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Three smoked turkey legs on a plate.

Smoked Turkey Legs Recipe

  • Author: Erin Jensen
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 4 hours
  • Total Time: 4 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 4 turkey legs 1x
  • Category: Turkey
  • Method: Smoker
  • Cuisine: American


Smoked Turkey Legs (+ Herbed Butter) – learn how to cook smoked turkey legs with this simple, easy recipe! So juicy and delicious!



Optional Brine:

  • 8 cups cold water
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt 
  • 1 apple, sliced
  • red onion, peel off outer skin and then slice
  • lemon, sliced
  • 34 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 510 thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 56 whole peppercorns

Turkey Legs:

  • 34 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 turkey legs (ensure fully thawed if previously frozen)
  • additional 23 tablespoons butter to use for basting


  1. Prep Brine: Take a small saucepan and add 1 cup water and salt. Place on stovetop and bring to medium heat.  Stir until the salt has dissolved (the water shouldn’t need to get TOO warm to do accomplish this). Remove from heat and let cool completely. 
  2. Brine Turkey Legs: Meanwhile, place turkey legs on a plate and pat dry with a clean paper towel. Place the turkey legs in a food-safe container (a reusable silicone bag, casserole dish or mixing bowl will work). Pour the cooled salt mixture over to the turkey legs and then add the remaining Brine ingredients into the same container (apple, onion, lemon, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf and peppercorns). Stir to fully combine and to ensure turkey legs are fully submerged. Cover and place in refrigerator for a minimum of 30-45 minutes or up to overnight. Remove and pat dry. Discard the brine.   
  3. Preheat: Preheat smoker to 225 degrees F. 
  4. Herbed Butter: In a small bowl combine softened butter, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, dried thyme leaves and pepper. Stir to combine. Place turkey legs on a plate and pat dry with clean paper towel. Rub the herbed butter all over each whole turkey leg ensuring you get into every nook and cranny. 
  5. Smoke Turkey Legs: Place turkey legs directly on the grill grates and close the lid. Let cook until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees F (approximately 3-4 hours). Baste every 30-40 minutes with melted butter.   
  6. Sear: once turkey legs reach an internal temperature of 155 degrees F (use an instant-read thermometer). we are going to pull them and move them over to high heat to sear the outside to get that crispy skin. A little before the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 155 degrees F. you can preheat your gas grill to high heat (see Notes). Transfer the turkey legs and let them sear all sides about 60 seconds or so (or until there is a nice char). 
  7. Rest: move the turkey legs to a plate and let them rest for 10 minutes during which time the internal temp will continue to rise to 165 degrees F. (feel free to tent with foil).  Serve and enjoy! 


  • Opting not to brine: you do not need to brine your turkey if you do not want to – this recipe will still turn out delicious!  Just start at Step 3 if you want to skip that step. 
  • Reverse Searing: I love reverse searing most of my smoked meats (especially chicken and turkey) so that the skin can still get nice and crispy. The “searing” can be done on a gas grill, a hot cast iron skillet or even right on your smoker (just remove the turkey, crank up the heat, sear).  It doesn’t matter what method you use, but it really makes a difference. That being said, feel free to simply smoke the turkey legs up until they reach 165 degrees F. 
  • Storage: any leftover turkey legs can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 4 months.
  • Save the bones: don’t forget to save the leftover bones to make either turkey stock or turkey broth! 
  • Smoke Time: there are so many factors that go into how long it will take to smoke meat. The humidity, wind, hot spots, how thick your particular turkey legs are … these all impact your ultimate cook time. The most accurate way to determine cook time is to track the internal temperature with an internal meat thermometer or probe. 
  • Internal temp: turkey is fully cooked when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. We are pulling it off the smoker at 155 degrees and then moving it to the grill for a sear and then a rest for 10 minutes, which will allow it to reach 165 degrees.

Keywords: smoked turkey legs