Smoked Turkey Legs
It still feels weird to open up the browser to write for this blog when the devastation in Haiti continues. Adventures in Shaw wrote about some local venues and restaurants making donations and the Washingtonian has an updated listing of benefit events still taking place.
One of my Christmas presents to myself was a Camerons stovetop smoker and while I’ve been enjoying trying a few different dishes prepared with it, the main thing I was looking forward to was smoked turkey legs! These tender salty & seasoned treats are often the only reason I go to Renaissance Faires anymore. Those are usually the only places that one feels perfectly at home walking around gnawing on a humongous bird leg. So after a bit of research online for tips and methods, I cobbled together a fairly good recipe to try them on my own. I will note that nowhere online was an “official” recipe. I doubt it’s a trade secret, but it’s more likely that home cooks just don’t have the right equipment and supermarkets don’t have the right supply of legs prepared for “easy” cooking.
While these don’t have the look of legs from the fair, they certainly had the right flavor! The stovetop smoker mainly acts as an enclosed oven with smoke. It uses the heating element (gas or electric) to smolder wood chips while the body heats/cooks the food. Some smoke escapes during cooking, but that just makes the kitchen smell great and is never enough to trip the smoke alarm. Stovetop smokers don’t seem to be made for “slow & low” cooking as some standalone smokers can accomplish, but it does a good job of thorough cooking while imparting a nice smoky flavor to meat, veggies… even cheese and nuts!
Preparation is simple, but not quick as it requires brining overnight and up to 24 hours:
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup sugar (optional: brown sugar)
- 1 gallon water
- You can also add any other seasoning you like to the brine. I added garlic powder, but some recipes have suggested cayenne, onion powder, paprika for color, etc.
- After dissolving the spices in hot water, let it get cold in the fridge while you prepare the legs–basically pricking them with a fork in spots to help the brine penetrate. But if you plan to soak them longer than 8 hours, that step isn’t really necessary.
- Before cooking, rinse the legs, pat them dry and let them come to room temperature. While they come to temp, prepare your smoker–or oven-smoking method. I used a combination of cherry and alder wood chips
- Lightly season the legs with salt and pepper (mostly for appearance) or a dry rub of your choice. I used Cavender’s Greek Seasoning. You won’t need to use much because of the brine.
- My smoker has the wood chips in the base, a drip tray atop that and then a rack for the food. Arrange the legs with some space around each one, turn the heat to medium and at the first sign of a wisp of smoke, place the cover on. My cover wouldn’t easily slide over the legs, so I made one out of heavy duty foil for the first stage of cooking.
- Most recipes for smoked turkey legs will call for low steady heat for about 4-6 hours, but the stovetop smoker isn’t really about low and slow. I let it cook for 1 hr 15 min and checked the meat. It had reached the right internal temperature and cooked down enough for the proper cover to be used. I turned the heat off and let them continue to cook/smoke for another 15 minutes before removing the legs.
As I said, they don’t have the look of fair legs, but the taste was excellent. The meat was tender and slid right off the bone–with the exception of the brine prep, they were done in under 2 hours which is a passable (though not optimal) cooking time for a nightly meal. So far I’ve used the smoker for poultry and pork chops, but am looking forward to trying out some fish and sausage in it as well. I don’t advocate that anyone become as much of a kitchen gadget person as I am, but I’m happy with this purchase and it allows to recreate some flavors and methods at home that I’d normally have to go out–sometimes to the country–for.
If anyone out there has some great smoker recipes, let me know! I admit to a bit of puppy love with the smoker right now, but I’m sure it’ll pass soon… right?