Recipe: Smoked Turkey Legs

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I had no pressing plans Saturday, so it was a perfect time to fire up the smoker. Plus, forever the optimist, I thought I needed to make a little room in the freezer in advance of this weekend's turkey opener, and there were still some turkey legs* in there from last fall that needed to be cooked, or in this case, smoked.

I started the process the night before by submerging three turkey legs in a gallon of Game Bird & Poultry Brine from Hi Mountain Seasonings. You can also make a simple brine by mixing ¼ cup each of kosher salt and sugar per quart of water, throwing in whatever additional seasonings and spices you like.

Saturday morning, I pulled the legs and brine from the fridge, rinsed and dried the legs, then applied some Hi Mountain Poultry Rub to two of the legs and a Mountain Man Bourbon Rub from Cabela's on the third. I then let all three sit for an hour before I got the Smoke Vault rolling to 200 degrees.

In addition to three turkey legs, I threw in a chunk of venison backstrap and about five pounds of goose jerky. No sense wasting all that delicious alder smoke. It was a bit windy, so keeping the temperature up in the smoker took a little babysitting, but that's really just an excuse to sit on a lawn chair outside drinking a few cans of High Life. After about four hours at 200 degrees, I bumped the heat up to 250 to get the birds to a finished temperature of 170 degrees. (The backstrap and jerky had come out much earlier.)

Not unlike the giant turkey legs you see people gnawing on at county fairs, mine came out a bit tough to eat off the bone, but darn tasty. I stripped the meat with a knife and will be using it all this week as salad toppings, in sandwiches, and for plenty of afternoon snacks.

*You've heard me preach before about using the legs from waterfowl and pheasants, and the same goes for turkeys. There is a lot of great meat on a turkey leg and thigh, and it just takes another 30 seconds or so of your time to pull them off the carcass when you're breasting it out. Like pheasants, wild turkeys spend most of their day walking around, so their legs are tougher than that of a domestic bird, but no less tasty.