Thanksgiving is going to look a lot different this year. We ended up changing our plans this weekend after looking at new travel restrictions. Instead of a big family get together, its just going to be the two of us this year. So, we needed some options for smaller turkey portions. Enter these Smoked Turkey Thighs (this recipe also works for assorted turkey parts).
Smoking Turkey Thighs
Rob decided to use a work from home day to play around with our Traeger grill and do some turkey on the grill. I will say that having the Traeger has made smoking really easy. But, if you don’t have something like that you can still smoke on other grill types, just look around for the tips and methods for things like gas or charcoal (e.g., Ina’s method for a charcoal grill or Bobby Flay’s). For the most part the smoking process was pretty much no fuss. With the Traeger, Rob just let it do its thing; with another grill type you may need to watch it more.
To first thing to do is prep the turkey. You want to get it nice and dried off. Give it a good pat down with the paper towel. I would not recommend dry brining before smoking and the smoking process will naturally dry things out. What you do want is a dry rub right before you put it on to smoke. Rob came up with a really good fall.
So you want at least a 5-6 hour smoke at about 165F. The really nice thing about this is you can’t overcook the turkey. Like sous vide cooking, the smoker operates at a constant temp so the meat wont get any hotter. When you cut open the turkey thighs you will be able to see the penetration of the smoke flavor. It’s almost like tree rings, you will have a pinkish layer at the surface.
For the wood, we currently have Hickory in the grill. It’s got a good traditional smokey flavor that will go with a lot of different meats. We had Applewood in for a while which made everything smell like bacon (which while awesome it didn’t go well with every flavor profile). I recommend looking for a good neutral wood, maple would also be a good option.
The glaze was something Rob pretty much came up with on the fly to help finish the turkey thighs. When they came off the smoke, the thighs were crispy but a little dry looking. The glaze took care of this when we finished off the turkey thighs. If you don’t do a glaze makes sure to baste with some liquid periodically, especially if you smoke longer. At about 6 hours, the outside was crispy but the inside was still super juicy.
The glaze will take about 30 minutes to make, but most of that is just letting it reduce. You really want it to thicken up; Rob let it reduce by over half! The flavor is pretty classic fall with butter, shallow, dijon, apple cider, honey, and sage. Its got a great combo of tang, acid, and sweet that is perfect for turkey and smells amazing on the grill.
Once you hit that 5-6 hour mark, you pull the turkey thighs off and crank up the heat to around 425-430F. Slather the thighs in finished glaze (both sides, reserve some for basting) and throw them skin side down on the grill for five minutes. Baste the back side with the remaining glaze and then another five minutes. The end result is a nicely caramelized glaze with a super juicy thigh.
Smoked Turkey Thighs with Apple Cider-Dijon Glaze
- Wood Chips
- Sauce Pan
- 4 Turkey Thighs
- 1/2 Tsp White Pepper
- 1/2 Tsp Cracked Pepper Corns
- 1/4 Tsp Ground Clove
- 1/4 Tsp Cinnamon
- 1/2 Tsp Mustard Seed ground
- 1 Tsp Salt
- 1 Tbs Butter
- 1 Small Shallot diced
- 4 Large Sage Leaves chopped
- 1/4 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1/2 Cup Apple Cider
- 1 Tbs Dijon
- 1 Tbs Grainy Dijon
- 2 Tsp Honey
- 1 Tsp Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 Tsp Pepper Corns
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Set up your grill for smoking at around 160-170F.
- Dry the Turkey Thighs with paper towel.
- Combine the dry rub ingredients and rub over the skin side of the turkey. Salt and pepper the back side.
- Smoke the turkey thighs, skin side up, for 5-6 hours.
- Start the glaze at about 30 minutes before you increase the temperature on the grill.
- Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat.
- Add in the shallot and saute for about 2-3 minutes or until soft.
- Add the apple cider vinegar allow to reduce for about 1 minute.
- Add the mustards, honey, worcestershire, sage, and pepper corns. Stir to combine.
- Add the apple cider reduce heat to a medium-low and allow to reduce for 20-30 minutes until thick, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the turkey thighs at about 5-6 hours and increase the heat on the grill to ~425F.
- Slather the turkey thighs in the glaze and place skin side down over the direct heat on the Grill for 5 minutes (on a Traeger use the side opposite the chimney).
- Baste the back side of the turkey with any left over glaze prior to flipping.
- Flip the turkey and allow 5 minutes on the back side.
- Allow to rest for about 10 minutes.