Smoked turkey drumsticks are the best source of nutrition. They are juicy with a crispy skin for the perfect bite. Cooked over cherry wood and prepared slowly with a sweet and tangy touch and a glaze, there’s loads of flavor in every leg.
There’s a reason turkey drumsticks are so popular at festivals, food trucks, and cookouts. They are the perfect dinner plate.
Crucially, they are always roasted. And with good reason: it’s the best way to ensure the perfect balance of rich smoke flavor and delicious moisture.
Today I’m going to show you how to smoke turkey drumsticks and the smoker wood and meat prep steps you need to follow to have the best smoked turkey drumsticks you can make.
Turkey legs explained
Turkey drumsticks are one of the most popular cuts of poultry to grill or smoke, but why are they so popular?
Part of the explanation is related to its fat content. Turkey thighs have more fat than chicken thighs, making them juicier when thrown on the grill. They’re also larger, making for a more fun, carnival-like dining experience.
Turkey meat is notoriously dry, but when you prepare turkey drumsticks for the smoker and infuse them with brine or injection, they’re bursting with savory flavors.
How to salt turkey drumsticks
Curing is a crucial step to ensure our birds don’t become dehydrated while cooking( source ).
Our brine ingredients are:
- 2 liters of cold water
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 cups kosher salt
- 2 bay leaves
If you need to change the amounts, always remember the 4:1 ratio of salt to sugar.
The next day, remove the drumsticks from the brine and place them on a poultry rack. This allows excess brine to drain away from the meat. Also, use a dry paper towel to pat each leg dry. This is important because we want the skin to turn golden when we grill it, so we want the top layer to dry out slightly.
Spray a little cooking spray on each leg. This will help brown the turkey’s skin due to the fat content in the spray.
BBQ rub dry
After basting with some barbecue rub. Be sure to cover all sides of the meat.
There are some excellent store-bought options, but YOU can also easily make your own. Use these simple ingredients to combine a little pain for your massage:
- 3 tablespoons of brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
- 2 table spoons of kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon of black pepper
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
If you’re looking to buy one, I recommend Killer Hogs BBQ Seasoning here .
For our icing, we want something thin and light so as not to overpower the flavor of the turkey. We just want something that adds a touch of flavor and color to the skin.
We don’t want anything heavy. Something with BBQ sauce and vinegar is best. Our goal is to add just a hint of external flavor while complementing the dressing well.
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup BBQ sauce or ketchup
- 1 cup of water
Pour into a glass. Close the lid and shake well.
Turkey smoking wood
Cherry wood is one of the best for smoking turkey . It gives the turkey a slight sweetness and a nice pop of red color when smoked.
If you want to add a touch of deeper smoky flavor, you can also add a small piece of hickory to the mix. This helps carry an earthy note to the flavor and creates an extra layer of smoke. Warning: It’s very easy to get the hickory to overwhelm the turkey, so only use a small amount.
How to Smoke Turkey Legs
Heat defines smoking at 275°F. That’s a bit more than what we sometimes do with other cured meats, but that should give us a better chance of getting that crispy golden color against the skin.
Once your smoker is up to temperature, YOU place your legs on the cooking grates. Get to leave at least half an inch between each leg. This ensures a good flow of hot air between the individual pieces of meat.
After about an hour and a half, check the legs. You should see a red color develop on the legs from the grilling due to the marinade, and more importantly, you should see the meat at the end of the bone begin to pull back and recede a bit. Give them a quick temperature reading with a meat sample. Around this point, the internal temperature of the meat should be between 130 and 150°F. Ultimately, we want them to reach around 175°F, but we still have some way to go.
Apply the glaze to the legs. Use a pastry brush and apply only a thin layer. Simply dab it on initially and let it cook for a few minutes. Once the icing has held, turn the legs over and apply the icing to that side as well. Apply an additional Prize Barbecue Rub, if desired.
Close the lid and cook a few more minutes. Turn the legs over and take another temperature reading. When it reaches 175°F, remove from smoker. If you have a little way to go, cook them a little more until they reach temperature.
How to reheat smoked turkey drumsticks
One of the best ways to reheat smoked turkey drumsticks without drying them out is in the oven. Place the turkey thighs in a closed casserole dish. Add a tablespoon of water or broth and some butter. When the legs are warmed up again, the liquid and fat that melts will keep the legs from drying out.
For best results, heat the turkey drumsticks on low for 30 to 40 minutes. While you may be impatient for the turkey thighs to be reheated, this is the best way to keep them from drying out.
- Bring the meat to room temperature before smoking. This makes cooking faster and more even. If the meat is still cold, it will cook faster on the outside than on the inside. The turkey drumsticks spend less time in the smoker, so they lose less moisture and the final texture and flavor is better.
- Keep an eye on temperature control to keep the turkey drumsticks tender and juicy. The low and slow cooking breaks the thigh tendons, while the low temperature prevents the meat from drying out.