Drumsticks are my favorite cut of chicken to grill. The meat has plenty of flavor, which means the a good char is complementary rather than overwhelming. They are also much harder than chicken breast or steak to overcook; along with chicken wings, they simply don’t dry seem to dry out the way many other cuts of meat do. Strictly speaking, high quality drumsticks don’t need any seasoning beyond a sprinkle of salt. But because they’re smaller than thighs, a good sauce or marinade will flavor every bite.
Here in Central New York the basis for most any chicken cookout is the legendary Cornell Chicken Sauce. The genius of this recipe is that the tanginess of the vinegar and the richness of the oil are joined in an emulsion. As a result, the sauce stays on the chicken as it cooks, enhancing the grill sear. Made ahead of time it does double duty as a marinade, which gives the chicken an even more complex flavor.
I love standard Cornell Chicken, but like many great recipes it’s more of an outline than a script. It invites experimentation and improvisation. Because I have a particular fondness for the distinct, savory flavor of miso, I was inspired to develop a variation including it. One interesting thing is that even though I omitted the egg, which serves to blend the oil and vinegar in the standard recipe, the resulting sauce was incredibly stable. My theory is that the miso itself must be an emulsifier.
At the volumes used in this recipe the miso and honey are subtle. If you want a bolder flavor profile, feel free to double both. You can also play around with adding ginger, Sichuan Pepper, or any other spices that strike your fancy.
Drumstick on the Grill
Drumsticks are small enough that I like to cook them over direct heat. I thoroughly preheat the grill, but I make sure the fire is low before I start actually cooking. It should take 30-40 minutes to cook them through, so don’t worry if you aren’t getting a thick char immediately. It should build as you cook. Basting with the sauce noticeably enhances the flavor. For peace of mind I suggest heating the sauce in a pan before use, though if you stop applying it ten minutes before taking the drumsticks off the grill this isn’t strictly necessary from a food safety perspective.
Grilled Drumsticks with Miso-Honey Sauce
- 3 pounds chicken drumsticks
- 1 cup olive oil
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp miso
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 teaspoon soy sauce
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and coarsely chopped
- Put vinegar, miso, honey, soy sauce, and chopped garlic in a blender. Blend for about thirty seconds. Add oil and blend until thoroughly combined.
- With a sharp knife score both sides of each drumstick. Place them in a bowl, add the marinade, and stir until they are well coated. Refrigerate for 6-12 hours.
- Begin preheating your grill. While the grill is heating, place drumsticks on a platter and pour remaining marinade into a pan. Heat it until it starts bubbling.
- Once the grill is preheated make sure the heat is low and that you have a cooler area of the grill to move drumsticks to if they begin to scorch. Patiently cook the drumsticks, turning and basting every few minutes. Keep the lid down at other times to reduce flareups. When they're getting close to done, stop basting the drumsticks. Cook to an internal temp of 180° or your preferred level of doneness.