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What are chicken short legs?

Chicken short legs, also known as chicken drumsticks, are the lower part of a chicken’s leg. They are one of the most popular chicken cuts and are packed with flavor and nutrients. But why are they called “short legs”? Here’s a closer look at chicken drumsticks and how they got their name.

What Part of the Chicken is the Drumstick?

Chicken drumsticks are the lower half of the chicken leg. They consist of the drumstick bone surrounded by meat. The drumstick bone is shaped like a small drumstick hence the name. Drumsticks are attached to the chicken’s thigh bone at the knee joint.

When the chicken leg is cut to separate the drumstick from the thigh, it’s cut through the knee joint. This leaves a portion of the thigh meat attached to the drumstick.

Why Are They Called “Short” Legs?

Chicken drumsticks are referred to as “short legs” to differentiate them from the longer upper leg portion, the chicken thigh. A whole chicken leg consists of the thigh and the drumstick. When the leg is cut in half, what remains is a shorter leg portion, hence the nickname “short legs.”

Some other theories behind why they are called short legs:

  • Compared to human legs, chicken drumsticks are quite short.
  • They are shorter in length compared to chicken thighs.
  • When the chicken is butchered, the leg portions look “shorter” once they are cut apart.

So in summary, chicken drumsticks got their “short legs” moniker to distinguish them from the longer thigh portion of the chicken leg.

Why Are Chicken Drumsticks So Popular?

Chicken drumsticks are a very popular chicken cut for several reasons:

  • They contain a good ratio of dark to white meat – The drumstick contains both dark leg meat and a bit of white thigh meat near the top. This provides a nice combination of rich flavor from the dark meat and more tender, milder white meat.
  • The skin gets extra crispy – Drumsticks have a good amount of skin relative to the amount of meat. When cooked properly, the skin gets super crispy and seasoned, which many people love.
  • They are easy to eat by hand – The drumstick bone makes a convenient built-in handle for eating the drumstick with your hands. The size is perfect for picking up and eating without utensils.
  • Kid-friendly size and shape – Kids love chicken drumsticks because they are just the right size for little hands to pick up and eat. The fun drumstick shape also appeals to kids.
  • They are versatile – Drumsticks can be cooked in a variety of ways including baked, fried, grilled, broiled, braised, etc. You can eat them hot, cold, on their own, or integrated into other dishes.
  • Budget-friendly price – Chicken drumsticks are very affordably priced compared to breast meat or wings. They provide a good amount of meat at a lower cost.

These reasons make chicken drumsticks one of the most sought-after chicken cuts for home cooks, restaurants, and food manufacturers.

Nutrition Facts of Chicken Drumsticks

Here are some key nutrition facts about chicken drumsticks:

Nutrient Amount per 100g
Calories 239
Fat 15g
Saturated Fat 4.3g
Cholesterol 123mg
Sodium 110mg
Carbohydrates 0g
Fiber 0g
Sugars 0g
Protein 18.5g
  • Chicken drumsticks are high in calories, protein, and fat compared to chicken breast meat.
  • They contain considerably more saturated fat than chicken breast.
  • Drumsticks contain no carbohydrates.
  • They are a great source of protein with 18.5g per 100g serving.

Vitamins and Minerals

Here are some of the main vitamins and minerals found in chicken drumsticks:

  • B Vitamins: Chicken drumsticks contain B vitamins including vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folate.
  • Zinc: Drumsticks are high in zinc which supports the immune system and cell growth.
  • Selenium: They contain a considerable amount of the antioxidant mineral selenium.
  • Phosphorus: Chicken drumsticks provide phosphorus which is important for bone health.
  • Iron: They supply a decent amount of iron which aids in transporting oxygen in the blood.

How to Cook Chicken Drumsticks

Chicken drumsticks are very versatile and can be prepared using all kinds of cooking methods. Here are some of the most popular ways to cook chicken short legs:


Baking drumsticks in the oven allows the skin to get crispy and the meat to stay juicy. They can be seasoned simply with just salt and pepper or coated with spices, herbs, or sauces before baking. Baked chicken legs are great hot out of the oven or served cold.


Frying crisps up the skin for a seriously crunchy exterior. Chicken drumsticks can be fried in oil or batter-fried for extra crunch. Frying locks in moisture and flavor and provides a rich, indulgent taste and texture.


Grilling imparts delicious smoky barbecue flavor to drumsticks. The high heat of the grill also crisps up the skin nicely. Grilled drumsticks are ideal in the summer for cookouts and picnics.


For lower-fat cooking, broiling chicken drumsticks directly under high heat caramelizes the skin without needing any added oils. Broiled drumsticks come out crispy on the outside while keeping the meat juicy.


Braising chicken drumsticks cooks them slowly in a flavorful liquid like wine, tomatoes, or broth. The meat becomes fall-off-the-bone tender and soaks up all the delicious braising sauce flavors.

Air Fried

Using an air fryer yields crispy chicken drumsticks with significantly less oil than deep frying. Air fried drumsticks come out lightly fried with a crispy skin surrounding the moist meat.

Slow Cooker

Slow cooking drumsticks makes them incredibly tender and easy to shred for servings like tacos, sandwiches, soups, and salads. Any seasoning or sauce flavors get soaked into the meat over the long cooking time.

Popular Dishes Made with Chicken Drumsticks

Here are some of the most popular ways drumsticks are used in recipes:

  • Fried chicken drumsticks
  • Chicken wings and drumsticks platter
  • Baked or grilled chicken drumsticks
  • Chicken drumstick salad
  • Buffalo chicken drumsticks
  • Jerk chicken drumsticks
  • Chicken drumstick curry
  • Chicken drumstick soup
  • Chicken drumstick kebabs or skewers
  • Chicken drumsticks in tomato sauce braise

The small size, good flavor, and high ratio of crispy skin make drumsticks a prime choice for appetizers and finger foods. The rich, hearty taste of dark meat stands up well to strongly flavored sauces and spice rubs.

When shredded, drumsticks can easily be incorporated intopastas, tacos, sandwiches, rice bowls, and soups to add protein and chicken flavor.

Where to Buy Chicken Drumsticks

Chicken drumsticks can be purchased at any grocery store or supermarket in the fresh poultry section. They are often packaged together with other chicken parts like wings and thighs. You can also usually find chicken drumsticks frozen.

Larger bulk or warehouse stores like Costco often sell huge value packs of drumsticks at cheaper per-pound pricing. Butcher shops and ethnic markets also commonly carry chicken drumsticks.

When buying drumsticks, look for ones that have smooth, clean looking skin rather than dry or spotted skin. The drumstick meat should appear plump and fleshy with no discoloration. Always check the sell-by date and cook or freeze them within a few days of purchasing.

How to Store Chicken Drumsticks

Raw chicken drumsticks can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer:

  • In the fridge – Place drumsticks in a container or sealed bag and store for up to 2 days. Keep them on a plate or bowl to catch any drips.
  • In the freezer – For longer storage, freeze drumsticks for up to 9 months. Seal tightly in freezer bags or airtight containers. Allow space for expansion as the drumsticks freeze.

For cooked drumsticks, store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. Reheat to 165°F until hot and steaming before serving again.

Common Questions about Chicken Drumsticks

Do drumsticks have a lot of bones?

Chicken drumsticks do contain quite a few bones. There is the main leg bone running through the center as well as smaller bones elsewhere in the meat. Take care when eating to watch out for small bones, especially for children and the elderly.

Is there more meat on drumsticks or thighs?

Chicken thighs generally have a bit more meat than drumsticks. A typical chicken thigh contains around 4 oz of meat compared to around 2-3 oz on a drumstick. But drumsticks do have a higher ratio of skin to meat.

Are drumsticks white or dark meat?

Chicken drumsticks contain both white and dark meat. The upper portion near the thigh joint has milder-tasting white meat while the rest is darker leg meat. This contrast is part of the appeal of eating drumsticks.

Should drumsticks be cooked with skin on or off?

Most people cook chicken drumsticks with the skin on to allow the skin to become crispy and browned. However, the skin can be removed before or after cooking if a lower-fat option is preferred.

What’s the best way to crisp chicken drumstick skin?

Frying, broiling, grilling, and high heat baking are best for getting crispy chicken drumstick skin. Allowing the skin to fully dry out before cooking helps it crisp up. Coating drumsticks in baking powder before cooking also further dries out the skin.


Chicken drumsticks are a delicious and versatile cut perfect for a wide range of cooking methods and cuisines. They contain a good amount of meat and skin relative to their petite size. The “short legs” moniker differentiates them from the longer thigh portion of the chicken leg. Their kid-friendly size, crunchy skin, and rich flavor make drumsticks a favorite way to enjoy chicken wings and legs.