reduce the amount of added salt.
- Liquid: The same goes for the cooking liquid. Beer and water are fine, but stock is salty. Use a low sodium brand or either thin it with water or add less salt to the chicken parts.
- Stove top: When using a gas stove top, the flame might be stronger on one side (my case). If you have the same problem, make sure to turn the pan around a couple of times so that the meat on one side doesn’t get darker than the rest.
- Don’t overcrowd the pan; the legs should fit in snuggly without being crowded.
Yes, you can pan-fry any other parts of the chicken, adjust the cooking time accordingly and make sure to check that the meat is done. I highly recommend using an instant-read thermometer.
Breasts will need slightly less time, while thighs or chicken leg quarters will need a little longer.
No, you will only spread bacteria on your kitchen sink without getting rid of it. It will only be destroyed during the cooking process.
Refrigerator: The leftovers will keep well for about 3 days.
Freezer: You can freeze the stovetop drumsticks in an airtight container for at least 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator.
How to reheat?
- Stove top: Place in the pan, add about ½ cup water or enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Cover, and reheat on medium-low heat, flipping the drumsticks a few times in between. If necessary, add more water along the way. However, it should be cooked off once the meat is hot. It will take about 5-7 minutes.
- Oven: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit/ 180 degrees Celsius. While the oven preheats, remove the meat from the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Place in a baking dish, add a little water or stock to the bottom of the container. Cover with aluminum foil and reheat until heated through; check after about 15-20 minutes. To crisp up the skin, place it under the broiler for a couple of minutes. You can also reheat them uncovered on a baking sheet, but they might get a little drier. Still delicious, though.
- Air fryer: Preheat the air fryer according to its instructions. Place the meat in the basket, spray with a bit of cooking spray, and reheat for about 4-5 minutes or until heated through. Flip chicken legs halfway through. This method ensures crispy skin.
- Microwave: My least favorite method because the skin will be soggy, but it works to get the food hot. Cover and microwave on high for 2 minutes or until hot.
What to serve with it?
- Anything you like. Try the Cast-Iron Potatoes, Smashed Potatoes, Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes, or Potato Salad.
- If you prefer rice, they go perfectly well with Spicy BBQ Rice, Jollof Rice, or Rice with Tomatoes, Zucchini and Carrots.
- You can also serve the pan-fried chicken legs with a nice German Noodle Salad or Creamy Vegetable Spaghetti or Mac and Cheese.
- Or serve them with a sauce, like bbq sauce, hot or sweet and sour sauce.
More chicken cooked on the stove top:
- Pancake Battered Chicken
- Nando’s Butterfly Chicken
- Salt and Pepper Chicken
- Gochujang Chicken Breast
- Easy Grilled Chicken Tenders
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How to Cook Chicken Drumsticks on the Stove
- 1 large skillet or nonstick pan
- 6 chicken drumsticks about 2 lbs/ 900 g
- 3 teaspoons chicken seasoning Note 1
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt or Kosher Note 2
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup beer 125 ml Note 3
- Season: Pat the meat dry with paper towels. Add seasoning and rub well to coat all over.
- Pan-fry: Heat the oil in a large pan on the stove top. Pan fry chicken legs for about 4-5 minutes per side on medium heat. Use tongs to flip the drumsticks.
- Simmer: Add liquid to the pan. Cover with a tight-fitting lid, turn the heat down to medium-low or low, and cook slowly for 10 minutes.
- Flip the drumsticks, cover again and cook gently for 7 to 10 minutes or until cooked through (Note 4).
- Check: The internal temperature should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit/ 74 degrees Celsius. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, cut one drumstick near the bone. The flesh should be white and juicy; there should be no traces of pink left.
- Your favorite brand. You can also try lemon pepper, Cajun, Italian, or Taco seasoning.
You can stick to salt and pepper or add paprika, garlic powder, dried herbs, or other spices to the salt and pepper.
- Use just a pinch if the chicken seasoning or the chicken stock (if using) already contains salt.
- Or low sodium chicken stock or water.
- The cooking time depends on the size of the drumsticks; if they are huge, you might want to add a few minutes to the cooking time. The best way to check is with a digital meat thermometer.