BBQ chicken lollipops are a simple-to-master crowd pleaser. Kerren Packer tells us how to whip up these tasty treats.
Difficulty: Novice (experimentation encouraged)
Prep time: 20mins
Cook time: 60-70mins
• 12 x plump chicken drumsticks (hint: Aussie Butcher)
• ¼ cup of honey, golden syrup or maple syrup
• Rum & Que Soft Coq meat rub
• Rum & Que Meat Juice Sauce
• Hot sauce (to taste)
• Sharp kitchen knife
• Kitchen shears
• Marinade brush
• Meat thermometer
• Hot fried bread
• Fresh coleslaw
• Potato salad
• BBQed corn on the cob with lashings of melted butter
• Icy cold beer.
Chicken lollipops, while delicious, are also fairly straight forward to master. They are a great beginner option for those wanting to dip their toes into BBQ life, taking the heat off newbies worried about potentially wrecking an expensive BBQ cut of beef or pork early on in their career.
1 First things first, pre-heat your chosen BBQ to 175°C. I used a Traeger Pallet Grill for this example, but also get great results from my ProQ Charcoal Kettle. You can get reasonable results from a basic hooded gas BBQ with a smoke adapter.
2 Right, on with creating your BBQ chicken lollipops. Use drumsticks that have been given a chance to get to “room temperature” rather than using cold chicken directly from the fridge. With a sharp knife or kitchen shears, start by making a cut all of the way around (effectively ‘ring barking’) at the location where the leg muscle meets the bone. Once the skin and tendons have been cut, push the superfluous skin, sinew and tendons up and over the knuckle to expose the bone. This can prove a little tricky to begin with, but once you have the knack it’s a 30 second job max per drumstick.
3 Then, using kitchen shears remove the thin bone that runs up the length of the main bone, and trim away any further exposed tendons. Pull the loose skin up over the exposed meat and around the exposed bone – this helps prevent the lollipops from drying out.
4 At this stage test that your lollipops stand-up vertically unassisted on a flat surface. If not, you may need square them up by shaving off some of the bone from the bases of the drumsticks. Now your “lollipops” are starting to take shape.
5 In a microwave or stove top, warm up the honey, golden syrup or maple syrup (organic if you can get it) until runny, then apply a light coating on to the chicken skin with a marinade brush – this allows the BBQ rub in the next stage to coat and stick better.
6 Sprinkle your favourite meat rub on to the chicken skin. If I don’t have time to make my own rub, I use an “off the shelf” New Zealand product called Soft Coq made by the award-winning BBQ pit master team – Rum & Que. It has an amazing flavour profile punctuated with “sweet-heat” accents. Soft Coq is perfect for chicken lollipops and available online or from selected retailers.
7 Before the BBQing commences, some folk like to shield the exposed bone with tinfoil to prevent discoloration and burning. This improves the overall aesthetic and is a must for competition BBQ, so well worth the extra effort.
8 Evenly space the chicken lollipops either directly on the grill (keep away from any direct exposure to flames) for infusing more smoke flavours or in an oven/muffin tray with a small knob of butter to prevent sticking, then let cook/smoke for 40-50mins.
9 While the BBQ is going about its business, gently heat through, simmer and reduce a cup or two of your favourite BBQ sauce in a pot to use as the base. From there, go ahead and get creative “to taste” – add a knob of butter, extra hot sauce, chilli flakes, brown sugar, garlic salt, pepper, soy sauce or anything else you enjoy (keep an eye on the sugars burning while rummaging through the pantry though). For those fussy eaters, a more basic “plain jane” option may suit. For a vibrant red toffee apple look, experiment with red food colouring.
10 Select the plumpest lollipop and using a meat thermometer check the internal temp is 75°C (food safe). Remove lollipops from BBQ and set aside in an oven tray or similar.
11 Increase the BBQ temperature to 205°C. Remove the tinfoil and dip the chicken lollipops into the pot of reduced BBQ sauce. Coat the chicken liberally using a marinade brush and then put back on the oven tray. Once all lollipops are sufficiently sauced, place all lollipops back on to the BBQ at the same time for an even finish.
12 BBQ for a further 10mins or until internal temperature of the chicken reaches 80°C. Check regularly to ensure the glaze is not burning.
13 When ready, the BBQ chicken lollipops should have a toffee apple sheen due to the caramelisation of the sugars in the glaze and definitely should not fall off the bone but allow for bite-through skin – judges in BBQ competitions place a lot of weighting on the skin being crispy rather than rubbery.
And you’re done! Serve hot as a meal or take chilled to the picnic. A seriously cool way to do something a bit special with the humble chicken drumstick – get stuck in!