How to Make Smoked Turkey Legs

Whether you are eating it whole, renaissance fair-style, or want to add a bit of savory smoke flavor to your favorite soup or stew, making homemade smoked turkey legs is easier than you think. Follow these simple steps and you’ll be on your way to a savory treat.

Barbecue Smoked Turkey Leg

Smoked Turkey Legs | Photo by Bigstock

1. Get a Leg Up

It can sometimes be tricky to find turkey legs when it’s not the holidays. And, when you do, they are often part of the whole bird. Ask the butcher at your local market for help, and see if they can order the legs from the large male turkeys instead of the smaller females (if you want fair-style jumbo legs).

2. Brining Is Best

Though it’s not absolutely necessary, taking the time to brine your bird legs before you smoke them will add flavor and moisture. You can either make a wet brine (soaking the legs in a salt water solution) or a dry brine (sprinkling the legs directly with salt). If using a wet brine, make sure you cool it completely before adding your turkey legs. Mix and match your favorite vegetables, herbs, and sauces into the brine to add even more flavor.

Brined Turkey

Photo by Buckwheat Queen

3. Rinse and Dry

To make sure your turkey legs aren’t too salty, give them a quick rinse after brining. This also helps to remove any excess seasoning that may burn while smoking. Make sure to pat the legs dry, using plenty of paper towels, to get perfect golden brown skin.

4. Rub-a-Dub-Dub

Lightly rub the turkey legs with high-heat oil (don’t use olive oil, as it can burn easily), then apply your favorite combination of spices, seasoning rub, or just go au-natural.

Johnny's Spice Rub

Photo by mommyluvs2cook

5. Let’s Get Smokin’

Here is where all of that preparation is put to good use: the smoking! Add your favorite wood chips or charcoal to a smoker, and preheat the smoker to 250 to 275 degrees F. Smoke the turkey leg or legs low and slow until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. This could take three to six hours, depending on the size of your turkey legs.

Smoking Turkey Legs

Photo by Meredith

If you don’t have a smoker, you can use a gas or charcoal grill to get the same tender and delicious smoked turkey meat.

For a charcoal grill: Place a drip pan on the under the grill grate and pile hot charcoal or wood chips on either side. Stack the charcoal (and check it every 20 to 30 minutes) to make sure your grill temperature is maintaining 250 to 275 degrees F.

For a gas grill: Wrap your wood chips in foil and poke a few holes in the package to let the smoke escape. Turn on your grill and toss the foil package on the grate. Heat everything until it starts smoking, then turn off all of the burners except for the one with the foil package. Place your turkey legs over indirect heat (the side that is not turned on) and smoke. Keep track of the grill temperature and smokiness, and fidget with both, if necessary, until the turkey is cooked through.

6. Too Much of a Good Thing?

If your eyes are bigger than your stomach and you have a little smoked turkey leftover, use it up in some of our favorite recipes:

Cobb Salad

Photo by Molly

Gobbling for More? If the turkey leg wasn’t enough, learn about ThanksGrilling your next turkey, how to cook the whole bird, or how to turn the leftovers into quick workday lunches.


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