Smoked Turkey Legs

Can smoked turkey legs you make at home possibly be as good as the ones like at the fair or carnival or Renaissance festival or Disney? Actually, they’re even better. All it takes is a simple brine and a little patience.

Smoked Turkey Legs

Ever wonder if smoked turkey legs made at home could possibly be as good as the ones at carnivals and Renaissance festivals?  Actually, they’re better. And you don’t have to stand in a long line to get one. Or pay an exorbitant price. An overnight soak in a brine and a few hours on a smoker or grill is all you need. Trust us, these smoked turkey legs are so rich, so succulent, so infused with flavor that we bet your friends and family would happily wait in line and pay for these drumsticks…or maybe at least do the dishes.Angie Zoobkoff

Special Equipment: Apple wood for smoking; instant-read thermometer

Smoked Turkey Legs Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 1 D, 4 H
  • Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 5 cups (1.2 liters) cold water
  • 1/2 cup (172 grams) kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup (85 grams) honey
  • 1 tablespoon (7 grams) paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon (3 grams) onion powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon (5 grams) garlic powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon (3 grams) black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) cayenne pepper
  • 4 allspice berries
  • 1 cup ice cubes, plus more as needed
  • 4 turkey legs

Directions

  • 1. In a large pot, combine 3 cups water, salt, honey, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and allspice. Bring to a boil and then stir in the remaining 2 cups cold water and ice cubes. Stir until the ice melts and the mixture comes to room temperature. Add more ice if needed.
  • 2. Place the turkey legs in gallon-size resealable plastic bags—2 legs per bag—and then divide the brine evenly between each bag. Seal the bags and stash them in the refrigerator to brine overnight.
  • 3. The next day, pour the brine down the drain and then rinse the turkey legs and pat them dry. Prepare your grill for indirect smoking,

    If using a smoker, prepare it for cooking at 245°F to 260°F (118°C to 127°C) using apple wood. Place the turkey legs in the smoker and let it do what it’s designed for. Smoke the turkey legs, keeping the temperature between 245°F to 260°F (118°C to 127°C), until the internal temperature of the turkey registers 165°F (74°C), 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours.

    If using a gas grill, wrap a handful of unsoaked apple wood chips in foil, poke a few holes in the foil, and toss it on one side of the grill grate. Turn on all the burners and leave the lid of the grill open until you see smoke coming from the foil packet. Turn off all the burners but the one beneath the foil packet. Place the turkey directly on the grate over indirect heat (that is to say, opposite the lit burner and the foil packet), close the lid, and turn the heat to medium. Smoke the turkey legs, keeping the temperature between 245°F to 260°F (118°C to 127°C), until the internal temperature of the turkey registers 165°F (74°C), 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours. You may need to occasionally check the foil packet to ensure it’s still smoking; if it’s not, fashion a new one and toss it on the burner you’re using for heat.

    If using a charcoal grill, place a metal drip pan in the center of the grill under the grate. Pour about 1/2 inch (12 mm) water into the drip pan. Pile hot charcoal on either side of the drip pan and close the lid. Manipulate the coals to maintain a temperature of 245°F to 260°F (118°C to 127°C). Toss a handful of unsoaked apple wood chips directly on the charcoal. Place the turkey legs directly on the grate over the drip pan. Smoke the turkey legs, keeping the temperature between 245°F to 260°F (118°C to 127°C), until the internal temperature of the turkey registers 165°F (74°C), 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours. You may need to occasionally check the wood chips to ensure they’re still smoking; if they’re not, toss another handful onto the charcoal.
  • 4. When the turkey legs are done, remove them from the grill or smoker and let them rest for at least 5 minutes before allowing everyone to dig in and demolish them.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

Smoked turkey legs have never been high on my must-try carnival food list. However, after making these, I think I'll be indulging every opportunity I get! They were truly exceptional. Crispy and smoky on the outside, while remaining moist and tender on the inside, thanks to the overnight brine. The spice list seems a little heavy on the black and cayenne pepper at first glance, but don't shy away from it—the smoked turkey legs were full of flavor from the spices but not spicy at all. Would I serve them at Thanksgiving? They certainly were tasty enough to serve to company, and if your Thanksgiving dinner was a fairly casual affair or an outdoor dinner, I think this would be a great fit. In a traditional formal Thanksgiving dinner setting, they might be a bit out of place.

The end product of this smoked turkey legs recipe is a very rich, smoky meat that’s superb in flavor and texture. It’s reminiscent of the fare at almost anyplace I’ve visited that features smoked turkey legs. The best part is that you can make these at a fraction of the cost! Robust and flavorful, they would be a welcome addition to many a festive table or picnic table! I used one as a treat along with the deli meats and cheese meal that we usually have on weekends. One thing to keep in mind, though, is you’ll probably want to discard the skin, just as you would after smoking any fowl. Finishing the turkey legs for a few minutes on the grill might fix that, but it’s never guaranteed, and you risk ruining the meat. No problem. That luscious smoked turkey meat will have you forgetting all about the skin! I used apple wood.

Comments

    1. Arthur, absolutely. I have a Cameron’s stovetop smoker and while I haven’t made these turkey legs in it, I’ve adapted many a regular smoker recipe for the stovetop and I suspect you have, too. You may need to adjust the timing slightly. Otherwise, it should all be very straightforward. Go for it!

  1. This is my first time using my smoker since last September. Had a couple of back & foot surgeries which have kept me sidelined. Found two packs of 3 each turkey drumsticks for a combined total of ~$7 so we grabbed them. Figured if nothing else it was a fairly cheap addition to our homemade dog food. Strolling around the Internet, I came across this site. They sounded scrumptious so I jumped in with both feet and got to work.

    Everything was chugging right along. Got my water and ice cubes; got my big bottles of spices – garlic, onion powder, paprika – from the main cabinet then headed for the spice door and things kinda ground to a halt.

    No allspice. No cayenne. Dang. Well, I got black pepper! Feeling adventurous I stared at star anise, anise seeds, and cloves (of which we have plenty). So I increased the price of black pepper by *maybe* a quarter and added two small pinches of anise seed.

    Combined and brought everything to a boil then added the remaining water & ice. About 30 minutes later the brine was pretty well cooled down, so I put three drumsticks in a gallon sized freezer bag and dropped them in a cooler full of ice for the next 18-24 hours.

    Put some apple wood in a covered bucket of water to soak overnight and got all my utensils together. (in addition to the turkey legs I’m doing ribs and some excellent smoked BBQ chicken wings)

    I got started around 3:30 EST today. Got the smoker heated up and slapped the legs in at about 255°. As a side note, if your manual for your smoker says “Don’t use chunk wood!”, do yourself a big favor and don’t use chunk wood. Long story short, once the moisture evaporated the chunks caught on fire. If I hadn’t come out when I did, I would have lost the drumsticks. The smoker was well on its way to 450°!

    Fortunately, someone was looking out for me because the legs had just barely broken 100°. I was able to salvage it all. Got the temperature stabilized and, after another few minutes, I got my wings in, too.

    Bottom line: Really good recipe! Another goof I made in the spice department was I didn’t pay attention to the Kosher Salt–we *always* use coarse. I was talking to relatives and wasn’t looking at the salt. Turns out it was the finer grind so I was afraid they were going to be too salty but everyone loved them–even the ones who don’t even like turkey legs.

    Thanks so much for developing and sharing this recipe. It’s definitely a keeper!

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