Pulling the meat off turkey legs can be a pain, but the end result is worth it. You will have a substitute for pulled pork, or plenty of meat to make smoked turkey salad sandwiches, or meat to flavour you next pot of beans.
For the rub, you’ll need 3 Tbsp. paprika, 1 Tbsp. pickling Salt (For this recipe I chose to use pickling salt, instead of Kosher. It has a finer grain, mixed well with the other ingredients of the rub, and during dusting it adhered better to the turkey legs.) Then add 1 Tbsp each Turbinado sugar, dried oregano, garlic powder, onion powder and ground cumin. Next, add 2-3 tsp. fresh ground black pepper, 1/2-1 tsp. cayenne pepper and 1/4 tsp. cinnamon.
- 6 turkey legs
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 C. Orange juice (Optional)
Vaunted Vinegar Sauce Ingredients (Optional)
- 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar (Nakano™ rice vinegar will give it a much sweeter taste)
- 2 Tbsp. honey (reduce amount if you use Nakano™ rice vinegar)
- 1/2 tsp. Cayenne pepper (or 1 tsp. of rub mixture)
- 1/3 cup of Spicy Brown Mustard (optional)
- In a medium bowl, mix:
- cayenne pepper
- Cover, leave at room temperature, and let set for at least 1 hour, so that flavours meld.
- Combine the olive oil and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl and mix well.
- In another bowl combine all dry ingredients and mix well.
- Pull the skin of the turkey legs back to expose the meat. Do not remove the skin completely.
- Coat the meat with the oil and Worcestershire sauce.
- Coat the meat with the rub mixture, making sure you cover the entire leg with the rub.
- Push the skin back over the meat, and coat the legs one more time (this will use up about half the rub).
- Use two toothpicks in each leg to secure the skin in place to prevent the skin from pulling back while they are cooking.
- Optional: You can use a dry brine method, to ensure that the meat stays moist. Sprinkle about one teaspoon of salt on each leg, making sure to coat each leg evenly with the salt. If you do not want to brine, then skip this step.
- Place legs in a gallon Ziploc™ bag, refrigerate and let set for at least 7 hours.
- Optional: After 7 hours; if you want crisper skin, allow the legs to air dry in the refrigerator, uncovered, until the skin feels sticky to the touch. This step is only necessary if you are not going to pull the meat.
- Approximately 45 minutes to an hour prior to smoking, remove the turkey legs from the refrigerator, and let them warm up to room temperature.
- Preheat your smoker to 225°F.
- Place legs in the smoker and apply smoke for the first 3 hours; I used apple this time, but maple is good also.
- Smoke until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F. The total cooking time will be approximately 4 – 5 hours.
When cooking turkey legs or chicken parts, it is best to check several pieces with a hand held instant read thermometer to make sure that all pieces have reached the desired internal temperature. If you are only doing six turkey legs, then I would check the temperature of each, pulling out the ones that reached 165°F, and leaving the others to cook longer.
When the turkey legs are done – Option A
- Let the turkey legs rest for about 30 minutes. You will have smoked turkey legs for eating or use in greens, instead of ham.
When the turkey legs are done – Option B
- Place all or some of the legs into a pan large enough to hold all legs (an aluminum foil half size steam table pan works best),
- Sprinkle with 4 ounces of orange juice (apple juice could also be used)
- Seal with aluminum foil.
- Let rest for 45 minute to an hour for juices to redistribute, and for the legs to absorb the orange juice. You could FTC them by wrapping the pan in a dry towel, and place in a cooler, but the extra steps are not necessary for turkey legs.
- Remove the turkey legs from the pan, being sure to reserve all juices.
- When the turkey legs are cool enough to handle, remove the skin and discard.
- Next, pull the meat off the bone. You may need a knife to shred the meat smaller. Any dry pieces of turkey should be shredded much finer, and mixed in well with the other meat.
- Place the pulled meat in a bowl and add any juices that you reserved.
- Optional: Mix in some of the vaunted vinegar, to taste. I suggest starting with 1/4 cup, then add 1 – 2 tablespoon at a time, until you get the flavour you want. Or use your favorite sauce.