When it comes to cooking chicken leg quarters, one of the most common questions is how long they need to be simmered for. Simmering is a gentle cooking method that uses low heat to slowly cook food in liquid. It’s perfect for braising tougher cuts of meat like chicken legs and thighs. The simmering time can vary quite a bit depending on the size and amount of leg quarters you are cooking. Here’s a quick look at how long you typically need to simmer chicken leg quarters to ensure they are cooked through and tender.
What are Chicken Leg Quarters?
Chicken leg quarters, sometimes referred to as chicken hindquarters, are the entire leg portions of a chicken. They consist of both the thigh and drumstick connected together. Leg quarters contain a good amount of bone, skin, and juicy dark meat. They are often more affordable than chicken breasts since dark meat tends to be cheaper. Leg quarters make excellent braised or simmered chicken dishes like stews, soups, and chili. They hold up well to moist heat cooking methods that render the connective tissue and collagen into gelatin which keeps the meat tender.
Average Size of Chicken Leg Quarters
On average, most chicken leg quarters weigh between 3/4 lb to 1 lb each. However, you can find larger leg quarters around 1 1/4 lbs or more per piece. The typical size depends on whether you get leg quarters from small chickens like Cornish hens, standard broiler chickens, or large roaster chickens. When simmering for chicken leg quarters, it’s best to estimate about 12-15 minutes per 1/2 pound. So a 3/4 lb leg quarter would take 18-22 minutes and a 1 lb piece would need 24-30 minutes.
How Many Chicken Leg Quarters Per Person
If you are cooking chicken leg quarters for a meal, plan on about 1 leg quarter per average adult serving. For children, give them 1/2 a leg quarter. If adults tend to have second helpings, allow 2 quarters per person. For big eaters or teenagers, you may want to allow up to 2 leg quarters per serving. It also depends on what other side dishes you serve. With just chicken leg quarters and maybe a vegetable or salad, plan on 2 per person. If you serve the chicken with pasta, rice, or potatoes as well, you can get away with just 1 leg quarter per adult.
Simmering Times for Chicken Leg Quarters
Here are some general guidelines for how long you should simmer chicken leg quarters based on amount and size:
2-3 Leg Quarters
For just 2-3 approximately 3/4 lb to 1 lb size leg quarters, simmer for 25-35 minutes total. Start checking at 25 minutes for doneness and continue cooking up to 35 minutes until fully cooked through.
4-6 Leg Quarters
For 4-6 medium leg quarters around 3/4 lb each, allow 30-45 minutes simmering time. You may need closer to 45 minutes if using larger 1-1 1/4 lb size leg quarters.
8-12 Leg Quarters
For bigger batches of 8-12 chicken leg quarters, plan on simmering for 45 minutes up to 1 hour. The more leg quarters you have, the longer it will take for the heat to fully penetrate and cook the center. Check for doneness at 45 minutes and continue simmering if needed for up to an hour total time.
Tips for Simmering Chicken Leg Quarters
Follow these tips for simmering juicy, flavorful chicken leg quarters every time:
Use a Tight-Fitting Lid
Be sure to use a tight-fitting lid on the pot when simmering chicken leg quarters. This helps lock in steam and moisture.
Keep the liquid at a gentle simmer, not a rolling boil. Boiling can make the meat dry and stringy. Low gentle heat ensures it stays moist.
Turn Leg Quarters Once
About halfway through, turn the chicken leg quarters over so the other side can cook evenly.
The safest way to tell leg quarters are done is to insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. It should reach 170°F internally for food safety.
When simmering time is up, turn off heat and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before removing lid. This natural release keeps the chicken tender.
Remove Skin Afterwards
If you want to remove the skin, it’s easiest to do after simmering while the meat is still warm. The skin slides right off.
Common Simmering Liquids
Chicken leg quarters pair well with all sorts of simmering liquids. Popular options include:
- Chicken broth – use on its own or to make gravy after
- Tomatoes/tomato sauce – for stews, chilis, etc
- Wine or beer – add richness and depth of flavor
- Herbs and aromatic veggies – like onions, garlic, celery, bay leaves
- Spices and seasonings – try paprika, cumin, chili powder, etc
- Salsa – makes southwestern style chicken
- BBQ sauce – for pulled BBQ chicken sandwiches
Testing Chicken Leg Quarters for Doneness
It can be tricky to tell when larger chicken leg quarters are fully cooked through. Here are some ways to test when they are done simmering:
As mentioned earlier, chicken should reach an internal temperature of 170°F-175°F on a meat thermometer for food safety.
Use a sharp knife or fork to pierce the thickest part of the leg quarter. If the juices run clear, it’s done. If they are pink or have traces of red, continue simmering.
Leg Movement Test
Try wiggling the leg bone. It should twist and move easily when ready. Resistance means it needs more time.
Fully cooked chicken will be opaque all the way through and feel firm yet tender when squeezed gently.
Serving Simmered Chicken Leg Quarters
Simmered chicken leg quarters make for juicy, satisfying meals and leftovers. Here are some serving suggestions:
Serve each leg quarter over a bed of steamed rice. Enjoy the delicious sauce spooned over the top.
Mashed, baked, or roasted potatoes are the perfect accompaniment to soak up the savory braising liquid.
On Soft Rolls
For shredded or chopped chicken, pile it onto soft sandwich rolls to make sliders or po’ boy style sandwiches.
Over Salad Greens
Warm or chilled chicken leg quarters served over fresh salad greens makes a balanced meal.
With Roasted Vegetables
Pair with oven-roasted veggies like carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts or asparagus.
In Soups or Stews
Shred the meat and add it back to thick soups and stews for hearty comfort food.
In Tacos or Burritos
Chop or shred the chicken and stuff in flour or corn tortillas for Mexican-style meals.
Storing Leftover Simmered Chicken
Like any meat, leftover cooked chicken needs proper storage to prevent spoiling. Here are some storage tips:
- Let chicken cool completely before refrigerating.
- Store in airtight containers within 2 hours of cooking.
- Refrigerate for 3-4 days.
- Freeze for 2-3 months.
- Reheat thoroughly until steaming hot.
Simmering is an easy hands-off cooking method that infuses chicken leg quarters with flavorful liquid and keeps them juicy and tender. Allow 25-30 minutes per pound, simmering anywhere from 30 minutes up to 1 hour depending on amount. Check for doneness, and serve the braised chicken leg quarters over rice, with veggies, in sandwiches, soups and more. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers properly. Follow these guidelines on simmer times and enjoy delicious chicken leg quarters anytime.