Disney-Style Smoked Turkey Legs
"Enough is as good as a feast." Mary Poppins
Curing meats such as bacon, ham, or pastrami is fun and the results are often better than storebought. But curing is very different from any other recipe because you are using a preservative, sodium nitrite. You must read and thoroughly understand my article on the Science Of Curing Meats before attempting to cure meat. That page also contains info on scaling the recipe up or down.
Visit any of the Disney parks and you will see folks stumbling around delirious with huge smiles and monster turkey legs (actually they are drumsticks, since technically legs include the thigh). These pterodactyl-sized drums have spawned fan pages, scores of videos on YouTube, and rumors (no they are not emu legs). They have become so popular that they were featured on page one of the New York Times once. They are not hard to make at home once you crack the secret recipe.
Rather than using ordinary grocery store female turkeys that are usually about 20 pounds, Disney's supplier, Uncle John's Pride, uses Tom turkeys, male birds that can grow up to 50 pounds, with legs that run about 1 1/2 pounds. Tom drumsticks this large are hard to find but your butcher may be able to order them for you. If not, my recipe works fine with hens' legs, typically 10 to 12 ounces, they will just be smaller and cook faster. Not many stores carry solo turkey legs, but if you ask your butcher, he or she can order them, usually in just a few days. If you can't get them, the recipe works just fine on chicken legs.
Disney legs are injected with a curing brine with a special curing salt that gives it a pink color, and then it is smoked. No wonder most folks say it tastes like ham. That's how they make wet cured ham. And that's how they sell drinks! Even if you have an injector, I recommend this method of soaking in the curing brine since a single needle injector tends to create pockets of brine in small cuts like this.
Check the video here from our friend Jason King of BBQFOOD4U.
NOTE: We made minor adjustments to this recipe on 12/9/2016 to bring it into alignment with our new curing calculator that you can use for scaling the recipe up.
Takes. 10 minutes of preparation, 24 hours to cure, 90 minutes to cook.
Makes. 2 drumsticks of which Mickey would be proud. For more drums, increase the quantity of the brine, but not the time.
2 large turkey drumsticks
3 teaspoons Morton's Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon Prague Powder #1
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 cup distilled water
1) Dissolve the salt, Prague powder #1, and the sugar in the water and then pour it in a 1 gallon zipper bag. Add the meat and refrigerate in the cure for about 24 hours, and not much longer or it can get too salty. You can then take them out of the cure and hold them in the fridge uncooked for a day or two until you're ready to cook, but I wouldn't push beyond that.
2) Remove the meat, rinse it so the exterior will not be too salty, and pat the skin dry with a paper towel.
3) Set up the grill for 2-zone smoking or fire up your smoker. Shoot for 325°F on the indirect side for about 1 hour until the thick part of the meat reaches at least 160°F.
- The Science of Curing Meats
- The science of salt
- Do nitrites and nitrates cause cancer
- Why you should not try cold smoking at home
- Corned beef recipe
- Curing a ham
- Making bacon from scratch
- Canadian bacon, Irish bacon, back bacon
- Info on the different types of cured hams and how they are made