Smoked Turkey Legs

smoked turkey legs on displayed with fresh sage leaves
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There’s something about enjoying a smoky, succulent turkey leg that feels rustic and satisfying. Delicious smoked turkey legs are sure to bring out your inner caveman. And while this dish may seem intimidating to cook at home, it’s actually quite simple!

In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to make smoked turkey legs that are perfectly juicy and flavorful. So get your smoker or grill ready, and let’s get cooking!

smoked turkey legs on a cutting board

You can also use this method to smoke a whole bird. Just keep in mind that the smoke time will be longer.

Special Equipment

Before we set up for smoking turkey legs, you’ll need a few things.

  • A smoker. A Big Green Egg, or Kamado Joe. Or you can use a Traeger Pellet Grill.
  • Lump charcoal. Never use charcoal briquets in your smoker.
  • Wood chunks or wood chips. Cherry wood, apple wood, pecan wood, or alder wood are a few of the best woods for turkey meat.
  • Meat thermometer. You can use an instant-read thermometer. However, I like to use a probe thermometer that you can monitor without opening the grill hood.
  • Aluminum foil.
  • A drip pan.

What Is The Best Smoker?

There are a lot of opinions on the best smokers. However, the best smoker is one you know how to use, giving you the best results.

Types of smokers that are a great option are:

  • A kamado grill such as Kamado Joe or the Big Green Egg.
  • A pellet grill like Traeger’s automatic feed pellet smokers.
  • An offset grill
  • A gas grill with a smoker box
  • A charcoal grill

Where to Buy Turkey Drumsticks

Tom’s Legs. If you’ve ever had a smoked turkey leg at a theme park or fair, you might have noticed that these turkey drumsticks are enormous. This is because these gargantuan turkey legs are tom turkey legs. They come from huge male turkeys. They can be hard to find in your local grocery store. Disney world and Disney land may be the primary purchasers of these caveman-sized turkey legs.

However, I did a little digging for online sources and found a few places that sell turkey legs.

Hen legs are much easy to find. They are smaller but are perfect for one person.

Full turkey legs – include the thigh and the drumstick.

You can almost always find turkey drumsticks at the butcher’s counter of your local grocery store. If you don’t see turkey legs in the meat display case, ask the butcher if they have them in the freezer. They aren’t always out. Especially when it’s not the Thanksgiving season

Dry Rub or Wet Brine

Of course, you want to flavor your turkey legs before smoking. Allow at least one day for this process.

  • Dry rub – I like to use a dry rub for this smoked turkey leg recipe. This method is also referred to as dry brining. More about that later.
  • Wet brine – I recommend using a wet brine for leaner meats such as Smoked Turkey Breast. The legs have more fat and therefore aren’t at risk of getting dried out during smoking. If you opt for a wet brine, it’s a good idea to brine the meat for no longer than 12 hours. A wet brine can make the meat mushy.
dry rubbed turkey legs ready for the smoker

Ingredients For Dry Rub For Turkey

I have a recipe for a dry rub that I’ve been using on my turkey for as long as I can remember. The recipe is adapted from Alton Brown’s spatchcock turkey recipe. I love the flavor of it, and you will be impressed by the flavorful meat you end up with when using a dry brine.

  • kosher salt
  • dried sage
  • dried thyme
  • black peppercorns
  • pink peppercorns
  • juniper berries
  • allspice berries
ingredients for dry rub for turkey

How To Set Up Your Smoker For Smoked Turkey

We will be setting up the kamado grill for indirect cooking.

Indirect cooking requires you to divert the heat by using a heat deflector.

The Kamado Joe and the Big Green egg have ceramic deflectors that can close off one side of the grill and redirect heat around the meat.

Another option is to use the Kamado Joe SloRoller Hyperbolic Insert for Classic Joe. This insert can also be fitted in a Big Green Egg.

BUILD A FIRE IN YOUR SMOKER

I like to use the double indirect method for smoking turkey legs This involves setting the smoker up for indirect heat and then using a slow roll chimney for further deflect the heat during the smoke.

  1. Add lump charcoal to one-half of the smoker. Never use charcoal briquets in your smoker.
  2. Light the charcoal using a BBQ torch or a starter block.
  3. Allow the charcoal to catch fire, and then open the top and the bottom vents as wide as they will go.
  4. Close the lid of the Kamado grill and allow the dome to preheat as the fire comes to temperature. This step is crucial for maintaining a steady and consistent smoker temperature.
  5. Bring the heat of your smoker up to 225℉. [225 to 275℉ is an acceptable range for smoking.]
  6. Add a few chunks of fruit wood. I recommend apple, pecan, hickory, or alder wood for turkey.

FINISH THE SMOKER SETUP

  1. Add the heat deflector from the sloroller chimney setup.
  2. Add the grate support and the grill grates.
  3. Set up a drip pan under the meat.

COOK YOUR TURKEY LEGS ON THE SMOKER

  1. Smoke the turkey until the internal temperature reaches 150 to 155℉.
  2. Brush the turkey with melted butter and continue to smoke until the internal temperature is between 155 and 160℉.
  3. Remove the turkey from the grill, cover it with a foil tent and rest for 20 minutes before slicing.

EXPERT TIPS FOR SMOKING WITH THE KAMADO JOE

I learned a few helpful tips that made cooking on this mysterious ceramic egg much easier. I’m going to pass them on to you.

  1. The double indirect method. This method of cooking involves an indirect fire and a heat deflector.
  2. Preheating the dome. Heating the dome of the ceramic grill is essential. You want the dome to feel very warm to the touch. You should still be able to touch it, but it should be noticeably warm.
  3. Trusting the pit thermometer. The Kamado Joe has a pit thermometer built in. Trust the temperature of the built-in thermometer.
  4. How to set up the airflow. Airflow is controlled by a top vent in the chimney and a bottom vent. While the grill is heating up, you want maximum airflow.
  5. When to change the airflow. When the smoke comes up to a temperature of 225-275℉, you’ll want to slow the airflow by closing the bottom vent to approximately one finger’s width and the top chimney to the first line.
  6. Using a probe thermometer to monitor the cook. A probe thermometer is essential. It’s the only way to assess your meat’s internal temperature accurately. I like to use a remote probe thermometer that can be monitored on my phone. It’s best not to open the grill when smoking.
extra juicy turkey legs

WHAT TEMPERATURE TO SMOKE

There are a lot of diehard rules around what temperature is best for smoking. Ask 20 pitmasters, and you’ll get at least 15 answers.

The bottom line: 225 to 275℉ is an acceptable range for smoking.

A higher smoking temperature will develop bark quicker and can become tough if you don’t wrap it.

A lower temperature is acceptable for beef and pork but fails to crisp the skin on turkey and chicken. So you can raise the temperature at the end of the smoke to ensure that the skin is crisp.

My preferred range is 240-260℉ most of the time.

As you experiment with your smoker, you’ll find the right temperature that works with your smoker for the type of meat that you are cooking.

BBQ is a journey of love, and it’s a lot like art and wine. You like what you like. Once you know the basics, you can learn to adjust the smoke to get that perfect flavor and texture!!

HOW LONG TO SMOKE TURKEY LEGS

The time it takes to smoke turkey legs depends on many factors. The size of the turkey breast. The heat of the fire. And even the temperature outside.

The most reliable way to test for doneness is a probe thermometer.

inside of smoked turkey legs showing tenderness

What Temperature For Smoked Turkey Legs

Finished Temp = 200℉. The safe internal temperature of the turkey is 165℉. However, because turkey legs have a lot of connective tissue, I like to bring them up to a higher temperature before pulling them off the heat.

Connective tissue is fully broken down at around 200 – 204℉. Once the turkey legs reach 165℉, wrap them in butcher paper or aluminum foil and continue to cook them on the grill. Wrapping the legs helps to keep them moist during the last part of the cooking.

Pull Temp 195 to 200℉. To achieve the perfect temperature, you should pull the turkey off the heat source when the internal temperature reaches 195 to 200℉.

Carry overcooking continues during resting time. As the heat moves from the meat’s outside to the inside, the final temperature will rise to 5 to 10 degrees.

How To Store Leftover Turkey Legs

Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.

How To Reheat Turkey Legs

  1. To reheat turkey legs, first, bring them to room temperature. If they are frozen, you can move them to the refrigerator until they are thawed and then bring them to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350℉.
  3. Reheat until the internal temperature reaches 165℉.
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smoked turkey legs on displayed with fresh sage leaves

Smoked Turkey Legs

There's something about enjoying a smoky, succulent turkey leg that feels rustic and satisfying. Delicious smoked turkey legs are sure to bring out your inner caveman. And while this dish may seem intimidating to cook at home, it's actually quite simple!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Dry Brining Time 1 day
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4 turkey legs
Calories 416 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
 

  • 4 turkey legs
  • butter, for basting

Poultry Rub

Instructions
 

Prepare The Turkey Breast

  • Prepare the poultry rub by grining the spices in a spice grinder and them mixing them with the salt.
    3 ½ tablespoons kosher salt, 1 ½ teaspoon dried sage, 1 ½ teaspoon thyme, 1 ½ teaspoon black peppercorns, 1 ½ teaspoon pink peppercorns, ¼ teaspoon juniper berries, ¼ teaspoon whole allspice berries
  • Prepare a baking sheet by placing a wire rack over the heavy sheet pan.
  • Generously rub the turkey breast with the poultry rub.
  • Tie the turkey breast with butcher string to keep the shape uniform during the smoking.
  • Dry brine in the fridge for 1 to 4 days.

Set Up Your Smoker

  • Start by setting up your smoker and heating it to 225℉. 225 to 275℉ is an acceptable range for smoking.
  • Add a few chunks of fruit wood. I recommend apple or alder wood for turkey.
  • Set up a drip pan under the meat.
  • Smoke the turkey until the internal temperature reaches 155℉. Brush the turkey with melted butter and continue to smoke until the internal temperature is between 160 and 165℉.
  • Remove the turkey from the grill, cover it with a foil tent and rest for 20 minutes before slicing.

Video

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Nutrition

Serving: 11.5ouncesCalories: 416kcalProtein: 69.8gFat: 13.3gSaturated Fat: 4.1gCholesterol: 172mgSodium: 196mgCalcium: 56mgIron: 6mg
Keyword smoked turkey
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