In the KCBS competition world skin-on, bone-in thighs are the norm for the chicken category. I’ve been turning in thighs for a while now, but many times last year, I heard of people winning the category with chicken legs.
I knew that it had to be something special besides the traditional “drumstick”, so with a little research, it led me to the chicken lollipop.
What is a chicken lollipop?
The chicken lollipop is a “frenched” chicken leg. The meat is cut loose from the small end and pushed down creating a “lollipop” look. The leg bone is left clean and creates the “stick”.
To turn regular chicken legs into lollipops you’ll need a sharp knife and a pair of kitchen shears. Make a cut completely around the lower part of the leg just below the knuckle cutting through the skin and tendons.
Push the meat down to the large end and pull the remaining skin and cartilage off the knuckle. I’ve found it helps to use a dish towel for extra grip.
There’s a tiny bone right against the leg that needs to be removed. It can be sharp, so be careful not to ram it into your hand while pushing down on the meat. Remove this bone with your fingers or the shears, and trim away the tendons sticking out the top.
You can remove the skin if you want, but for contests, we’re judged on bite-through skin. Judges will be looking for it. The skin is often the deciding factor in the chicken score. The meat can be perfectly cooked, but if the skin is rubbery, your entry will be marked down.
To season the lollipops I start with a dusting of my All Purpose seasoning “The General”. It’s a combination of Salt, Pepper, Garlic, and a few other ingredients.
For a ratio you can use:
- 1 part salt
- ½ part granulated garlic
- ¼ part black pepper
Next I layer on The BBQ Rub. I give it a good dose for flavor and color. One last step is to cover the exposed bones with a small piece of aluminum foil. This will prevent the bones from turning black during cooking, and will help your appearance score in the end.
Let the chicken sit for 30 minutes at room temperature while the smoker is coming up to temperature.
At the house and in contests I’m using a Yoder YS480 pellet smoker. It’s set for 300 degrees running BBQr’s Delight Apple pellets.
Hint: Chicken needs to cook at a higher temp for the skin to be bite-through. If you’re struggling with rubbery skin, crank up the heat to 275-300. This will improve your scores.
While the cooker is heating, place a stick of butter in a ½ size aluminum pan. Go ahead and set the pan inside the cooker, so it has time to melt. The butter adds flavor and moisture to the cooking process, but it doesn’t need to cover the chicken.
Once the smoker is up to temp, place the lollipops in the pan with the bones sticking up straight. Close the lid and let it cook for 2 hours.
After 2 hours the internal temperature should be in the 165-170 range.
Dark meat is done at 175 and that’s just enough time to glaze the lollipops.
For the glaze I use Killer Hogs “The BBQ Sauce”. Warm a small pot of sauce just until it starts to thin. Be sure to remove the aluminum foil and dip the entire lollipop in the warm sauce.
I use a chicken rack inside a half pan to keep the mess down. The rack makes it easy to transport the chicken all at once back to the smoker.
Continue cooking the lollipops for 30 minutes until the glaze is set. You’ll want to keep an eye on it, to prevent the glaze from burning.
The final temperature should be 175 when you pull the legs off the pit.
As you can see the final product looks great. The sauce is caramelized and the skin is bite-through.
If you’re looking for a different way to smoke chicken legs give this method a try. I’ll be working these into my chicken arsenal this year!