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Barbecue Sauce Chicken Drumsticks in Air Fryer

You’ve probably slathered chicken drumsticks with barbecue sauce and cooked them up on the grill. But have you ever considered trying them in the air fryer? We did and couldn’t get over how good they were.

Six glazed chicken drumsticks cooked in an air fryer basket. Salt and pepper shakers, a potted plant, and a blue napkin are nearby.
Photo credit: Bagels and Lasagna.

Barbecue Sauce Chicken Drumsticks in Air Fryer

There are a couple of reasons we think you’re going to love learning about how to make BBQ drumsticks in the air fryer. One, it is much neater than cooking them on the grill. You don’t have to worry about the sauce dripping off and causing flare ups in the grill. That can cause uneven cooking as well as charred spots on your chicken you may not want.

Also, the prep time is super short — just 10 minutes. This recipe features bottled barbecue sauce from the grocery store. However, we’re working on our own homemade BBQ sauce. We’re going to experiment with a sweet sauce, a spicy sauce, one that’s vinegar based and other kinds as well. So stay tuned to this space for when we get that done and published.

Another thing that makes clean up super easy: using aluminum foil when cooking in the air fryer. This was a hack I learned while visiting our daughter Annie in Pittsburgh last month. She loves making meals in the air fryer and she always uses aluminum foil. Even better: she buys a box pre-cut sheets of aluminum foil at Costco. So no uneven tears to worry about. I’m going to have to start doing this, too.

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This offer is for new Costco memberships only or for former Costco members whose membership expired more than 18 months ago. So, if you’ve moved, there wasn’t a Costco nearby and you let your membership lapse for more than 18 months, you’re good to go to sign up for this deal again!

Ingredients Overview and Instructions

A white plate with raw chicken drumsticks, surrounded by small bowls labeled: onion powder, oregano, paprika, black pepper, avocado oil, barbecue sauce, and salt.

As I mentioned, this recipe for BBQ chicken drumsticks uses store-bought barbecue sauce. So, it allows you to prep even faster than if you were making your own — assuming you hadn’t made any ahead of time.

Here are the ingredients in this recipe:

  • 6 chicken drumsticks, fresh or thawed, not frozen
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano

Because chicken drumsticks as well as chicken wings are small than, say, pieces of steak you might cook in the air fryer, you could use your smaller, round basket type if you wanted. I used my bigger, square basket air fryer just because I happened to have it out on the counter.

Step-by-step instructions for barbecue chicken drumsticks in an air fryer

Note: cooking these drumsticks is a two-step process. That is, you’ll cook the drumsticks in the air fryer with just the seasonings, not the barbecue sauce. Then, you’ll remove them, load them up with sauce, and return them to the air fryer for a final cook.

Preheat your air fryer to 380°F (193°C) for about 5 minutes. While the air fryer is heating up, pat the chicken drumsticks dry with a paper towel. This helps the seasoning adhere better. If you leave them wet, the seasonings will slide right off.

In a bowl, coat the chicken drumsticks with the avocado oil, onion powder, smoked paprika, salt, black pepper and oregano.

A glass bowl containing raw barbecue chicken drumsticks sprinkled with various spices, ready to cook in an air fryer, sits on a plain white background.
Photo credit: Bagels and Lasagna.

Place the seasoned drumsticks in the air fryer basket in a single layer, leaving space between each piece. Cook the chicken drumsticks in the air fryer at 380°F (193°C) for 18-20 minutes, or until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) and the skin is crispy. You can use a meat thermometer, like you would to check steak doneness, to see if they’re reached this temperature.

Six seasoned barbecue chicken drumsticks cooking in an air fryer basket.
Photo credit: Bagels and Lasagna.

Once cooked, use tongs to remove the drumsticks from the air fryer. They will be hot. Set them on a plate and let them cool slightly.

When they’ve cooked down, use a pastry brush to apply the barbecue sauce. You’ll want to coat them evenly on all sides.

Six glazed barbecue chicken drumsticks are arranged in an air fryer basket. A small cup of sauce with a basting brush is placed next to the basket.
Photo credit: Bagels and Lasagna.

Return the drumsticks to the air fryer. Give them a final coat of barbecue sauce, if you notice that any has dripped off. Cook them for an additional 2 minutes to caramelize the BBQ sauce.

Serve and enjoy!

A plate of barbecue chicken drumsticks in air fryer, glazed with sauce and garnished with fresh herbs, served on a piece of parchment paper over a cloth napkin.
Photo credit: Bagels and Lasagna.

Notes and final thoughts

  1. The cooking time may vary depending on the size and thickness of the chicken drumsticks. Thicker drumsticks may require additional cooking time.
  2. If you’re using frozen drumsticks, let them thaw before cooking.
  3. It’s important to preheat the air fryer to ensure even and consistent cooking.
  4. You can customize the flavors by using different barbecue sauce variations according to your preference, such as sweet and tangy or spicy.
  5. Feel free to adjust the seasonings to your taste, adding more or less smoked paprika, salt, or other spices.
  6. Make sure to use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken drumsticks, ensuring they reach the safe minimum temperature of 165°F (74°C) for poultry.
  7. Serve these delicious air fryer BBQ chicken drumsticks as a main course for a family dinner or as a crowd-pleasing appetizer for gatherings.
Close-up of a pair of white tongs holding a glazed and cooked chicken drumstick with a blurred background.
Photo credit: Bagels and Lasagna.

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Close-up of barbecue chicken drumsticks in the air fryer, glazed with a glossy, dark red sauce, garnished with fresh green herbs, served on a piece of white parchment paper.

Barbecue Chicken Drumsticks in the Air Fryer

You've probably slathered chicken drumsticks with barbecue sauce and cooked them up on the grill. But have you ever considered trying them in the air fryer? We did and couldn't get over how good they were.
There are a couple of reasons we think you're going to love learning about how to make BBQ drumsticks in the air fryer. One, it is much neater than cooking them on the grill. You don't have to worry about the sauce dripping off and causing flame ups in the grill. That can cause uneven cooking as well as charred spots on your chicken you may not want.
Also, the prep time is super short — just 10 minutes. This recipe features bottle barbecue sauce from the grocery store. However, we're working on our own homemade BBQ sauce. We're going to experiment with a sweet sauce, a spicy sauce, one that's vinegar based and other kinds as well. So stayed tuned to this space for when we get that done and published.
Another thing that makes clean up super easy: using aluminum foil when cooking in the air fryer. This was a hack I learned while visiting our daughter Annie in Pittsburgh last month. She loves making meals in the air fryer and she always uses aluminum foil. Even better: she buys a box pre-cut sheets of aluminum foil at Costco. So no unever tears to worry about. I'm going to have to start doing this, too.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Course Dinner, Entree
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 306 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 6 chicken drumsticks
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano

Instructions
 

  • Preheat your air fryer to 380°F (193°C) for about 5 minutes.
  • While the air fryer is heating up, pat the chicken drumsticks dry with a paper towel. This helps the seasoning adhere better. If you leave them wet, the seasonings will slide right off.
  • In a bowl, coat the chicken drumsticks with the avocado oil, onion powder, smoked paprika, salt, black pepper and oregano.
  • Place the seasoned drumsticks in the air fryer basket in a single layer, leaving space between each piece.
  • Cook the chicken drumsticks in the air fryer at 380°F (193°C) for 18-20 minutes, or until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) and the skin is crispy. You can use a meat thermometer, like you would to check steak doneness, to see if they're reached this temperature.
  • Once cooked, use tongs to remove the drumsticks from the air fryer. They will be hot. Set them on a plate and let them cool slightly.
  • When they've cooked down, use a pastry brush to apply the barbecue sauce. You'll want to coat them evenly on all sides.
  • Return the drumsticks to the air fryer. Give them a final coat of barbecue sauce, if you notice that any has dripped off.
  • Cook them for an additional 2 minutes to caramelize the BBQ sauce.

Notes

Note: cooking these drumsticks is a two-step process. That is, you’ll cook the drumsticks in the air fryer with just the seasonings, not the barbecue sauce. Then, you’ll remove them, load them up with sauce, and return them to the air fryer for a final cook.
The cooking time may vary depending on the size and thickness of the chicken drumsticks. Thicker drumsticks may require additional cooking time.
If you’re using frozen drumsticks, let them thaw before cooking.
It’s important to preheat the air fryer to ensure even and consistent cooking.
You can customize the flavors by using different barbecue sauce variations according to your preference, such as sweet and tangy or spicy.
Feel free to adjust the seasonings to your taste, adding more or less smoked paprika, salt, or other spices.
Make sure to use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken drumsticks, ensuring they reach the safe minimum temperature of 165°F (74°C) for poultry.
Serve these delicious air fryer BBQ chicken drumsticks as a main course for a family dinner or as a crowd-pleasing appetizer for gatherings.

Nutrition

Calories: 306kcalCarbohydrates: 15gProtein: 20gFat: 18gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 104mgSodium: 778mgPotassium: 352mgFiber: 1gSugar: 12gVitamin A: 381IUVitamin C: 0.3mgCalcium: 28mgIron: 1mg

Disclaimer

Please note that nutrient values, if included with the recipe, are estimates only. Variations can occur due to product availability/substitution and manner of food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of origin, preparation, freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

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