If you’ve been to a Disney park, you may have tried their famous smoked turkey legs! This recipe allows you to recreate that experience from the comfort of your own home. The skin of the turkey legs gets nice and crispy, while the meat is juicy and tender. The smoked turkey legs are packed with flavor. This recipe calls for brining the turkey legs and coating them in a dry rub before cooking in a smoker. All these steps contribute to flavorful, perfectly cooked turkey legs that are incredibly easy to make.
Why you will like smoked turkey legs
Smoked turkey legs are delicious and a little nostalgic for anyone who has eaten one at a Disney park. They sell incredible smoked turkey legs at their turkey leg carts! It may not always be possible for you to get your hands on a turkey leg from Disney park, but the great news is, now they are effortless to make at home.
Other than for nostalgia, here are all the reasons why you’ll love these Disney inspired smoked turkey legs:
- The turkey leg meat is tender and flavorful, while the skin is wonderfully crispy
- You only need 10 minutes of prep time!
- You need less than 10 ingredients to make this recipe
- It’s an excuse to use your smoker
Ingredients needed for smoked turkey legs
Here are all the ingredients you need to make smoked turkey legs:
- Turkey legs, skin on
- BBQ dry rub
- Ice cubes
- Kosher salt
- Brown sugar
- Smoked paprika
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
- Crushed black pepper
- Cayenne pepper
How to make smoked turkey legs
Step 1: prepare the brine
Combine the sugar, spices, and salt in a large bowl. Then, add the boiling water to dissolve the ingredients. Add ice cubes to fully cool the wet brine.
Step 2: brine the turkey legs
Submerge the turkey legs fully in the bowl with the brine. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. You can also use a resealable plastic storage bag or an airtight container. Brine the turkey legs for up to 24 hours.
Step 3: prepare the turkey legs
Remove the turkey legs from the brine and pat them dry. Coat each turkey leg with the barbecue seasoning rub.
Step 4: smoke the turkey legs
Place your turkey legs in a pre-heated smoker set to 225°F with your favorite wood or pellets. I use my trusty Traeger Pro 780 in this recipe. I like to use the Pit Boss Competition Blend. Cook until the thickest part of the turkey legs reaches 175°F. The USDA recommends cooking the turkey until it is 165°F, but turkey legs have a lot of connective tissue and need extra time to get tender. It will take about 4 to 5 hours.
Step 5: baste the turkey legs
Baste or brush the turkey legs with your favorite oil while they are cooking. You only need to give them a coat of oil a couple of times. I like to baste my turkey legs with olive oil halfway through the cook and towards the last 30 minutes. This will help to keep the meat moist and to ensure crispier skin on the exterior of the legs.
Step 6: eat up!
Allow your turkey legs to rest for about 10 minutes. This will allow the juices to reabsorb into the meat and, during this so they stay juicy. Eat it just like you would at Disney, holding the entire leg in your hand and digging in!
Tips for recipe success
To nail this recipe, keep in mind the following tips:
- Ensure your sugar and spices dissolve well when combined with your boiling water. If there is separation, your turkey legs won’t absorb all that great flavor so well.
- Cool your brine before adding your turkey. You do not want the turkey legs to partially cook, nor do you want bacteria to develop. This is an important tip to prevent any foodborne illnesses.
- Brine the turkey legs for at least 1 hour. For the best results, brine for up to 24 hours. However, you do not want to exceed 24 hours of brining as the meat will start to break down and get mushy.
- Patting the turkey legs dry after brining is an important step to ensure a crispy skin. You want to pat them dry and then add your spice rub.
- If you are using extra-large turkey legs, budget for additional cooking time, and be patient!
- While the turkey legs are smoking in the Traeger, baste the turkey legs with oil. This will help to keep the meat moist and help to crisp the skin on the exterioir of the legs.
Frequently asked questions
Can you smoke turkey legs without a smoker?
Yes! If you do not have a smoker, you have a couple of options.
You can smoke your turkey legs in the oven. Place some soaked and drained wood chips on the bottom of a roasting pan. Place your roasting rack on top. Then, place your turkey legs on top of the rack. Smoke your turkey legs in the oven at 250°F until they reach an internal temperature of 175°F.
You could also achieve a smoky flavor by adding 1/2 teaspoon of liquid smoke to the brine. Then you can cook them on the charcoal grill or in your oven and still get that awesome smoke flavor.
How do you know when your turkey legs are done?
If you have a meat thermometer, this is the most effective way to check if your turkey legs are cooked. Ensure that the internal temperature of the thickest part of the turkey leg reaches 175°F so that it is tender and moist.
I always trust this ThermoWorks Signals WiFi thermometer to tell me when I am done cooking. The Signals thermometer has 4 probes, so you can monitor multiple items, all from the comfort of the couch using the ThermoWorks App on your phone.
For super fast temperature checks, this ThermoWorks ONE Thermapen gives you an accurate reading in only one second! Now you will not have any more excuses for not hitting perfection!
If you do not have a meat thermometer, you’ll notice that the turkey feels firmer when cooked. The juices will run clear when sliced into. When you cut into one of the legs, the meat will be a paler, opaquer pink color.
When you bite into the turkey legs, you should see a red smoke ring, which signifies that the turkey was smoked perfectly.
How do you make sure your turkey legs are juicy and tender?
The good news is that turkey legs are incredibly forgiving! The juices of bone marrow permeate into the meat, which adds flavor and helps ensure tenderness. The fat from the skin cooks off and infuses into the meat as well. Both of these factors make cooking turkey legs reasonably foolproof.
That said, there are a couple of additional tricks in your control that will help you achieve juicy and tender turkey legs. The first trick is to brine the turkey legs. The longer you brine your turkey legs, the better. The salt solution infuses into the meat and helps break it down a little, which prevents it from being overly tough. The brine also adds flavor. The second trick is cooking your turkey legs low and slow. The muscles are less likely to overcook, which keeps the meat moist, so you get that perfect fall-off-the-bone juiciness.
What else is cooking?
Do you have a whole turkey to cook as well? Check out this wet brined Traeger smoked turkey. This is my go-to recipe when the holiday season comes up. Every time I smoke my turkey, it turns out perfectly moist and full of flavor. Gone are the days of dried-out, bland turkey. You will be the hero at the next family gathering!
These air fryer jojo potato wedges make the perfect side for your smoked turkey legs. These things are just like the wedges you used to get at KFC, a bit spicy and extremely crispy.
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This recipe has been updated based on reader feedback!
Disney Smoked Turkey Legs
Turkey legs are my favorite type of turkey to smoke. These turned out incredible after spending a full day in the spicy brine and over 6 hours on the smoker. The turkey legs were covered in a sweet and spicy bbq seasoning dry rub that made every bite just as good as the last. The best part is, once you finish smoking these bad boys, you can simply pick them up by the bone using some butcher paper and chow down, just like the turkey legs served at the Disney parks!
- 3 large turkey legs, skin on
- 1 cup BBQ seasoning dry rub
For the brine
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1/4 cup kosher salt (or 3 tablespoons table salt)
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
- 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1/2 tablespoon crushed black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 cups ice cubes
- 2 cups pineapple juice
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
brine the turkey
- Prepare the brine. In a large bowl, combine the salt, brown sugar, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Then add the boiling water and carefully stir until all of the spices are dissolved. Add the ice cubes, pineapple juice, soy sauce, and liquid smoke. Allow the brine to cool down. It should be cool to the touch. If it is still hot, add another cup of ice.
- Inject the turkey legs. Fill a meat injector and slowly inject the turkey legs in several areas. Change the angle of the needle several times.
- Soak the turkey legs. Fill a large bowl or container that can hold all of your turkey legs and pour the brine in with the turkey. If you do not have a large enough container, you can use gallon size Ziploc bags. Be sure the brine covers the turkey legs entirely. If it doesn’t, add cool water until the brine covers the legs. Leave the turkey legs in the brine, covered, for up to 24 hours.
prepare the turkey legs
- Preheat your smoker to 225°F. After your turkey legs are done brining, preheat your smoker. Use your favorite wood or pellets. I use a blend of maple, hickory, and cherry woods.
- Season the turkey legs. Remove the turkey legs from the brine and pat them dry. Thoroughly coat each turkey leg with the barbecue seasoning dry rub.
smoke the turkey legs
- Smoke the turkey legs. Place the turkey legs on the smoker at 225°F and cook for 6-7 hours, or until the internal temperature of the turkey at the thickest point reaches 175°F to 180°F (see notes).
- Baste the turkey legs. This will keep the turkey legs from drying out too quickly while smoking. Baste or brush the turkey legs with oil halfway through the cook and towards the final 30 minutes.
- Eat up! Remove the turkey legs from the smoker and allow them to rest before serving. I like to use a square of butcher paper to grab the turkey leg by the bone while eating. These really are best to eat just like you would at Disney, holding the entire leg in your hand and digging in!
- Use a trusty meat thermometer so you can monitor the cook and ensure the best results. I like to use the ThermoWorks Signals as a leave-in thermometer or an instant-read like the ThermoWorks ONE.
- FDA guidelines state that turkey should reach an internal temperature of 165°F. Since turkey legs have a lot of connective tissue, they get more tender if you cook them to an internal temperature of 175°F. That will give the connective tissue time to break down and get tender.
- If you have extra-large turkey legs, you may find it takes considerably longer to cook. Be patient, it will be worth the wait!
- Use the cooking time as a general guideline but rely on your thermometer to tell you when the turkey is finished cooking. Cook the turkey legs until they reach 175°F to 180°F.
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Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1/2 leg
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 444Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 180mgSodium: 4193mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 2gSugar: 25gProtein: 47g
Nutrition information is a guideline only, is calculated automatically by third party software, and absolute accuracy is not guaranteed.