Chicken drumsticks are one of the most commonly eaten parts of the chicken, providing dense, flavorful meat. Boiling chicken is a fast, simple, non-messy way of cooking chicken — either to eat as is or to save for use later. You can boil your drumsticks with or without the bones and skin, in plain or seasoned water or stock. Because it is a wet cooking method, boiled drumsticks stay moist, so there is no worry about dry, tough meat.
Bones and Skin
While you can boil drumsticks and other chicken parts without the bone or skin, they add flavor to meat and to the cooking liquid, which you can save to use later for homemade stock. Keeping the bone helps insulate the meat and prevents it from losing too much moisture. However, because you are boiling the chicken, there is less worry about moisture loss. Boneless chicken pieces, including drumsticks, will cook faster than bone-in pieces. If you are concerned about excess fat, cook the chicken with the skin on, and remove before serving.
Seasoning the Liquid
Boiling the chicken in plain water, or even water seasoned with salt, can lead to bland-tasting chicken. To give chicken a flavor boost, make a quick stock by boiling spices and herbs in the cooking liquid before adding your chicken. Use bay leaves, crushed garlic cloves, peppercorns and a sprig of fresh thyme for a simple seasoning. More elaborate versions use chicken stock to boil chicken, increasing the flavor of the meat, or highly savoury liquids, such as soy sauce and wine.
Boiling the Chicken Parts
Use a sauce pan large enough to comfortably hold all of your chicken pieces while fully submerged. Remember that at a rolling boil, some of the liquid may splash out, so ensure there is enough space. Bring your liquid to a boil at medium-high heat, and reduce the heat after you add in your chicken, cooking it at a simmer rather than at a heavy boil. \Bone-in pieces of chicken breast will be done in about 30 minutes, while boneless, skinless breasts will be ready in 15 to 20 minutes. Drumsticks, with the bone, will be ready in 40 to 50 minutes. To speed up cooking times, cover the pot with a lid while cooking.
Doneness and Storage
When fully cooked, the chicken will be white, or a pale brown color for some dark meat. There will be no signs of pink meat, and juices that run from the meat when cut will be clear. The best way to ensure doneness, however, is to use an instant-read thermometer. When the internal temperature reads 180 degrees Fahrenheit for dark meat and 170 F for breast meat, the chicken is fully cooked. Cooked chicken can be stored in the fridge in a sealed container for 3 to 4 days, or, if well wrapped, for 2 to 6 months in a freezer.
References and ResourcesJoy of Cooking; Irma S. Rombauer
Serious Eats: Ask The Food Lab -- Do Bones Add Flavor to Meat?
Appetite for China: Soy Sauce Chicken
Better Homes and Gardens: How to Boil Chicken Breasts
Perdue: Tips from the Kitchen -- Chicken Parts With Bones
Better Homes and Gardens: How to Test Meat and Poultry for Doneness
Foodsafety.gov: Storage Times for the Refrigerator and Freezer