Chicken legs can be cooked in many ways but perhaps the best way to get the most out of the meat and bone of a chicken leg is to boil it!
How long should you boil chicken legs? On average, chicken legs take 20 minutes to boil. The temperature can be altered depending on what you want to achieve too. For example, boiling at a lower temperature will slowly extract all the nutrients and flavor from the meat within 30-40 minutes, creating a concentrated broth!
But there is more to the method of boiling chicken legs than just adding them to the pot and waiting for them to cook!
Read below to learn more about the different cooking times and temperatures to cook chicken legs and the best way to get the most out of their flavor and texture!
Chicken Leg Nutrition And Flavor
Chicken legs consist of dark bone-in meat. This type of meat is prized for its slightly gamey, yeasty, and deliciously satisfying flavor and chewy texture.
Compared to breast meat, leg meat is way more succulent and will pack more flavor than your average chicken piece.
There is a common debate in the health community where many people try to avoid chicken legs because of their supposedly inferior nutritional profile compared to breast meat—this is incorrect.
Even if you adjust for the extra fat and carbs found in chicken legs, they provide more or less the same nutrition. Plus, they are undeniably better tasting and will make for a great addition to any recipe!
|100g, without skin
If you want to incorporate chicken meat and are done having to deal with the bland taste and dry texture of chicken breast then we highly recommend that you consider chicken legs.
Trust us, you don’t even have to depend on deep-frying them to get the most out of their flavor too!
Chicken legs are known for their versatility and utility in many cuisines. They are mentioned in several hundreds of recipes and since they can be cooked in many ways, you can switch it up and enjoy it just the way you like them!
Boiling Chicken Legs
Most people think about fried chicken legs when they think of this boney section of the chicken but the truth is, if you want to keep the nutrition intact, then you have to look at other ways to cook the legs.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to sacrifice much either!
For example, boiling chicken legs is a great way to extract the flavor of the meat and bone to create broths and sauces—and you can also use the rendered chicken leg in different ways too.
Before we get into the possibilities with chicken legs, lets first see how to boil chicken legs from scratch:
The first thing that you need to do is to clean the chicken legs.
This may seem like an obvious step but you would be surprised by the number of people who completely forget to extract the blood from the drumstick.
How many times have you cooked chicken legs at home only to see fresh, bright red blood oozing out of the leg midway through the cooking process? This happens due to inadequately cleaned chicken legs.
When cleaning the leg, squeeze the mid-portion of the drumstick, and without letting go and keeping the pressure, move your fingers up towards the top of the leg where the joint is located.
If the chicken is already at room temperature, then you should see some blood coming out of the top.
If the chicken leg is frozen, then you will have to first thaw it to clean it and then drain the blood properly.
Multiple veins run across the entire leg section and butchers will usually not drain the blood to save time and would rather leave it to the customer to clean it at home.
For the thigh section, you can either choose to remove the giblets (kidney) from the underside of the thigh or you can leave it in too.
Be sure to clean all the crevasses on the underside! There should not be any fresh blood around the thigh piece.
If you are working with a whole chicken leg then a great way to drain blood from the meat would be to make a small incision at the joint between the thigh and the drumstick.
This will create a passage for the blood to escape when you push the meat from below, as instructed above.
Also, while the cooking process should eliminate the risk of any harmful bacteria, the best practice should always be to drain the blood.
Remember, the chicken needs to be cleaned from the exterior too. Make sure that you remove as much excess fat as required and remove any blood clots or stains from the meat.
Boiling The Chicken
Once cleaned, take a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. When the water is at a rolling boil, drop the chicken legs one at a time.
Now, there are several ways to check the doneness of the legs. One visual method is to check the exterior of the leg. When cooked, the chicken leg will turn white and will have a whitish or slightly gray color.
However, please also keep in mind that chicken legs will take around 20 minutes to boil thoroughly yet you may see color changes within 5 minutes, which should not be mistaken for a sign of doneness!
This is a common mistake that beginners make when cooking chicken legs.
You have to wait until the legs have spent at least 15 minutes before even considering removing them and to check for doneness.
Remember, the visual guide is just a preliminary way to see if the chicken is cooking adequately and isn’t definitive.
Furthermore, you can adjust the heat as per your requirement.
For most cases, a temperature of 200°F is enough to get a slow boil started but if you want to cook the legs quickly then we suggest cranking the heat up to 212°F, which should equate to a rolling boil.
Another visual cue for doneness is the size of the chicken meat.
Raw chicken legs are usually large and plump however when they are boiled in water, the heat renders the fat, muscle fibers and releases a lot of its moisture and flavor. This results in the leg shrinking in size.
Finally, the last and sure-fire way of checking the doneness of the legs before removing them from the pot is to check their internal temperature.
A cooked chicken will have an internal temperature of 165°F. This is considered to be a safe temperature for cooked chicken, regardless of the cooking method!
If you don’t have a cooking thermometer then we recommend taking just one leg out and slicing it to the bone. Don’t separate the meat from the bone just yet! Run the knife deep enough to create a small cut that you can inspect.
If you see any pink meat then it would indicate that the chicken requires about 8-10 more minutes. If the chicken is completely tender, cuts easily, and has no pink hue then that would indicate a fully cooked leg.
Once cooked, remove all the legs and put them on a wire rack to drain. That’s it! You have successfully boiled chicken legs! However, there is a lot that you can do with them. Here are a few great ideas:
Using Boiled Chicken Legs
Start with the water/broth! This is where most of the flavor of the chicken leg is after the meat has been cooked.
You may notice a few yellowish puddles on the surface of the water used to boil the chicken; this is all the fat and nutrients that have been rendered from the meat!
While you can just eat the chicken legs by lightly seasoning them, you can do much more with the broth.
For example, we recommend adding some sliced onions and vegetables to make chicken soup!
Want to add more flavor and texture? Shred the leg meat and add it back to the pot without the bones. You can even mix in ketchup and vinegar to make a quick and easy Hot and Sour soup recipe!
Another great way to use boiled chicken legs would be to add a bit of seasoning on them and pan-fry the legs lightly so that they get a golden-brown color.
Don’t worry about overcooking the chicken since you will be using high heat to only sear the outside of the meat.
Chicken leg meat can also be shredded and used in different ways. Mix it with mayo and throw in some fresh crushed peppercorns and salt to create a homemade chicken spread!
You can even use the shredded meat in sandwiches and subs.
Another way to cook and use the leg meat would be to allow it to boil at 202°F for about 40-45 minutes or until the meat falls and separates from the bone.
This method is useful for creating a flavor-packed and concentrated broth that can further be used to make rice dishes, soups, sauces, and more!
The legs can also be baked after they have been boiled (more on this below), this will give them a distinct char and will help the meat to take on a juicier flavor from additional seasonings.
The possibilities are endless, and if you are willing to go the distance, then you can easily make two to three different recipes by just boiling chicken legs.
Tips and Tricks
- Always use a large heavy-bottomed pot to boil the chicken legs and never overcrowd the pot by putting in more legs than necessary. You want the legs to have some space between each other so that water can pass through and boil the leg entirely.
- While the best time to cook chicken legs is 20 minutes, you can cook the chicken for longer to fully render the meat and the bone. Usually, this takes around 40 minutes but you can even leave the chicken for longer if you don’t wish to use the whole leg intact since the meat and bone will be completely separated by then.
- When draining the blood from the chicken, it’s also a good idea to remove the excess fat from the topside of the thigh. Most of the fat in this area will be located on the outer boundary of the thigh just where it connects with the body of the chicken.
- Remove the kidneys from the chicken thighs if you don’t wish to cook them with the legs. Many people find the taste of this organ to be delicious but equally many dislike its texture, especially when boiled.
- You can try placing cuts on the thigh meat from the top side to cook the chicken faster. This works for some people as it also allows the chicken to catch on more flavor when you add seasonings to the pot.
- Thigh meat and drumsticks can be used differently. For example, the thigh can be baked or shredded while the drumstick can also be fried, or baked but are best served with a mix of BBQ sauce and some herbs!
- If you don’t like the texture of boiled chicken then we highly recommend that you steam the chicken leg to keep it moist, succulent, and flavorful! To do this, simply place the legs in a steamer and steam for about 30 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
Boiling chicken legs is an excellent way to make loads of healthy and delicious recipes. Boiled chicken leg meat packs more flavor than dry and bland breast meat so you are bound to enjoy it in different ways!
Now that you know how to cook chicken legs, here are a few great related questions!
Can you add seasoning while boiling chicken?
Yes, you can add seasonings when boiling chicken. However, the purpose for adding the seasonings matter!
For example, if you want to make soup, then we recommend that you boil the chicken legs first, remove them and then adjust the seasonings to your liking.
Alternatively, if you want to make sauces, rice dishes, or gravies then we recommend that you add the seasonings to the pot from the start and reduce the water by boiling as per your preference.
Can you fry and boil chicken legs?
Yes, you can fry and then boil the chicken legs or vice versa! Frying the legs first will give them a caramelized outer layer that may soften as the legs boil in the water later.
A great way to keep both the flavor and texture of the legs is to first boil the chicken and then pan fry it.
You can also try half-boiling the chicken leg and then finishing off the cooking process in an oven or pan to avoid overcooking or drying the meat.
Can you boil frozen chicken legs?
Yes, you can boil frozen chicken legs but you may need to keep a few things in mind. First, make sure that the chicken was cleaned before it was stored in the freezer in the first place.
If the chicken was not initially cleaned then we highly recommend that you allow the chicken to thaw before cleaning and adding it to the pot.
If the chicken has already been cleaned and stored properly then you can directly add it to a pot of boiling water and cook the chicken for an additional 10 minutes, which would increase the total cooking time to about 30 minutes.
Can you boil chicken legs with skin on?
Yes, you can boil the legs with the skin on but if you want to cut down on the extra calories then you might want to remove the skin before serving.
Also, the skin contains a lot of flavor, so you can also use it for the broth and then discard it later!
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