Chicken Leg vs Drumstick: What’s the Difference?

A chicken boasts a lot of delectable parts, from thighs to wings to breasts, all of which taste great in their own right, no doubt. But if you’re looking for the deepest flavor and satisfying bite, you may agree that nothing beats chicken legs. Or is it drumsticks? What’s the difference between a chicken leg vs drumsticks?

You might have heard the terms chicken leg and drumstick used interchangeably in some recipes. And while they may seem to refer to the same thing, they don’t. Both chicken legs and drumsticks are different cuts of chicken leg quarters, and each is different in its own way.

So, read on as we explore the difference between the chicken leg and the drumstick in detail, including their nutritional differences, recipes, shopping tips, and more.

What Is a Chicken Leg?

chicken leg vs drumstick

The chicken leg refers to the whole leg, including the drumstick and thigh. Some poultry recipes refer to it as a chicken quarter because when a whole chicken is cut into parts, you get four quarters—two chicken breast quarters with wings and two leg quarters.

Because chicken legs are bigger than drumsticks, they are often served one per person in dishes such as grilled chicken, roast chicken, and stewed chicken. However, it’s essential to understand that the meat’s tenderness, texture, and taste may vary depending on its preparation. 

Cooking a complete chicken leg could take slightly longer than cooking the drumstick or thigh separately. The result, nevertheless, is often a far more satisfying and well-balanced dish, ideal for ketogenic and other low-carb recipes, thanks to its richness in omega-3 fatty acids, proteins, and a myriad of healthful vitamins and minerals. 

Grilled, boiled, stewed, fried, baked, or even barbecued and slathered in gravy are all options for your chicken leg quarters.

Chicken Leg Nutrition Facts

As reported by FatSecret, chicken leg contains the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 200
  • Fat: 12 g
  • Cholesterol: 80 mg
  • Sodium: 350 mg
  • Protein: 24 g
  • Potassium: 200 mg
  • Vitamin A
  • Calcium
  • Iron

How to Cook Chicken Legs

There are many ways to cook a chicken leg, but the recipes below are worth a little mess.

Parmesan crusted chicken
Chicken pasta
Slow-roasted, crispy skin chicken leg quarter

Ingredients

  • 6 Chicken legs quarters, whole
  • 1 1/2 tsp Back pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp Paprika, Sweet
  • 1 1/2 tsp Salt
  • Oils & Vinegars
  • 1 Cooking spray

What Is a Chicken Drumstick?

chicken leg vs drumstick

Drumsticks are simply the chicken leg’s lower half, attached to the thigh by a single big joint. Typically, drumsticks are ideal for baked chicken drumsticks, chicken lollipops, or fried chicken recipes, thanks to their smaller size and convenient bone attachment.

They are commonly served at informal dinners, barbecues, and buffets and are also an impressively versatile cut that goes with just about any seasoning and sauce.

Moreover, drumsticks have a lot of fat in them, giving them a great deal of flavor, with the meat actually falling off the bone when slow-cooked in rice recipes. They can also be used in stews, curries, and soups. Because of their high protein and fat, drumsticks are ideal for ketogenic recipes.

Quick tip? When serving fried chicken or any other kind of “finger food,” retain the bone to allow your guests to pick up the chicken easily. Alternatively, shred the chicken off the bone and use it in quesadillas, salads, sandwiches, and tacos.

Chicken Drumstick Nutrition Facts

Chicken drumsticks include the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 70
  • Fat: 3.5 g
  • Cholesterol: 30 mg
  • Sodium: 135 mg
  • Protein: 8.5 g
  • Potassium: 75 mg

How to Cook Drumsticks

If you’re looking to cook drumsticks in your kitchen but lack new, flavorful ideas, here are some drumstick recipes worth checking out.

Tandoori chicken drumsticks with lentil salad and spiced tomato

Ingredients

  • 100g (1 ⁄3 cup) gluten-free tandoori paste
  • 90g (1 ⁄3 cup) Greek-style yoghurt, plus extra, to serve
  • 8 small (about 1.1kg) chicken drumsticks, scored
  • 400g can brown lentils, rinsed, drained
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • 200g grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 sticks celery, thinly sliced diagonally
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 36.40 gm extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp brown mustard seeds
  • 1 ⁄2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 42.00 gm fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ⁄4.00 gm brown sugar
  • 1 ⁄2 bunch fresh coriander, leaves picked
Cornflake-crumbed chicken with wedges

Ingredients

  • 125.00 ml panko breadcrumbs
  • 250.00 ml cornflakes, coarsely crushed
  • 2.50 gm smoked paprika
  • 62.50 ml chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1kg red potatoes, cut into wedges
  • 8 chicken drumsticks
  • Olive oil spray
  • Mixed salad, to serve
  • Lemon wedges, to serve
  • Mayonnaise, to serve
Southern baked chicken with gravy, mashed potato, and coleslaw

Ingredients

  • 390.00 gm buttermilk
  • 10.00 gm cajun seasoning
  • 4 Free Range Chicken Drumsticks
  • 187.50 ml cornflake crumbs
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1kg desiree potatoes, peeled, chopped
  • 62.50 ml fat-free plain yoghurt
  • 8.00 gm brown sugar
  • 5.90 gm dijon mustard
  • 1/2 green cabbage, white core removed, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, coarsely grated
  • 62.50 ml instant gravy powder
  • 187.50 gm boiling water

Chicken Drumstick vs Leg: Key Differences

If you can’t tell the difference between chicken legs and drumsticks, you’re not alone—most people are unaware of the distinction. However, there exists a significant difference between these two parts, which is why it is essential to understand what it is before you buy. 

The primary distinction between chicken drumsticks and chicken legs is that the drumstick makes up only but one part of the chicken leg—the “calf” section, to be precise. The chicken leg, on the contrary, is the entire piece constituting the chicken drumstick and thigh (the upper part of the leg). 

That said, here are a few more differences between chicken legs and drumsticks:

  • Fat content: A drumstick has more connective tissue and a higher amount of fat than a chicken leg.
  • Price: Despite being the smaller cut, drumsticks tend to be more costly than chicken legs because of their convenience and the extra meat.  
  • Cooking time: Unlike drumsticks, which contain less bone, chicken legs take a bit longer to cook.
  • Serving: Drumsticks are often used in recipes such as curried goat, coq au vin, or stir-fried chicken.

Pro Shopping Tip

Chicken legs have long been subject to a lot of bad press—by often being deemed unhealthy. For this reason, they’re an unpopular option for many customers.  As such, most packing companies prefer to sell entire legs for a lower price than pay a butcher to detach the drumsticks from the thighs, which then have to go through the arduous processes of boning and skinning.

Whole chicken legs are often available at food stores for a lower price than the already detached chicken thigh and drumstick pieces. So, make sure to get these deals because separating the two at home by yourself is pretty simple. A sharp knife is all you need to save a few bucks on your food spending.

Chicken Leg vs Drumstick: Which One Is Better?

Which is better, the chicken leg or the drumstick? Well, that depends.

You might want to go with the chicken leg if you’re after a tasty yet healthy option between the two cuts. On the other hand, the drumstick is often seen as the most delectable piece, but it’s also fattier, making it unhealthy if taken in huge quantities. 

However, both options are great and offer similar nutrients, such as iron and protein, which could benefit your energy levels and muscle building. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Here are some frequently asked questions about chicken legs and drumsticks:

Are chicken legs healthy to eat?

Yes. As mentioned earlier, chicken legs are an excellent source of protein, which our bodies need for muscle growth and tissue repair.
Are chicken legs an option for people with diabetes?
Yes. Chicken doesn’t have carbs and therefore doesn’t really affect one’s blood sugar levels.

How long should you grill your drumsticks?

Grilling your drumsticks for roughly 30 minutes will leave you with perfectly succulent chicken drumsticks, ideal for any recipe.

Do chicken legs include the feet?

No. Chicken feet only consist of bone, cartilage, and some skin, all of which have minimal utility. For this reason, they are always removed.

How do you know your chicken legs are done?

Well, poke the meat and check for clear or red juices. 
If the juices appear pinkish or red, allow your meat to cook for a bit longer. But, if you poke the chicken and the juices look clear, your chicken legs are well cooked.