Smoked Turkey Legs

Smoked Turkey LegsThis recipe includes both brining and smoking the turkey legs. The brining process is very important and I highly recommend that you do it. Don’t let the unfamiliar word scare you. It is simply a solution of salt and other flavoring that the turkey legs soak in for a few hours causing the flavors to get into the meat of the turkey and make them out of this world delicious.

So with that said.. let’s get started brining our turkey!

Brining Turkey Legs

Brine Ingredients

1 gallon water
1 cup kosher salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 TBS garlic powder
2 TBS onion powder
2 TBS red pepper flakes
2 TBS Cajun seasoning (Tony Chachere’s works great if you can find it)
2 TBS Tabasco hot sauce
1 TBS poultry seasoning

Place gallon of water and all dry ingredients into a very large pot on medium to high heat. Stir occasionally until mixture comes to a boil. Once boiling occurs the heat can be turned off and the brine can be left to cool to room temperature.

Once brine has cooled to room temperature, pour brine into a very large plastic container or two medium size plastic containers and place in fridge for further cooling.

The brine must reach 40 degrees F before adding meat to brine.

When brine chills to required temperature, add 4-6 turkey legs to brine.

Leave turkey legs in brine for 9 hours stirring around several times throughout the process.

After nine hours, remove turkey legs from brine and rinse well under cool water.

Getting Turkey Legs Ready to Smoke

About 30 minutes before you are ready to smoke them, Coat the turkey legs with olive oil and sprinkle on a little cajun seasoning for good flavor. Try to get the seasoning up under the skin wherever possible as this is where the flavor will be the most tasty.

Once you are finished, leave the legs on the counter and go get the smoker ready. I like to prepare the smoker for about 240 degrees with a mix of oak and pecan. Sometimes I use mesquite or other fruit wood just depending on what I am in the mood for and what I have on hand.

Please  note that I normally use a wood fired smoker but these can just as easily be done on propane, electric or charcoal as long as the temperature is right and you have smoke flowing, they will taste great.

Smoking the Turkey Legs

Once the smoker is going and the temperature is at 240 degrees F or so, get the turkey legs and place them right on the grate leaving about 1 inch between them to allow the smoke to be able to flow freely all around the meat.

Occasionally.. about once every hour or so, I like to brush on some olive oil or you can use the spray olive oil to make it real easy. This will help to keep them moist and will help to crisp the skin while they smoke.

If you are using an electric, propane or charcoal smoker then I recommend that you keep replenishing the smoke for  at least the first 2 hours.. I like to do it the entire time but I like the smoke to be very prominent.

If you like the smoke to be extremely subtle then you may want to go 2 hours and then finish with just heat.

The turkey legs will take about 3-4 hours to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

Finishing Up

Remove the turkey drumsticks from the smoker once they are at temperature and wrap them individually in heavy duty foil. They can be placed in the oven to keep them warm or eaten immediately if you so desire.

How to Re-Heat

They heat up really well.. just pop them in the oven at about 275-300 degrees for 30 minutes or until they are as warm as you like them.

The smoked turkey legs at the fair or at Disney world do not hold a candle to these babies.


  1. shawn dickinson says:

    thank you ever so much sir. wonderfully done

  2. DAME'S Crazy Mountain BBQ says:

    I am going to try your brine on several hundred turkey legs the third week of July during the Beartooth Motorcycle Classic in Red Lodge, Montana. We anticipate over 10,000 scooters and a lot of hungry bikers ……….. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

  3. Follow the recipe.
    These turned so much better then i thought.
    Will be using this recipe again!!!

  4. I made these last night (10 of them) and they turned out absolutely delicious! I ate two hot off the smoker. A new favorite of mine!

  5. These were awesome! I don’t hae a smoker (or even a grill right now), so I added some liquid smoke to the brine and rubbed a little more liquid smoke on before rubbing with olive oil and roasted them in the oven. Even with this compromise they were great. My son (8) can’t stop talking about them. Thanks for the recipe!

  6. Marshall Baumgartner says:

    Amazing recipe.
    I changed a few minor details due to timing and taste. But my Thanksgiving crew was calling these the best turkey they’ve ever had.
    Thanks again for a great post!
    I’ll be making these again.
    Cheers, mB

  7. Elmer Dilger says:

    Am on South Padre Is ,TX and live in Santa Claus In.
    can’t wait to get home to try on my Green Egg.Any other good hints? Just had turkey leg at Rodio.Hope these turn out one half as good!!!!

  8. Elmer Dilger says:

    Can you give me any more good hints on turkey legs?Went to a rodeo last night and had some of the best turkey legs.Can’t wait to get back to Santa Claus In and try this !

  9. I made six legs and two thighs. The legs made exactly to the recipe. The only difference with the thighs was I put Jamaica me crazy seasoned pepper on them. The legs were even better than the fair and WDW. The thighs however just maybe the best thing I’ve ever tasted. Thanks for the great recipe!

  10. Bruce Richards says:

    Yep, Jeff got it right! i’ve tried for a long time to do as well, never quite got there until now. I left mine in the brine overnight then smoked for about 2 1/2 hours at 240. Then froze them (we made quite a few). After unthawing heat them in the oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, covered at 240 with a small amount of water for moisture. They are great!

  11. MrsFulls says:

    OMG. I christened my new smoker (& popped my smokin’ cherry) with these turkey legs this past weekend and am hooked! They turned out a little black, but after research I found out more wood than I should have. I am now aching to find more things to test & am looking through your website. (Just ate a leftover from the weekend by wrapping it in a wet paper towel and throwing it in the microwave for 2 minutes. My mouth is still watering (and I’m done!). Thank you, Thank you!!!

    • get a pork loin and put a rub on it. Then basket weave bacon and top with more rub and some brown sugar and smoke for 5 hours at 225. Delicious!

  12. Wow…so I tried this out first time small scale. Mainly because the butcher only had 4 big turkey legs – (btw turkey legs are dirt cheap!) I had a couple of old chicken thighs at home which I threw in the brine as well. I have to say quite honestly it was the best turkey and chicken I have ever had. Kids and wife scarfed it down like they hadn’t eaten in a year. Awesome A++ recipe thank you.

  13. Amazing.

  14. I never leave any reviews, but I have used this recipe so many times the least I could do was pay Jeff the respect he deserves and give this 5 stars!!! I love to BBQ, smoke, and grill…and this is hands down THE BEST recipe I have ever come accross. Thank you for sharing this amazing recipe we everyone!!!

  15. One comment I would make. I would not brush these with olive oil. Olive oil is delicate and high or sustained heat will burn it/ruin the flavor. While it certainly isn’t ruining the flavor of the turkey legs it at the very least isn’t adding the flavor of good olive oil. I would use a more appropriate flavorful oil that does well with heat like peanut oil.

  16. Two weeks ago I bought a 30#box of turkey legs.Did 8 in the smoker and one on the grill.The kids and grand kids loved them.
    I doubled the brine and it was just the right amount. I’m mixing up another batch of brine tonight so I can smoke the other 7 this weekend—Thanks for a great recipe.

  17. Yesterday, I tried three smoked turkey leg recipes and this recipe was our favorite (followed closely by Smoker-Cooking and then DFW Weekend Chef). For our tastes, next time I plan to reduce the salt by half and perhaps add more sweetness/depth (sugar and/or molasses).

    I found Tony Chachere seasoning at Kroger. It read “Creole” rather than “Cajun” seasoning. Good stuff.

    Thank you for a great recipe that makes turkey legs fun to make and satisfying to eat!

  18. Absolutely amazing recipe, and now I pay $2 a drumstick rather than $9 at the fair. My only variations were I went half on the red pepper & tabasco (my wife is a wimp at hot foods). I also left it in the brine for about 18 hours, which got every last morsel that delicious salty flavor. I think I had the temp up on my grill to 300 for the first hour or so(til I finally checked it) so it actually only took me 2 hours to cook, flipping a few times, and the internal was 190. Next time I will check internal earlier, it was juicy and delicious but next time I think I can get juicier. Either way amazing recipe thank you

    • So what your saying is that it is a great recipe but you didn’t do any of it correctly so you have no idea how this recipe turns out.
      Well Thanks for nothing.

      • I always read variations people put in comments and appreciate it. Pretty sure you don’t need to be a worthless jerkoff over it

  19. Gayle Rm says:

    We made these legs this past weekend. We have our next campout scheduled for August. Our group was so impressed they have already decided this was one of the dishes for our pass a dish. The legs are great!

  20. Tony Chacere’s Cajun rub also comes in a “Lite” version. All the flavor, much less sodium.

  21. This recipe sounds so good it made me hungry for turkey legs right now!!!!
    So I went out to the HEB got me six T. legs they are braineing now. Can’t wait until tomorrow to smoke them.
    Here in Beaumont, TX. Every grocery sells Tony’s
    I will let you know how they turn out. Thanks for the recipe.

  22. This is the most detailed recipe I have ever read. It sounds terrific. I will try it this weekend. I wish more people will give details like this to the rookies.

  23. Great recipe was my first time smoking, a little spicy for the kids but great never the less. I will be making them again. Thanks.

  24. The Masters says:

    Was tired of going to the state fair every year just to get a good turkey leg in pay so much for them google your recipe in try it today and I have to say they were the best so good bye State fair I will be cooking this at home from now on thanks

  25. Looked at different recipies and this looks great. Made the brine tonight x3 and are going to do 22 turkey legs on Sunday. My crew at work at work will really enjoy these and will be smokin these bad boys on my Traeger pellet grill. Will let you know how they turn out.

  26. rick waters says:

    can i use mortons tender-quick for the salt have used it in other brine works well

    • Judy Mathis says:

      Yes, You can use Morton’
      s tender quick for any smoked meat. I use it all the time. I have made smoked turkey legs dozens of times. I made my own recipe using Morton’s for the curing salt, add brown sugar & a little liquid smoke. That’s it. I inject the brine several times into each leg. Soak 1 or 2 days in brine. The brine must cover the tops of legs. I smoke them by hanging individually by kitchen string. Make the strings about 12 or 13″ long, fold them in half, put loops around the end of the turkey leg w/a half hitch & hang with wire S hooks on the racks. I smoke with mesquite chips, or combination mesquite & pecan or apple. I finish in the oven 250^ ’til internal temp is 165^. Cool quickly. Leave them to flavor a couple days before freezing in vaccuum bags. Brine recipe: 10 Cups water 1 cup brown sugar, 2 Tlbs liquid smoke. You may have to make more than 1 batch of brine. I usually 4 X the recipe in order to cover the legs.
      They are Delicious!

  27. Fantastic recipe. I haven’t done much brining, but this was perfect. I brined legs about 5 hours, but they still turned out juicy and flavorful. Figuring out the right dial combination on my gas barbecue took about 15 minutes to lock in at around 240-250 degrees. I had put a dry rub on the legs before putting them on grill, and flipped them every 20 minutes, to put different parts closer to the heat source. To generate smoke, I put soaked mesquite chips in a pie pan with a couple of holes poked in bottom, directly over heat source, and legs off to side. Best legs ever. Thanks.

  28. Incredible legs. This recipe is phenominal. I dont typically take time to leave reviews but had to on this one. Now we dont have to wait for the fair we can have turkey legs year round. Im going to try wings with the same recipe. Thank you for posting this.

  29. Followed this brine recipe to the letter, we used a combination of Jack Daniel’s oak and apple and added wood to the electric smoker every hour. Brushed with olive oil after 2 hours. They were moist and very flavorful. Used some of the leftovers to make turkey soup. YUM!!! Thank you for posting this. Definitely going in my personal cookbook under “family favorites”.

  30. The leg was I said was good (-; thxx

  31. My husband just bought an electric smoker. He bought enough turkey legs for the neighborhood. Now I need directions. My question has to do with the brine. He is very sensitive to salt, we do not cook with any salt or substitute, can I leave the salt out??

    • Wood man says:

      To Pat from 3/16. I also cook with little to no salt. I recently bought a book from a champion bbq team and their section on brining suggests 1/2 cup Kosher salt (lower sodium) to one gallon of water with one cup of salt maximum so as not to over flavor with salt. From what I know, some salt is needed to penetrate into meat to break down muscule fibers there for enabling meat to hold more moisture/flavor. I will be trying this recipe out 1st time this weekend.

  32. Great recipe I let them in brine overnight smoke them for 4 hours
    put them in a 350 oven for 15mn. They were the best going back
    to store to buy more legs,my boys are comming over.

  33. What should I do, if I forgot to stir the mixture “several times” during the 9 hour brining process?

  34. Awesome recipe!! Better than at the fair!! follow the recipe exactly for awesome results, will use this again and again!

  35. Shirley Davis says:

    I never knew the secret to good tasting turkey legs til now. I have tried this recipe twice and I can not tell you how great it is. I did over 90 turkey legs for UAPB Homecoming everyone that purchased them talked about how moist, tender and juicy they were awesome thanks Jeff.

  36. When you put the legs into the brine do you leave it at room temp or put it back in the frig for 9 hrs.
    Can’t wait to try them out!

  37. I went to a festival and they were selling turkey legs for $10 each. I wanted to try them but that was a little high for something I have not tried. So I came across this receipe and it is GREAT! I BBQ for my daughters 30th birthday and followed the receipe and everyone loved it. The only thing wrong was I did not buy enough for everyone to have more than just a taste. This receipe is a winnner. Thank you Jeff.

  38. Vic Stafford says:

    This recipe turned out great. Brined 8 turkey legs 24 hours (although 10 or 12 hours is all that’s necessary) and placed them in smoker with hickory briquettes. Definitely a hit.

  39. Jason Cheney says:

    I have used this once before and will use it again on Monday. I will add some ribs to the brine about 1/2 way through and then smoke and BBQ them along with the Turkey leds and wings.
    I have added Chipotle and Ancho peppers to the brine to add a southwestern jive.

    Jason, Victoria, BC

    • I would definetly NOT mix pork and poultry in the same brine. Raw meats should not be mixed together,especially when cooking at low temperatures. You might get away with it, then again you might make everyone sick.

  40. Stephen Andrews says:

    OMG… I just ate one right off the smoker and they are awesome!!!!!! I have a brinkman smoker that just says ideal. No temp gage. Took 3 hours and 9 min. Meat temp was 162. Great for football Sunday. Thanks

  41. Do I lbrine them in the fridge

  42. Light, or Dark Brown, sugar?

    • I usually prefer dark brown sugar since it has more molasses but the light will work just fine. When it’s all said and done there is not a huge noticeable difference.

  43. Satman Jim says:

    Thank you very much sir. I have and the whole family love this recipe

  44. Arnie B. says:

    I am anxious to try these legs after the Western Stock charges $10 for small and $12 for large smoked turkey legs. Thank for the recipe!

  45. add 2 T of tender quick to that recipe and brine for 2 days. Rinse with icy water and let dry overnight in the fridge. Then smoke. This will give you the nice red colored meat like ham. 🙂

  46. Will smoke 90 lbs today for my panzon’s 1st b day « fat baby» = panzon……. i have heard good things about ur reciepe…..will let u know….

  47. Adrien Julien says:

    I use Apple juice instead of water. It was OFF THE HOOK!!!!

  48. I like to baste the legs with maple syrup every two hours to keep them moist. I also add pickling spices to the brine.

  49. Corinne says:

    Great recipe! We tweeked the brine a bit. Added fresh onion, garlic and chilis and used light molasses. We used cedar chips in place of the wood suggested in the recipe. Slow smoked. Absolutely fabulous flavours. Thanks!

  50. Shirley Bee says:

    The best smoked turkey legs ever. Just follow the receipt and you will agree. The only thing I would do differently…. I would either sprinkle less Cajun seasoning or use a different brand. I could not find Tony Chachere’s Cajun Seasoning at my local market. Therefore, I end up using some I had on hand. Which made the skin a little too salty for my taste. That was my fault …not the recipe.

  51. Sonic98 says:

    The 4th of July was my second time smoking turkey legs using this recipe, and I must say they turned out great both times. Best turkey legs I ever had and people were just totally destroying these things. I still haven’t had a chance to brine them for the whole 8 hours, but it’s coming.

  52. Sonic98 says:

    One other thing I simply used store brand Cajun seasoning and I didn’t sprinkle any on before I cooked them. I tossed them in olive oil, then seasoned them with one of my favorite BBQ rubs, on top of the skin and under the skin. Oops typo before. I meant full 9 hours

  53. Excellent brine says:

    I’ve used this brine on turkey legs, wild turkey, and also when I cook a “beer can chicken” on the smoker. Hasn’t ever failed me !!!

  54. Jeff in Korea says:

    Made these for a bunch of soldiers and some of our Korean workers on post here in South Korea. Best flavor ever. The soldiers all keep asking when I’m doing it again and the Koreans even offered me money to make about 30 of them for a party they are having. I’ll let them pay for the ingredients but will do the work and cooking because it’s so fun to see people enjoy it.

  55. Where can I get these big legs

  56. After trying this recipe, the state fair will never get my $8 again. This so much better than others I paid those high prices for. A even better deal if you buy the legs after the holiday season on sale. I just loved it. Ill be making my 3rd batch tomorrow. Thank you for sharing this great recipe.

  57. Keith Peterson says:

    I tried this recipe, awesome! I bought a frozen/bagged package called “turkey thighs”, which was the attached thigh & leg. I varied a bit by brining in water, salt and poultry seasoning. After rinsing and drying, I rubbed the remaining ingredients over a thin coat of olive oil. I mixed 3 parts water to 1 part chardonnay in my water pan.

    I smoked the meat until the thermometer read “170 degrees F” because I find it tenders the sinew and the meat is easier to remove from the legs. Nice, moist, juicy flavor!

  58. Want to try this because the State Fair charges too much and right now, turkey legs are on sale. Should I use direct or in-direct heat for the legs?? The recipe doesn’t say. Please let me know. Thank you. By the way, I’m using a mix of charcoal and wood chips.

  59. Shirley Jean says:

    I tried these for Christmas 2013. It was my first time smoking turkey legs and they were absolutely AMAZING!!! Gonna start stocking up on legs so that I can do it again this holiday season. Thanks for this awesome recipe.

  60. the Type of wood you Used would have been nice to know

  61. Best Recipe Around says:

    I’ve used this brine recipe multiple times, on wild turkey, beer can chicken, turkey legs and thighs, and turkey breast. Family members always want to know when I’m smoking turkey again ! Family gathering tomorrow for Memorial Day weekend will be fun seeing the nieces, nephews, and grandkids enjoy the results. THANKS AGAIN!

  62. I’ve tried this recipe several times, because of request for them. I’ve been told by everyone who has tried them that these are so much better that the country fair. Thanks for sharing

  63. Will try for my son fundraiser next Saturday but how long it take for the turkey leg to be cook

  64. Not new to traditional smoking or brining but I have never brined much less smoked turkey legs. I stumbled on to the recipe/website and I was blown away with all the positive reviews. Decided to put it to the test. Followed the brine recipe to a “T” and the smell was amazing. Let the brine cool to room temperature and then cooled to fridge temperature 37*. Brined 6 plump turkey legs for 12 hours. Smoked them at 240* (traditional wood smoker) I used 2 temperature probes on the 2 largest legs (wireless) readings. Once the 2 largest legs reached 165* all were taken off the smoker grill and wrapped in foil to rest for 20 minutes. The end result….WOW! Enough said.

  65. M-Dub50707 says:

    typically I BRINE FOR 24HRS and smoke for 12 at 180 degrees. I am going to try this with recommended times and temps on 30 legs.

  66. i would like to try this but need a printable copy. I am not to sharp on computers.

  67. Trump for President says:

    These look great. My problem is I don’t cook. Where could I go to eat that has some that taste like this?

  68. Just did this brine (and smoking) for turkey thighs.

    Once the temperature got over 240 I added the thighs. Tried to keep the temperature between 240 and 300, but first time with an offset smoker … or any smoker for that matter …made it a constant lookout.

    Still 1 hour 15 minutes later, 4 of the 6 thighs were done, with the larger 2 requiring a bit more time.

    Best bits of turkey that I have ever had … That brine will be altered for a whole turkey.


  69. Love this recipe thanks for sharing. I use this recipe every time I smoke turkey legs. I have referred this recipe to many of my friends too.

  70. Larry Thompson says:

    Yes sir. Memorized this recipe and been working this brine for 6 years! Amazing.

  71. I’m not one to leave comments, but this recipe is really good. I usually have to tweak recipes that I find, not this one!!! If you want a different flavor by all means add or take away. But trust me, there’s no need.

  72. He calls for Tony’s Cajun seasoning, but all I can find is creole seasoning listed for this company for products??? Can someone please help? I grew up in the restaurant business and there’s a difference in creole and Cajun so can someone please tell me if it is supposed to be creole seasonings for the recipe and not cajun(that they are inter changing the two when they are different)? Thank you for your time!!

  73. Smoked 9 turkey legs in my egg smoker using this brining recipe. Came out fabulous! Our state fair now charges $12/leg, these are moist, and have a great smoked taste. I used apple wood chunks for smoking. Controlled temp. at 250f for four hours with an aluminum pan of water between charcoal and turkey legs.

  74. Just wondering………would alder be a good wood to use? I have hickory too but i’m concerned about it possibly being too harsh.


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