This simple Smoked Turkey Leg recipe is dry brined, smoked, and glazed with an amazing honey butter mix that will become an instant family classic!
Whether you had your first leg at Disney or your local county fair, you know these are simply mouthwateringly delicious. With minimal prep and some brining, you can make your own at home for the family this weekend or if you want to make several, serve these up at game day and tailgating. Your guests will go wild over these.
🍽️ Why This Works
Delicious – You aren’t going to find a tastier recipe! The light smoke and the sweet glaze work just perfectly with these. The honey and butter glaze sticks to the meat and leaves it with a slightly stick coating that is melt-in-your-mouth delicious!
Juicy – The dry brine seals the skin and keeps the moisture trapped inside the legs. As a result, these are packed full of flavor and juices.
Simple – This is a silly-simple recipe. The dry brine does most of the work while it rests in the fridge. You’ll smoke on indirect heat until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees and the glaze will finish it off. Seriously, this is so easy!
Turkey Legs – These are the star of the show. Look for legs that are of uniform size in the packaging. You don’t want the small ones to be ready before the larger ones are done.
Dry Brine – I used Bada Bing dry brine from the Grill Dads and Spiceology. You can certainly use a wet brine like I did on the Smoked Turkey Breast and the Spatchcocked Turkey, but that requires a bit of extra work. A dry brine is much easier.
Honey and Butter – These ingredients are the secret to finishing the smoked turkey legs. The honey mixes with the melted butter and serves as a simple glaze that makes all the difference! It adds just a slight sweetness to the skin.
You don’t need a lot of complex items to make this work. I bet you have most of this at home already!
Elevated Baking Rack – I used to smoke straight on the grill grate on indirect heat, but recently found that these elevated baking racks work even better. They fit right inside a sheet pan, which captures any drippings and keeps the meat elevated, so it will smoke evenly on all sides. Winner winner! The quarter sized sheet pans fit on my large Big Green Egg perfectly.
Ziploc Bag – The old Shake and Bake approach to coating the turkey legs with the dry brine is the best. Add the dry brine to the Ziploc and then add one leg at a time. Shake it up, and you’ll get a nice, even coating. If you want less dry brine, simply sprinkle on the brine rather than shaking it on. The brine remains on the skin while smoking and will give a slight salty taste. If you would rather control less salt flavor, sprinkle.
Smoker – A dedicated smoker like a Traeger works great, but I used my Big Green Egg with a plate setter. If you use a gas grill, turn off the center burners and use a smoking box to hold the wood chips.
Wood – Since you are smoking, you will be using wood. We like fruit woods with our poultry if we want it mild but you can use hickory or mesquite, if you want a more robust smoke influence. This time we chose hickory as it wasn’t going to be on the smoker long so I knew it wouldn’t be over powered this time. If you aren’t sure which wood to choose, print off the Wood Smoking Cheatsheet so you can reference it every time you use your smoker.
Fire Starters – Buy the ones at the store or make your own out of wax, lint and egg cartons.
Step One: Remove the turkey legs from the packaging and pat them dry with a paper towel.
Step Two: Add some dry brine to a large Ziploc bag and place a turkey leg inside. Seal it up and give it a good shake to coat the brine evenly. Place it on an elevated baking rack (cooling rack) on a sheet pan, and let it rest in the refrigerator uncovered for 24 hours.
Note: The dry brine will pull some of the moisture out of the skin and it creates a seal which keeps the juices trapped inside. You will notice that the texture of the skin changes and there will be a little bit of drippings on the sheet pan the next day. That is completely normal and means that the dry brine worked.
Step Three: Set up your grill for smoking at 275 degrees. For a kamado style grill, add the plate setter to create an indirect heat. I added whole Hickory chunks to the coal as I wanted a very strong smoky taste. For a more mild flavor, use a fruit wood like apple or cherry.
Step Four: Keep the legs on the sheet pan with the baking rack and add it to the grill. Expect that it will take about three hours for the interior temperature to reach the USDA recommended 165 degrees.
Step Five: When the legs reach about 150 degrees, melt the butter and mix it with the honey. Stir well to combine them. Brush the melted butter / honey mixture on the turkey legs and let them keep smoking until they reach 165 degrees.
Step Six: Remove them from the grill, let rest for about 10 minutes and serve. You’ll love the reactions of your friends and family!
If you have any leftover, store these in the refrigerator for up to 3 days in a sealed container. Freeze these in a freezer safe Ziploc bag for up to 1 month.
❗ Expert Tips
Use a baking rack inside a sheet pan – I just recently started using these and it has made all the difference in the world. My wife got a bit cranky when I tried to use the ones for the kitchen, so she bought me a set I can dedicate just to the grill. 😀
Let the dry brine work – The dry brine only needs time to do its thing. Let the legs rest in the refrigerator for a full 24 hours before smoking. It requires a bit of preplanning, but you’ll love the results. But the prep is less than 5 minutes so it isn’t a heavy lift here.
Low and slow is the key – I kept the grill close to 275 degrees, but you can go as low as 225. Expect it will take a bit longer for the turkey to reach the safe internal temperature. Internal temperature needs to be 165 degrees to be fully done. We use the Wireless ThermoPro (we talk about it here) but you can use the standard ones that you buy at Walmart. However you choose to get that temp is what is important.
Wood choice – If you aren’t sure what wood you want to use, check out our Wood Choice Smoking Cheatsheet. This will provide a guide for what wood typically pairs well with the type of meat you are smoking.
At 275 degrees on indirect heat, it will take between 3-4 hours for the turkey legs to reach the safe internal temperature of 165 degrees.
There are a lot of tendons and ligaments in turkey legs. The best way to break down all of that connective tissue is to let the legs smoke low and slow for the full 3-4 hours. Too often, removing them early will not give them time to break down the connective tissues.
I used Hickory. This provides a strong flavoring that pairs will with the mild meat and the sweetness of the honey butter glaze. For a more mild flavor, use a fruitwood.
165 degrees according to the FDA. You can remove the legs from the smoker at 155-160 and tent for 20 minutes or so to bring the temperature up but we don’t tend to worry about it much when smoking as the meat generally is tender vs when we grill, we prefer to tent the meat. Always use a meat thermometer when checking internal temps in the thickest/fattiest part of the meat.
Absolutely! You will use a similar method in the oven as you would outdoors. Set the oven for 250 degrees. Choose your favorite roasting pan and put the wood chips in the bottom and then place the riser/grate for the roasting pan so the turkey isn’t sitting directly on the wood. Then place the turkey on that rack/riser/grate and cook until internal temperature is 165 degrees.
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Smoked Turkey Legs
- Quarter Sheet Pan
- Quarter Sheet Pan Rack
- 4 turkey legs
- ½ cup Bada Bing Dry Brine
- ½ stick butter melted
- 2 tbsp honey
Brining Turkey Legs
- Sprinkle or use a zip lock bag to cover the turkey legs with the Bada Bing Dry Brine. Place on a sheet pan and leave in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
Smoking Turkey Legs
- Heat grill on indirect heat for 275 degrees. Add in a couple pieces of wood for smoking of your choice.
- Once the grill is ready, place the turkey legs on a rack that is placed on a sheet pan. Then place on grill
- Smoke until the legs reach internal temperature of about 150 degrees.
- Combine the melted butter with the honey and stir. Then brush on the turkey legs and continue to cook until internal temperature is 165 degrees.