Smoked Turkey Legs Disney Style

The giant turkey leg of Disneyland has grown to mythic status. Some people believe they are emu in origin due to their size, while other people insist they can’t be poultry at all due to their pink flesh and  succulent flavor. This savory snack is definitely turkey (male turkey legs to be exact to achieve the giant proportions). Tackling these at home was fun and easy - it also resulted in great food for our Friday night dinner party! Fire up the the smoker, folks, because we are going to get our #meatsweats on.

Speaking of smoker, we have a basic Traeger grill on our back deck. This thing goes the extra mile and is like having a wood pellet oven and cooks food via indirect heat from a flame beneath the drip tray. You can bake it in, make pizza in it, grill and smoke until your heart’s content. It is easy to use and in my opinion, a lot less intimating then a gas grill or charcoal. Simple fill the hopper with wood pellets and turn the dial. If you love the smell of a camp fire you’ll love cooking with this grill. Even though our model is not large, it was able to handle a Thanksgiving Turkey a few years ago - no problem. And no, we aren’t sponsored by Taeger #callus?

Besides the smoker, the true secret to the flavor and color of these turkey legs is the brine. What is a brine you ask? A brine is an aqueous sodium solution which can have sugar or other spices added to it that will flavor and tenderize your meat over a long period of time. In this case our turkey legs bathed in brine for 24 hours in the fridge. Bringing will bring much needed flavor into your turkey. With the flavor comes the nitrates from the pink meat curing salt which gives the meat a ham hock appearance.

To get this turkey leg party started, I picked up two packs of turkey legs at the store. I didn’t buy the biggest ones they had but I looked for drumsticks that looked full figured. Once home I trimmed any floppy skin but left most of the skin intact. I also checked for any feather bits or aggressively tough tendons that needed removal. Once the drumsticks were trimmed and presentable I placed them in a gallon zip loc bag. I was able to fit six in one bag - if cooking more I would put 4-6 in each bag. Next I mixed up the brine. Water, dark brown sugar (which has a higher proportion of molasses as compared to light or golden brown sugar), kosher salt, bay leaf and Prague powder #1 were whisked together and poured over the turkey legs. I placed the bag into a baking dish to contain everything while brining in the fridge. The baking dish was able to catch any drips or leaks from the bag. Always place raw meat on the lowest shelf and away from fresh foods to decrease contamination #foodsafetytip.

Twenty-four ours later the turkey legs didn’t look significantly different but where ready to season. We have a container of Lyssa Lu’s Poulty Rub from Rustic Spice Co. ( that was perfect for the job of spicing up these turkeys. After drying off each leg I liberally dusted them in rub and massaged it in. I also trimmed any excess skin still hanging around. Next we were ready to go to the cooking phase! I sent our Traeger to the “smoke setting” and once the grill was ready allowed the turkey legs to smoke at about 165 degrees for 30 minutes. The legs cooked for about 90 minutes at 325 degrees once smoking was complete. I checked them at the 60 minute mark and they would have been done then but to continue to deep the flavor and crust I allowed them to hang out a little longer.

Serving these beauties to our friends was great - they were crowd pleasers all around including our 15 month old daughter and 11 month old nephew. Quick sides of veggies, mashed potatoes, and sweet Hawaiian crescent rolls made for a perfect dinner with mouth watering Disney magic. Check out the recipe below for all the details so you can try these at home.

Smoked Turkey Legs

4-6 large turkey drumsticks
2 cups water
6 TBS dark brown sugar
1 tsp Prague powder #1
1 tsp kosher salt
2-3 bay leaves
poultry seasoning rub

1. Trim and prepare turkey legs. Place in gallon zip loc bag
2. Mix brine: warm water in a bowl or 2 cup microwavable measuring cup and whisk in sugar, Prague powder, salt. Pour over turkey legs. Add bay leaf. Turkey legs do not need to be completely covered.
3. Brine in a dish for 24 hours in the fridge.
4. Remove turkey legs from brine. Discard brine. Pat turkey legs dry.
5. Sprinkle each turkey leg with seasoning and rub into skin and meat.
6. Smoke for 30 minutes and/or grill at 325 degrees over indirect heat for 60-90 minutes until internal temperature in thickest part of meat reaches 160 degrees. You do not need to turn them!
7. Allow to rest for 5–10 min before serving.

That’s it! This recipe only has one unique ingredient unlikely to be in your spice cabinet today is the Prague powder #1. It can be purchased on online or in sporting goods or hunting stores (it is a major component in making jerky). I was able to buy a small pouch on Amazon and it is worth it for the flavor and appearance. Plenty of leftovers mean we can go a few more rounds of turkey legs without having to reorder.

I am definitely going to make these again. Everyone at our table loved them! One drumstick was enough to satisfy an adult. I’m confident everyone would have gone back for seconds if I had made extras. We all agreed that these were so good they would be a perfect replacement for dry, disappointing Thanksgiving turkey!

What Disney snack do you want on your dinner table? Would serving smoked turkey legs create chaos at your Thanksgiving meal? Comment below!


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