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Smoking Turkey Legs -- Help, please

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Hi there,
I'm a newbie, so please be gentle.
I have recently been experimenting with smoking turkey drumsticks. I use the same brine that I use for Canadian style bacon. The flavor is great but the texture is like something that Goodyear would have the patent for.
My smoking process is a "cold" smoke. Thus the meat needs to be fully cooked after smoking. I tried roasting...tough would be a severe understatement. At this very moment, the drumsticks are into their 3rd hour of 180 to 190 deg.F water bath. Internal temp is 182deg.F. The meat is tender, but the wonderful Maple smoke flavor has moved into the water.
The water may make a good broth, but I didn't set out to make smoked turkey broth.
Can any one please suggest or straight out instruct me as to how to cook cold smoked turkey drumsticks so that they are juicy and tender while maintaining the delicate smokey flavor?

Gear mentioned in this thread:

post #2 of 16
Thread Starter 

Oops! Title would be "smoked turkey"

As a newbie, am I forgiven?
post #3 of 16
Of course you are! :D You'll get used to posting, I hope. Welcome!

I'm just sorry I don't know the answer -- but maybe someone else who smokes :smoking: does. :)
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
post #4 of 16

smoking turkey legs

Never tried it but we know that turkey legs have little fat and are tough. I would suggest that instead of boiling the cold smoked legs you braze them with just enough water to always have liquid in the bottom of the covered roasting pan. A 250 F oven for two hours should do it. If not tender then put back in for another half hour. Or, alternatively, smoke them at 225F for three or four hours.
post #5 of 16
First off I've never seen anyone cold smoke poultry before. Mostly I have used that for seafoods and vegetables and the occasional ham. I'm sure you get great flavor penetration though.

If you are intent on a cold smoke then... After you pull the legs from the smoker put them in a roasting pan as diego suggests. Only I would use a wire roasting rack to keep them off the bottom and out of the water.

As far as the water goes, only enough to keep the humidity up in the pan. About a cup should be sufficient. It's important to keep the meat out of the water since if this is where you get all the flavor loss and move more towards a poache or boiled meat. IMHPO boiling only should be used for Corned Beef unless you're making a stew or soup.:D

Then seal the top of the pan with plastic wrap, then parckment paper and finally a good heavy-duty foil. Make sure you crimp the ends over the rolled edge of the roasting pan very well.

The next step is dependent on how big the drums are. Basically I put my slow cook items in the oven at 225 deg and let'em go for around 2 hours. It usually doesn't take more than 3 but if you're using the massive Walt Disney World style drum then it'll be close to 3 hours.

The final alternative (as diego also pointed out) is to just go to a cold/hot smoke. Start out with how you're doing things now and then at about 2 hours in to things.... Crank up the heat and finsh in the smoker. Granted you don't get much (if any) smoke penetration above 180 deg but you will get a nice caramaliztion of juices on the meat. This adds to the flavor as well.:lips:

Hope this helps.
post #6 of 16
One of the standard meat items on our sandwich menu is house smoked chicken breasts. I would brine them, cold smoked them, then grill them off and when cold slice.

Turkey drumsticks are notorioulsy tough unless well cooked. If you think the extra work warrants it, you could bone them out and remove all those tendons. Now that it's flat it has more surface area and will smoke faster and better. Cook with whatever method you want. If you think it needs more smoke flavour, toss it back in the smoker. Even though it's cooked,it'll still absorb the smoke flavour.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #7 of 16

Bard or lard

I would agree about the hot smoking, I used to teach charcuterie. Any extra cooking time and humidity is going to dry out your product.

With the cold smoking or the hot smoking though, barding or larding your product will definately help with the moisture loss. And you could do that step when you are finishing in the oven.
post #8 of 16
There is a way to do great smoked turkey legs... but I have no idea what it is. :mad:

However, I have had really great smoked turkey legs- at the Houston Rodeo. Those carnival-food guys know how to do it. Anybody got a connection to learn their secrets?

Mike :look:
travelling gourmand
travelling gourmand
post #9 of 16

I just braised some huge turkey legs in a similar way last Sunday. 


I nearly breaded them in a coating of salt, pepper, coriander, onion powder, thyme and sage first, though. 

Then I put them in roaster with slightly less than 1/2 inch water in the bottom.  (Last time it was dry and the seasonings that fell off burned.) 

Put the roaster in a 450 degree F oven with the roaster lid off for 20 minutes. (Makes the skin cripsy.)


Add water again again to 1/2 inch and finish baking for another hour to hour in a half  at 325 degrees F (Mine were, like I mentioned, HUGE so maybe less for smaller drumsticks).


When everything else is ready to serve cut the drumsticks up and serve on a platter since they are difficult to wrestle on a dinner plate.


You could alter the seasoning to taste.  I might add paprika next time, as well.



Anyone know how the turkey drumsticks at renaissance festivals are prepared?

post #10 of 16

If you are talking about the really hammy kind, then you would first need to cure the legs with pink salt or tenderquick.  In my experience smoking, poultry is best smoked hot and fast, like 275-325F, you end up with a crisper skin and not so much overkill on the smoke (poultry sucks up some smoke flavor). So if I were to do so I would:


1. cure the drumsticks in a brine solution for 1-2 days

2. let air dry in fridge on a rack for another day

3. smoke at 325 until internal temp is 165F.


At the fair, they always seem to be wrapped in foil, I would not do that, it makes the skin rubbery.

post #11 of 16



Here are several sites that have recipes for smoked turkey legs


Super Smoked Turkey Legs Run Circles Around The Competition!


Smoked Turkey Legs Recipe : : Recipes : Food Network


I haven't tried the recipes because I'm not wild about turkey legs, but good luck with smoking and cooking what you like.



post #12 of 16

Most likely the fair buys the legs already cooked.  I've seen smoked legs out of Texas that were evenly sized so as to be more consistent.  I think they were 16 oz. or 20 oz.  Don't really remember.

post #13 of 16



Thanks for the two very interesting recipe references.  I'm gonna try one or both as soon as I can.


Where are you in MO?  My father's family was from Jackson, a little town near Cape Girardeau, and my mother's from Troy, a little town about 35 miles north of St. Louis.  I was born in St. Louis, but have hardly been back to MO since.



travelling gourmand
travelling gourmand
post #14 of 16



We are located in Defiance, which isn't far from Troy. Vicki, my wife was raised in Ballwin and I was raised in Germany, New Jersey and Virginia and have lived in the St. Louis area since 1981.


If those two recipes don't work out, just search for smoked turkey legs on the web, which I did to get the two I sent you, and multiple other recipes are listed.


Good luck on the turkey legs.



post #15 of 16

well Samvt welcome to the forum, first of all. Not that I know anything about smoking, as I have a custom smoked meat and vegs business, but everyone has their own idea on how to do things. I will offer my knowledge and experience.  First of all start out by preparing a good marinade. I use garlic and my personal blend of spices and pineapple juice. yes pineapple juice. the acid in the juice helps start deteriorating the connecting tissue to the mussel. I don't go over board with the juice, just enough to make the garlic and spices ad hear to the poultry. Leave this marinate at least 3/4 days. I do mine a week. Now the comment of doing poultry at a higher temp is a correct. the high temp will crisp the skin and help in removing the fat layer. I will crank up my off set heat smoker to almost 300* for poultry. I place the poultry in the smoker and turn by 1/4's every 20/25 min. this helps seal in the juices of the poultry and keeps it from drying out. after 1 complete turn, I start adding my smoke. I see you use maple. This is good, nice flavor. I myself, use pecan shell. But anyway. Leave the poultry in the smoke at least 2 hours, continue to turn it every 20 min.  By smoking meats, you will have a pink color to the flesh. if you feel you need to cook it more, do it in a 300* oven with NO water. the water only removes the smoke flavor. Hope this helped.

I tried to add some pics of the smoking I do but the format wont allow me

post #16 of 16

I have always hot smoked turkey legs at 325

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