Honey-Soy Chicken Drumsticks, Thighs or Wings

honey-soy chicken drumsticks

In the spirit of old-fashioned, unsubtle, crowd-pleasing recipes, I offer another oldie but goodie from The New New York Times Cookbook (Craig Claiborne, 1979), a recipe my mother pulled out for nearly every cocktail party she hosted and attended for at least two decades. The original recipe calls for wings, which people go gaga over, but the sauce and cooking method work just as well with drumsticks and thighs, if you’re looking for a super-easy dinner adored by children and adults alike.

While the chicken bakes for a fairly long time — an hour to an hour and 15 minutes — in the brief time it takes for your oven to preheat, your chicken can be prepped and smothered with the magic sauce, a mixture of honey, soy sauce, ketchup, garlic and oil, leaving you with an hour of freedom, perhaps to prepare a simple salad or side dish, perhaps to sit down with a good book and a nice cocktail. As with the honey-baked chicken legs, it’s hard not to play caveman while eating these drummies — a fork and knife just can’t get the job done. What can I say? This is not gourmet cooking, and it’s not gourmet eating — you might just want to break out the moist towelettes for this one.

sauce ingredients

sauce and drummies

unbaked drummies

Don’t be alarmed when you open your oven and find this:
pan, just out of the oven

Once the bubbling subsides, your chicken will surface…
just-baked chicken drummies

…piping hot, meat falling off the bone.
cut-up chicken drumstick

meat from just-baked chicken drummies

Try not (initially at least) to curse my name during the post-dinner clean-up:
soiled pan

After a quick soak and a teensy bit of elbow grease, just a few burnt edges will remain.
clean pan

Honey-Soy Chicken Wings

Source: My mother via The New New York Times Cookbook (Craig Claiborne, 1979)

Notes: If making a small batch — 5 drumsticks or 4 thighs, etc. — halve the sauce recipe but keep the cooking time the same.

Wings are perfect for a Super Bowl party. Definitely cook the wings until the sauce is thick, which usually means 1 hr and 15 minutes. Wings are very forgiving — don’t worry about overcooking them (within in reason).

18 chicken wings or 10 drumsticks or 4 thighs and 5 drumsticks, etc.
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons oil — peanut, canola, vegetable, etc.
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 cup honey
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced

1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. If using wings: wash and dry, cut off wing tips and place on a rimmed baking sheet. If using the larger quantity of drumsticks and/or thighs: wash and dry and place in a 9X13-inch pan; if using the smaller quantity, wash and dry and place in a 8×8-inch (or something similar) pan. Season lightly with salt (as soy is salty) and pepper to taste.

2. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over chicken. Toss chicken (with your hands, if you don’t mind, or with tongs, if you do) and then arrange skin-side down in the baking pan. Place in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove pan, turn chicken over, and return to the oven for another 30 minutes. Remove pan and turn chicken over once more. I find that the chicken is usually done at this point, but my mother likes to cook hers for another 15 minutes, which is what the original recipe calls for, too, although the original recipe also calls for a 375ºF oven temp. It’s your call — you can’t mess it up. I suggest turning the oven down to 375ºF if you do bake it for an additional 15 minutes.

I have been making this a lot recently. When we have visitors, I double up on the drumsticks,
chicken drummies, lots of them

or use a combination of thighs and drumsticks:
thighs and drummies


  1. Hello…I am really wanting to make this…sounds delish but I scrolled thru to see if anyone had made this without the skin on the chicken before bugging you but couldn’t see anything. I hate the skin & won’t eat it but i can’t see having to take it off…it seems that’s where all the sticky flavor would be. I have no problem using thighs and legs since we eat chicken breast nearly every night but I just wondered if you or anyone else had ever cooked this without the skin? Looking forward to it on my menu this week but just wondered about skin or no skin…that is the question?;)

    • Hi Gabby! I have two thoughts: 1. Leave the skin on during the cooking. Remove it (scrape off as much sauce as possible beforehand) and discard it after the cooking. Spoon sauce over the pieces before serving. This will prevent drying out. 2. Remove skin before cooking. Baste periodically during the cooking time. I have never tried this but it is worth a shot if you abhor skin :) I worry a little bit about the pieces drying out. Good luck with it! I love this recipe.

  2. i just wanted to say hi – i came across your website in an attempt to see if my mother’s wing recipe would work for thighs. i wanted to make it so badly but the store didn’t have any wings. your site was the first result and wouldn’t you know, it’s pretty much the same recipe my mom has been making for ages too!

    she uses brown sugar in place of the honey, and each time she turns the chicken, she sprinkles on a bit more brown sugar and dribbles on a bit more soy sauce. even though they are done probably after 1.5 hours, she always manages to keep them in for 2.5 or yes, really, even THREE hours to ensure they are super sticky and delicious! (at 375 for the first 45 minutes, and 350 thereafter.) i haven’t yet been able to keep mine in that long without burning them, but i have hit the two hour mark with good results. i also saw some (albeit old) comments about foil – my mom always uses heavy duty foil with this to save the pan and make cleanup easier and i have never noticed a difference in taste. when i make it i just use a naked glass baking dish though – simply because i’m lazy and never seem to remember to buy foil to have on hand, haha.

    sorry for the novel, i just love running into other people on the internet who have the same memories about random stuff. great site!

    • Love the novel! Thanks so much for writing in. My mother somehow lets her wings go for forever, too, without burning. Love the idea of brown sugar — going to try this. And I have never had adverse affects with foil either. It really can be a huge time saver. Thanks for your kind words!

  3. I found your recipe but had no chicken on hand so I decided to slow cook a pork roast I had using the same recipe. It was absolutely amazing! All I did was put the roast on very low heat in the oven and covered it until it was done. I’m finally trying it today with the chicken legs and I know it’s going to be great! Thanks for sharing :)

    • So happy to hear this! And, although I have never tried, I think this would be the perfect recipe to make in the crock pot. You are inspiring me. Let me know if you have success!


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