What Is Smoked Turkey Leg?

Angela Farrer
Angela Farrer
A turkey.
A turkey.

Smoked turkey leg is a turkey dish made by soaking the legs of the bird in a flavoring brine prior to cooking them in a smoker, barbeque grill, or oven. This method of turkey preparation often yields richer flavors than other ways of cooking turkey. While traditional recipes for smoked turkey legs require the use of a wood smoker, other recipes are adapted so that home cooks without one can also enjoy a smoked turkey leg. The brine used for each turkey leg can be made from a mixture of flavoring stock, salt, brown sugar, and any number of possible seasonings.

The average turkey leg is larger and thicker than those from other birds such as chickens. This normally translates into longer brine-soaking and cooking times. Many recipes have instructions for soaking fresh turkey legs in the prepared brine for at least four hours on average. Some experienced cooks brine their turkey legs for six to nine hours for the liquid to soak into the meat as much as possible.

Ingredients used to make smoked turkey leg brine can include garlic salt, red pepper, onion powder, and hot sauce. Brown sugar is considered a staple for many brine recipes because it gives each smoked turkey leg just the right balance of sweet and savory flavors. Depending on the number of turkey legs to be smoked, the average brine recipe calls for 1 gallon (about 3.8 liters) of liquid to ensure the turkey is fully covered during the soaking process. Some cooks use water for their brine recipes of choice; others report that chicken or vegetable stock has better flavor results.

Once the brine ingredients are mixed together, the liquid is usually brought to a boil in a large stove top pot. The mixture is then cooled in the refrigerator until it reaches around 40° F (about 4.4° C). Each turkey leg is submerged in the brine for the prescribed length of time, and the cook then removes each leg and rinses away the remaining seasoning on its surface.

Cooking a smoked turkey leg batch in a smoker entails letting the heat source reach around 240° F (about 115.5° C) before placing the legs in the grate above the smoke source. The average cook time for this method is about three to four hours for most turkey legs. Smoked turkey legs cooked in a standard kitchen oven are usually done after about 45 to 60 minutes.

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    • A turkey.
      By: Jeffrey Banke
      A turkey.