How To Smoke Wild Turkey Legs
Wild Turkeys beat you with theirs eyes, and essentially give you “the bird” with their legs. For a critter that big to move that quick on two legs means those muscle groups are working hard. Hard working muscles are made delicious through cooking methods that are low and slow. Smoking meat uses lower temps and longer times to soften the tightly bound muscle groups, while still providing moisture within the meat as to not make it dry. Adding smoke adds a flavor profile to the meat. Originally smoking meat was a way to preserve the harvest for later months. Let’s be honest, this mouth watering treat may not even make it to the next day.
Brine is a salt based solution that will impart moisture to a piece of meat along with flavor. It elevates the flavor of the meat and provides the cook a safety net of moisture to prevent the meat from being dry. While a marinade works the surface, a brine uses osmosis to lock water and flavor in the cells (refer to high school science textbook). This particular brine has a curing agent added. The cure helps with inhibiting bacterial growth and adds a deep red color that we all associate with smoked meat. It’s a matter of taste for the cook on whether to add cure. If you’re not sure if you want to use it, you can leave it out. If you plan on using it, know that it is potent. Follow the instructions on the label.
The world of BBQ has exploded with the amount of products for smoking meats. From pits and smokers, to grills and high tech computer monitors, smoking a piece of meat can be intimidating. That doesn’t even include the different woods you can choose from. However, imparting flavor from smoke is as simple as low temperature and some sort of smoldering wood to make the smoke. The method I’m using is indirect heat from charcoal on a grill. I limit the air flow, keeping the coals from burning so hot, and I used soaked apple wood chips to make my smoke. While some smokers can maintain temperature control very accurately. I find that after I have added my desired smoke, i can get better temperature control from my oven for finishing the meat. It may seem like cheating, but if it means moist, flavorful, turkey, I’m okay with it.
The Recipe / Equipment
- Amount: 2 Leg Quarters
- Prep: 5 minutes
- Brine: 8-10 hours (overnight)
- Smoke: 1-2 hours
- Finish: 2-3 hours
- Total: Long Time. It’s a bit of a commitment
- Stock Pot
- Wire Rack
- Probe Thermometer
- Meat Syringe
- 2 Gal Water
- ½ C Salt
- ½ C Brown Sugar
- ¼ C Honey
- 3 tsp Pink salt (curing agent)
Smoke / Finishing Ingredients
- Soaked Wood Chips (fruit woods, light flavored woods)
- Apple Cider Vinegar (whatever liquid you would like)
- Fill the stock pot and bring water up to a boil
- Add salt, brown sugar, honey, and cure to the water and mix until all dissolved
- Take stock pot off heat and allow the brine to cool to room temp or lower. Place in fridge to quicken cooling rate
- Draw up brine into the meat syringe and plunge the needle into the center, and along the bone of both thigh and drum
- Submerge both leg quarters into the stock pot or brine container, paying attention to having most to all of the meat covered. Adding additional water to raise the level of the brine helps
- Refrigerate 8-10 hours at the least, overnight is best.
- Preheat grill or smoker to 180F-220F. Set up for indirect heat if on a grill.
- Soak prefered wood chips for several minutes while grill is heating.
- Set the leg quarters on the cooking surface and begin smoking by adding wood chips to coals or adjust settings on the smoker.
- Periodically (every ~15 minutes) check the temp of the cooker. Looking to stay between 180F and 250F and adding new wood chips if needed. Gauge the amount of prefered smoke.
- After leg quarters have desired smoke. Place on a wire rack, on a sheet pan. Pour a liquid (I chose apple cider vinegar) on the sheet pan and tent with foil.
- Place in a 250F oven for 1-2 hours.
- Use the probe thermometer on the thigh,When temp 175F-185F, pull from oven and rest the meat tented in the foil
- Debone the thigh and slice. Pull the meat from the drum, or serve as is #savagestyle
- Plate, Serve, Be a hero