How to prepare crispy baked chicken leg quarters (aka chicken legs and thighs) with juicy, tender meat.
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- Read on for useful information and step by step pictures (about 2 mins)
Exactly What Are Chicken Leg Quarters?
A chicken leg quarter is a chicken leg (thigh and drumstick in one piece) with a part of the back bone still attached to it.
If the back bone is removed, the cut becomes a whole chicken leg aka thigh-drumstick. Depending on where you shop for chicken you are likely to encounter either type of cut.
Consequently, baked chicken legs and thighs are simply baked chicken leg quarters with already separated back bones.
How to Remove the Backbone
We prefer to remove the back bone from chicken quarters (see how below) before baking them. In that way there is no need to tackle it once the chicken is cooked. (This is however a completely optional prep step, feel free to skip it.)
If you don’t:
- use a sturdy pair of kitchen scissors
- turn around each leg quarter so you can easily see the bone and firmly cut alongside it, in several steps, working your way up
TIP: To save the bones freeze them in a zip lock bag – you can use them to make chicken stock.
Chicken leg quarters. As noted above, you can choose to remove the attached backbones and bake only the thigh-drumsticks.
Cooking oil. A little bit to mix with your choice of seasonings to brush over the chicken skin and just enough to coat the bottom of the baking dish before you place the leg quarters in it. We like to use olive oil.
Seasonings. We love to use paprika because it gives such a great color to the skin of the chicken. The rest of the seasonings we used here were oregano, garlic powder, cumin and salt and pepper. For a different flavor profile but just as beautiful golden colored skin you can go with curry powder (or turmeric), coriander, cumin, onion powder, salt and pepper. The seasonings are entirely up to you.
Flavorful liquid. We use equal parts chicken stock and a balanced ale or lager – they create a very flavorful combination and infuse the chicken with tasty moisture as it cooks (not far from the concept of beer can chicken). You can also go with equal parts white wine and chicken stock or only chicken stock.
How to Bake Chicken Leg Quarters
The goal is twofold – flavorful, juicy, tender meat and crispy skin.
To address the first part we follow Chris’ tried and true method of baking dark chicken meat – we add a flavorful liquid and create an air tight seal around the baking dish. In this manner it remains moist throughout most of the cooking process and the meat is infused with flavors. Either a braiser or a deep baking dish will serve you best. Use a lid or create one with food wrap and foil as shown below.
- Preheat your oven to 350 – 375 F, depending on how strong it tends to be.
- Pat dry the chicken, place in a greased baking dish, mix the oil and seasonings and brush over the chicken.
- Add the flavorful liquid of your choice, then cover.
- Cook covered for about 30 minutes to give time to the chicken fat to render and the collagen of the connective tissues to begin breaking down. Simultaneously the meat will be infused with the deliciousness of the stock and the beer.
- After 30 mins remove the lid/food wrap and foil and bake for about 20 more minutes, as needed. The skin will begin to get crispy.
TIP: You can always simply bake at 350 to 375 F, uncovered until done, but in that case we recommend that you brine the chicken first as a counter measure to excessive drying.
TIP: The reason we use food wrap and then aluminum foil is because during baking, if in contact with the salt and spices over the chicken skin aluminum could leach into it and increase the total aluminum content. You do not have to do it, but since this is the food safety compliant method Chris uses in a professional kitchen, we decided to show it here for your benefit.
How to Know When the Chicken Legs and Thighs Are Done?
It depends on how many and how large the chicken legs are, if you brought them to room temperature before baking or not, the calibration of your oven. It is not an exact science – bake until done.
Overall, oven baked chicken legs are done when the internal temperature reaches 165 F and the skin gets crispy enough for your liking.
Use a food thermometer to take internal temperature and be sure to measure it from the very center of each chicken quarter.
TIP: For extra crispy baked chicken leg quarters you can turn on the broiler for the last couple of minutes. Watch them closely.
How To Serve Baked Chicken Legs and Thighs
Obviously, you can serve them with whatever you’d like. We like to make sides complementary to the seasonings for the chicken.
For this post we cut eggplant, yellow and orange bell peppers into more or less uniformly sized pieces, tossed them in 2 tbsp of olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper and spread them over a parchment paper lined baking sheet (for easy clean up later). We placed them in the oven at the same time we opened it to remove the covering from the baking dish.
It is a convenient way to prepare a side without using the stove and piggyback on the oven.
- 2 chicken leg quarters
- 2 tbsp olive oil + a bit more to grease a baking dish
- 1 tsp garlic salt
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp coarse salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup balanced beer or white wine*
- Preheat oven to 350-375 F, depending on how strong your oven tends to be.
- Pat dry the chicken leg quarters, if needed and desired remove attached back bone parts using sturdy kitchen scissors**
- Mix the olive oil and spices. Brush a baking dish with olive oil. Place the chicken legs inside and brush the skin with the spice mixture.
- Cover with a lid or a seal combination of food wrap and aluminum foil*** to prevent moisture from escaping. Bake for 30 mins.
- Remove the lid/seal cover and bake for about 20 more minutes until the internal chicken temperature when measured closest to the center, near the bone reaches 165 F and the skin becomes crispy enough to your liking.****
- For extra crispy skin broil for a couple of minutes at the very end and be sure to closely watch the chicken legs.
*You can also double the chicken stock instead of using beer or white wine.
** See body of post for step by step pictures.
***According to food safety standards direct contact between aluminum foil and the spices on the chicken is not encouraged.
****If you do not want to deal with covering the chicken quarters simply bake uncovered for about 50 minutes until done. This method is likely to give you a bit dryer meat, so brining the chicken before cooking it would be useful. Here is a recipe for a basic chicken brine.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 357Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 165mgSodium: 1733mgCarbohydrates: 4gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 32g