Nutrition Facts

Smoked “State Fair” Turkey Legs

State fair turkey legs
Cooks in 3 hours
Serves 6






Ray Sheehan, BBQ Buddha LLC


  • 1 gallon warm water
  • 1/2 c kosher salt
  • 2/3 c light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 large turkey legs
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 c barbecue sauce
  • Seasoning Rub
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp ground thyme


Turkey Prep:

Whisk together the warm water, kosher salt and light brown sugar in a large container until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the onion, carrots, celery, thyme, parsley, peppercorns and bay leaf. Refrigerate until ready to use. Can be made up to 4 days ahead of time. Strain before use.

Place the turkey legs into a large, lidded container, and pour the brine over the meat to cover. Refrigerate for 12-24 hours. Remove the turkey legs from the brine and discard the brine. Rinse the meat under cool running water and pat dry with paper towels. Click here for tips on how to safely rinse your turkey legs after removing from the brine.

This recipe is everything we love from a fair and festival favorite! Here is Ray Sheehan’s son with a smoked turkey leg at the Delaware State Fair’s Triple Threat BBQ Competition circa 2014.

Prepare the Rub:

In a small bowl combine all the rub ingredients. Leftover rub may be stored in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Fire Up the Smoker:

Prepare a smoker to cook at 300°F. Alternatively, set up your grill for two-zone cooking. Dump a pile of hot charcoal on one side of the grill to form your hot side (direct cooking), leaving the other side empty to form your cool side (indirect cooking).

Smoke the Turkey:

Coat the turkey legs lightly with oil, then apply an even layer of the rub to season the meat.

Once the cooker reaches temperature place the turkey legs directly on the grate in the smoker and cook. *If using the two-zone cooking method, place the turkey legs on the indirect heat side and close the lid on the grill.

After about 90 minutes brush the meat lightly with barbecue sauce. Continue cooking until the legs reach an internal temperature of 175-180°F, about 45 minutes to an hour.

Transfer the legs to a platter and tent loosely with foil. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.