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Sweet and Spicy Smoked Turkey Legs

These sweet and spicy smoked turkey legs are easy to do in the smoker in just a couple of hours and they are a wonderful addition to the Thanksgiving festivities.
Course Entree
Cuisine Hot Smoking
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Servings 4 -6
Author Jeff Phillips


  • 4-6 turkey legs ((one per person))
  • Basic buttermilk brine ((recipe below))
  • Brining container or zip top bag
  • Olive oil
  • Jeff’s rub


Make the Basic Buttermilk Brine

  • Ingredients: ½ gallon water, 1 quart buttermilk, ¾ cup coarse kosher salt, and ½ cup dark brown sugar (light will work).
  • Place the water into a gallon sized pitcher.
  • Add the salt and stir until the salt dissolves
  • Add the buttermilk and brown sugar and stir again for about 30 seconds to combine.
  • Set the brine aside while you get the turkey legs out of the package.

Brine the Turkey Legs

  • Remove the turkey legs from the package and place them into a ziptop bag or a lidded plastic/glass container.
  • Pour enough brine over the turkey legs to cover them completely.
  • Place a lid on the container then refrigerate the brining container for about 10 hours.
  • When the turkey legs are finished brining, remove them from the brine and rinse them really well under cold water.

Season the Turkey Legs

  • Drizzle olive oil over the drumsticks then spread it all over with your hands or a brush.
  • Sprinkle Jeff’s rub on all sides of the turkey drumsticks

Prepare the Smoker

  • Set up your smoker for cooking at about 225-240°F.
  • If your smoker has a water pan, use it.

Smoke the Turkey Legs

  • Once the smoker is going and maintaining the proper temperature, place the turkey legs on the grate.
  • It is best to monitor the temperature using a digital probe meat thermometer.
  • Once the turkey legs reach 165 °F in the thickest part, they are done and should be removed from the heat right away.

Rest the Turkey Legs & Serve

  • Immediately wrap the smoked turkey legs in foil individually and let them sit and rest for about 10 minutes before serving them.


  • Where can I find the giant turkey legs? Unfortunately, I have not been successful at finding the really big ones like you see at state fairs and amusement parks. The folks who do have them, do not give up their suppliers so, for the purpose of use lowly backyarders, I think we are going to have to stick with the smaller ones found at our local supermarkets.
  • Should I dry the skin on the turkey legs? Some folks dry the skin (in the fridge) after brining them and before smoking them. This is to make the skin end up more crispy. I don’t normally administer this step but it does not hurt anything if you want to try it out. Simply brine the legs as usual, then pat them dry and place them on a rack. Let them air dry in the fridge for several hours before putting my rub on them and smoking them.
  • Can these turkey legs be injected instead of brined? Of course you can, but, in my opinion, the flavor is not the same. When I eat a turkey leg, I am looking for a slightly salty and highly flavorful taste. In my opinion, injecting just does not do the job like brining does. The next time you do a batch, inject one of them and brine the rest. You will be able to see the difference and make a decision as to whether injected smoked turkey legs are for you.
  • Can the turkey legs be smoked at a hotter temperature? Turkey, like most other poultry, does not benefit greatly from low and slow cooking other than the fact that it gets more time in the smoke. If you need to smoke them faster, you can certainly do that just be aware that if you take it past about 260°F, the sugar in the rub will burn and char. I tend to do them lower to give them more smoke flavor and to make sure my rub maintains it’s great flavor without burning.