To kick off the BBQ/Smoker part of the site, I thought we would have a look at one of the ‘easier’ smoking recipes. Turkey Legs. I call this an ‘easy’ one because if you can keep the temperature pretty even at 230* or so, then you will be done with these tasty hand-held treats in only 4 hours! That’s the smoker world equivalent of microwaving a TV Dinner.
What To Buy:
Turkey Legs – Yes I know, this is kind of DUH, but it’s oddly enough the one thing people pay the least amount of attention to. Be sure to buy your meats at a reputable meat market, and more importantly, make sure the legs are FRESH. Your meat has no reason to be frozen. EVER. Properly refrigerated and handled turkey is perfectly safe for you to work with and eat when cooked to a correct temperature. Non-frozen meat makes the world of difference.
Seasonings – This is really up to personal taste. I do several kinds of turkey legs, but today I’m working on legs that won’t need sauce, but will carry a smokey, but sweet, flavor. Your rub should include a Cajun seasoning like Tony’s, turbinado brown sugar (this style of sugar melts at a little lower temperature, so it really works well as a deep meat sweetener), smoked paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and a good meat salt ( I love the Dos Anclas grilling salt my In-Law’s bought me, I think you can pick it up at most Mexican markets).
What To Do:
First you have to get all those good seasonings you spent all that money for, onto those legs. A method I use is to rub the legs down with a coating of good extra virgin olive oil, and a second coat of Worcestershire. Once bathed, rub on your rub and let sit in the fridge covered until 1 hour before they need to be in the smoker.
Here I need to stop and thank my loving Wife for being so understanding with my grilling obsession. We don’t have a TON of outdoor room, yet I’m somehow allowed to own two smokers and a grill. As a concession, and for some home safety concerns, I retired all my charcoal grills/smokers until we get a home with a yard.
For this run of legs I am debuting my first gas smoker. More of a review on it at another time. For the purposes of this article I will assume you are comfortable with your smoker or choice. I will be happy to cover the best usage and maintenance of smokers and grills, just not right now.
So, get your smoker set at 225* (240* if you want to rush it a bit, but your smoke better be wet, meaning have a water pan or soak your wood at LEAST an hour). Add your first load of chips or wood, let the smoke get good and rolling before you think about adding that meat.
I can’t stress how important getting your grill to a TRUE 225* is. The last thing you want is for the outside edges of the air column to be 225* (where most thermometers are placed) while the center of the air column is only 190*. That means getting a thermometer into the chamber. I would strongly suggest getting a digital probe, but those are a bit spendy. If you can’t spare that expense (watch http://woot.com for them) then just grab an oven thermometer from the local cooking shop or grocery isle. However, if you go this route you are going to be either diligently cleaning this gadget or replacing it frequently.
Get your legs (that have been sitting out of the fridge for at least an hour) onto the racks. Keep in mind that you are now going to cool the grill off quite a bit still. That means keep the damn door shut. I know it smells good, I know it’s killing a part of you to not look and check and fiddle with the knobs. But it is of the utmost importance you let the core temperature of the smoker get back into the 225* range. “If yer lookin’, you ain’t cookin’ “, as the saying goes. Doing the “Hey man! Come look at these LEGS!!!” will make your cook take WAY longer than it needs to, and only enhances the chance for undercooked meat. With beef it’s not nearly as critical, but with poultry or pork, you want it cooked right. Leave the door closed, trust that fancy gadget you got off Woot or splurged on at Willams-Sonoma, and go enjoy a beer and the hockey game while your food cooks. This doesn’t mean ‘Don’t pay attention’ it means, keep the door closed. You know your water and wood will last an hour or so, and you had your smoker properly preset (didn’t you?). Therefor you can just glance at the temp every now and then, and make sure there is smoke.
(Imagine a fancy fade to 4 hours from now)
Has it been that long already??? Jeeze! Well, welcome back. Now to check in on our wings. Holy Smokes! These are going to be soooo good. See how the meat is contracting up the bone? That’s the same thing you want from your ribs. When the bone starts showing, the meat is done. I suggest you still use a tested and calibrated meat thermometer to know your true cooked temperature. Better safe than living in the bathroom…
Now, wrap those babies in heavy-duty foil, and drop them in your cooler or resting box. Resist the urge to shove them all down your gullet and wait about 15-20 minutes to dive in. Let all the oozing, melted connective tissue to start to congeal, it’s all flavor! This is the fluid that’s been pulling the spices down into the meat for the last 4 hours, don’t lose it in this or any other slow cooked dish.