Smoked Turkey Legs with The Usual

Paula: Have you heard about the turkey industry woes? They’re taking a hit because people are hosting smaller holiday gatherings this year (and might not need a whole bird), and leg sales are down because Renaissance Faires have been cancelled. There are a lot of disgruntled Lords and Ladies out there.

Scott: You can count me among them! That reminds me, I was the turkey leg juggler at the Middlefaire Renaissance Festival in Hillsboro during high school. That’s where I got the nickname Smoked Turkey Legs Moody. Well, that and a special dance move I’m known for. I think I still have my muffin hat somewhere.

Paula: You’re an eternal fountain of surprises. How much beer would be required for you to revisit that “special” dance move (I’m asking for a friend). In the meantime, I’m doing my best to revive drumstick sales. My sword-wielding son has been requesting this meaty pleasure of yore, so I finally granted his wishes. The following combo of dry brine plus tangy mop sauce (they meld with sizzling fresh herb sprigs and pan juices to create a deeply flavorful basting liquid) results in meat so tasty and tender that I’ve been given permanent residency in the kingdom! And, now I have bones for turkey gumbo, so it’s a win win

Scott: That mop sauce is quite something. This recipe is sneaky because it seems so simple and unadorned, but I predict it’s going to be one of our more popular recipes, even beyond the Renaissance Faire crowd.

Paula: I’ll show you unadorned (throws tomato, runs away with a goblet of wine and wreath of flowers in hair).

Smoked Turkey Legs with The Usual

You’ll have enough mop sauce for an additional leg, if you want to add more fun to the skillet (just add additional seasoning as needed). It’s not essential to smoke the legs on a bed of fresh herbs, but the sizzling sprigs perfume the meat and basting juices with incredible flavor. 

  • 3 or 4 turkey legs (see note)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup The Usual

Mop sauce:

  • ½ cup dry white wine (unoaked)
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce (such as Crystal or Cholula)

8 to 10 sturdy rosemary and oregano stems, for cooking (optional)

Place the turkey legs in a large mixing bowl and drizzle them with enough olive oil to lightly coat and season with The Usual. Use your hands to coat the entire surface (over and under the skin) of each leg. Place the turkey legs in a baking dish and cover with plastic wrap, or in a sealable plastic bag and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to a day in advance. Remove the legs from the refrigerator an hour before cooking.

When you’re ready to smoke, prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking and build a medium-high fire.

While you wait for the fire, prepare the mop sauce. Combine the white wine, vinegar, Worcestershire and hot sauce in a small skillet and bring to a lively simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and set aside.

If you’re using the fresh herb sprigs, place them in a cast iron skillet or aluminum container and then place the turkey legs on top of the herbs.

Clean the grill grates. When the coals are just about ready (glowing red and covered with a fine gray ash), Remove the top cooking grate and place a drip pan on the side of the grill with no coals, and fill it with 1-inch warm water. Add a couple hardwood chunks to the periphery of the fire and return the cooking grate to position; close the grill and vent the grill for smoking.

When the fire begins producing a steady stream of smoke, place the skillet of turkey legs over indirect heat, close the grill and smoke the turkey for about 2 ½ to 3 hours (basting the legs with the mop sauce every 30 minutes or so, and rotating the skillet and adding fuel as needed to maintain a temperature of 250 F - 275 F) until it’s very tender and the juices run clear.

Allow the turkey to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.


Grill-side banter provided by food writer, cookbook author and grilling enthusiast, Paula Disbrowe, and infamous grill nerd and co-owner of PK Grills, Scott Moody.

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