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Why were my turkey legs so tough?

newfiesmoker

Newbie
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Joined Aug 26, 2016
Just smoked my first turkey. Got it to an IT of 180 after about 6 hours and took it out,let it cool for about a half hour wrapped in foil. The white meat was amazing and moist. Way better than an oven turkey. But it seemed the legs and dark meat were really tough. Still tasted great. Wondering if anyone would know why that is?
-Thanks
 

forluvofsmoke

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Turkey legs may need around 200* or so to get tender. That's the kicker, you want to stop cooking the breast at around 170* (safe @ 165*), but much of the dark meat won't be tender until long after the breast may begin to dry out. If you have grate temp variances which allow for lower temps to smoke the breast and warmer for the dark meat, that's your best bet with a whole bird.

Eric
 

atomicsmoke

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Turkey legs may need around 200* or so to get tender. That's the kicker, you want to stop cooking the breast at around 170* (safe @ 165*), but much of the dark meat won't be tender until long after the breast may begin to dry out. If you have grate temp variances which allow for lower temps to smoke the breast and warmer for the dark meat, that's your best bet with a whole bird.


Eric
I did not know that. So.for legs I should aim for IT 200?
 

briggy

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Have never taken legs to 200 - that is news to me also.  I usually just go to 170ish.
 

dirtsailor2003

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Well, this would be my take on this. Of course you didn't provide us with all the information, type of smoker, pit temp, how you handled the bird before putting it on the smoker, etc...

180 is high for a finished temp. Was that in the breast or thigh? 165 is the safe temp per USDA. I know many go that high, my father in law included. The legs are always way over done and tough. Like shoe leather.

I cook to 165, breast or thigh. I also watch the legs. If they are getting darker than the rest of the bird I will foil them while cooking. They will dry out faster than the rest of the bird. Plain and simple wings and legs cook faster.

Another option is too separate the legs and wings and pull them when they are done. Spatchcocking the bird will also help even out the cooking process and give you better results.
 
Last edited:

3montes

Master of the Pit
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Did you brine the bird? Makes a huge difference.
 

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