Your whole family is going to love my Smoked Turkey Legs! The smoky flavor and moist, tender turkey meat is a delicious way to serve everyone’s favorite part of this noble bird. And when it comes to turkey, the succulent dark meat is where the flavor is at!
And with my easy recipe, there’s no need to cook a whole turkey or wait for the holiday season to enjoy delicious turkey drumsticks with perfectly seasoned crispy skin.
The first time I sampled a smoked turkey leg was at Disney World. And if you’ve ever been to Disneyworld, you know that smoked turkey drumsticks are a staple of the Magic Kingdom.
And making your own smoked turkey legs is a great alternative to traveling to Florida and definitely cheaper than a trip to the theme parks!
The flavorful meat of the smoked turkey legs is something you need to try at least once in your life. Besides Disney, I’ve sampled smoked turkey legs at state fairs and Renaissance fairs around the country. But I have to say, these are some of the best-smoked turkey legs I’ve ever tasted!
Ingredients for Smoked Turkey Legs
Let’s start by gathering the ingredients we need to make Smoked Turkey Legs. In Chef Speak, this is called the “Mise en Place,” which translates to “Everything in its Place.”
Not only does setting up your ingredients ahead of time speed up the cooking process, it also helps ensure you have everything you need to make the dish.
Made with simple ingredients
I didn’t use a lot of seasonings for the dry rub, just black pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. Most of the flavor in my turkey leg recipe will come from the wet brine.
Feel free to add your favorite seasonings to the dry rub. Sweet paprika and poultry seasoning would make nice additions. For a touch of sweetness, add a little brown sugar, and for a touch of heat, add a little bit of cayenne pepper.
How to make Smoked Turkey Legs
Start by making a wet brine.
This simple brine is easy to make and easily adaptable to your taste preferences.
For additional flavor, you can add your favorite fresh herbs and aromatics to this simple brine. Bay leaves, sage, cut orange wedges, or lemon wedges would be good additions to the wet brine.
- Add the vegetable stock and seasonings to a large saucepan.
- Bring the brine ingredients to a boil (make sure all the kosher salt has dissolved). Remove from the heat and let the brining mixture cool for 15 minutes.
- Add the ice to the brine mixture and pour into a container large enough to hold the turkey legs. *You can use a large ziplock bag for this process.
- Add the turkey to the simple brine, then add enough cold water to cover the legs. Then cover the container with cling wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least four hours (overnight brine is best).
Table salt is not the same as Kosher salt. If you don’t have kosher salt, use 1 tablespoon of table salt (½ the amount of kosher salt).
*See the notes in the recipe card for a dry brine recipe you can use with this turkey legs recipe.
- Preheat your smoker to 275 degrees. Let the legs come to room temperature while the smoker preheats. This will help them cook more evenly.
- When the smoker has reached 275 degrees F., add your favorite wood chips to the smoker tube. I used hickory wood chips for this recipe.
I use an electric smoker for smoking meats and seafood. It’s easy to use and takes all the work out of using a smoker.
If you don’t have a smoker, you can use a pellet grill (pellet smoker), charcoal grill, or gas grill to make my smoked turkey thighs. Place the turkey legs directly on the grill grate and use indirect heat to smoke the meat. Just make sure the grill temperature reads 275 degrees F. Don’t let the grill temperature get any higher; high heat is not your friend.
- Remove the turkey from the brine, making sure to get rid of any excess liquid. Then, pat the legs dry using paper towels.
- Season the legs on all sides with the dry seasoning mixture of black pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. *I don’t use a lot of different seasonings for the dry rub. The brine will give most of the flavor to the turkey.
- Place the turkey legs directly on the smoker rack with a roasting pan underneath to catch all the drippings from the thighs, and place a temperature probe in the thickest part of the leg.
- When the legs reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees, wrap the bone end with aluminum foil to help keep the skin from shrinking up the leg.
- When the smoked turkey drumsticks have reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees, remove them from the smoker and let them rest for 15-30 minutes before serving to give the juice time to redistribute
*Remember we are cooking for an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Cook times will vary depending on the size of the turkey and the type of smoker.
Store leftover smoked turkey legs in an airtight container for 2-3 days. To store in the freezer, double wrap the legs in plastic wrap, then store in a ziplock bag, in your freezer for up to 2 months.
Air dry the turkey legs for 24 hours in the refrigerator to remove excess moisture from the skin. The less water in the skin, the crispier the skin will get. Do not cover the turkey with foil once it’s finished smoking; that will cause the skin to lose its crispness.
Wet brining is one of the best ways to add moisture to turkey. Not only does it add a lot of flavor, but it also helps the turkey retain moisture during the smoking process. Wet brine your turkey for a minimum of 4 hours, up to 12 hours, for the best results.
I prefer to smoke whole and turkey parts at 275 degrees F. Smoking turkey at a higher temperature helps the skin to get crisper and more browned. It cooks quicker, and you run less of a risk of the turkey drying out over prolonged cooking times.
Smoking at 225 or 250 not only takes longer but causes the meat to become dry and tasteless.
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I love the ThermoPro wireless meat thermometers. The easy to use app makes it easy to track the temperatures of the meats and seafood your cooking.
You get a great variety of wood chips with this starter pack. You get one bag of apple, cheery, mesquite, and hickory wood chips in each variety pack.