Barbecued Turkey Legs

These are way better than the usual fare from the fair. Smoking the legs for 4 hours helps melt the connective tissue for drumsticks as tender as they are flavorful. Brining the legs for 6 hours beforehand helps keep them moist.

See the timing tips at the end of the recipe for bringing grilled sides together with the legs for your meal.

By Russ Faulk, Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet
Serves 8
Image of Barbecued Turkey Legs


For the Brine:

  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pickling spice blend
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 gallon water
  • 8 turkey drumsticks

For the Rub:

  • 1/3 cup Not-So-Basic Barbecue Rub
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • Apple wood chips (half of them soaked for about an hour, half of them dry)

To brine the legs, combine the salt, sugar, spices and pepper flakes in a medium saucepan with 2 cups of the water. Bring to a boil and stir until the salt is completely dissolved. Pour the mixture into the brining container and add the remaining water. Chill the brine before adding the turkey legs.

Brine the turkey for 6 to 8 hours, keeping refrigerated the whole time.

Discard the brine and use paper towels to dry off the surface of the legs. Place the legs on a cooking sheet.

Combine the sugar and Not-So-Basic Barbecue Rub, and thoroughly coat the turkey. Use your hands to press the rub into the surface. Place the rubbed turkey back into the refrigerator for 60 to 90 minutes.

Prepare a grill or smoker for smoking at 225ºF for 4 hours. On a gas grill, use indirect cooking with foil smoking envelopes (see note below). Prepare several envelopes to swap out every 30 to 45 minutes.

Smoke the legs for 4 hours. Check the internal temperature with an instant-read meat thermometer at the end of the cooking time to confirm the turkey has exceeded 165ºF. Enjoy!

Timing Note: Because the setup for smoking and grilling are so different, you may wish to transfer the legs to a 225ºF oven for the final hour. The smoke infused during the first 3 hours will provide more than enough flavor, and this will free up your grill to prepare other dishes.

Gas Grill Smoking Note: To use smoking envelopes with a gas grill, lay out a large sheet of aluminum foil. Place a layer of dry wood chips on the foil and top that with a layer of wet wood chips. Fold over and seal the foil and then puncture the top 2 or 3 times with a dinner fork.

Start the packet smoking by placing it on an outdoor cooktop at high heat. Once the smoke is strong, but before the wood chips ignite, remove it from the cooktop and transfer it to the inside of the grill. Replenish the grill with a new envelope as needed.