One of my favourite TV characters is Ron Swanson from the show Parks and Recreation. Ron rocks a killer mustache, pursues manly endeavours, and above all, enjoys meat cooked over fire. He is known for ordering “all the bacon and eggs you have”, the Turf and Turf (a 16oz T-Bone and a 24oz Porterhouse), dispatching justice to vegan bacon, and my favourite, from episode 2×25: The Swanson – a turkey leg wrapped in bacon.
I’ve always been a fan of the turkey drumstick. Something about it reminds me of The Flintstones, and I’d often take it at Christmas dinner, or get one at the rare time they were being sold somewhere.
When I saw the episode of Parks and Recreation with Ron Swanson explaining The Swanson to Tom, I knew that I was going to have to make one.
This year I’ve cooked a lot of chicken on the smoker, but I had never done any turkey. I figured it’d be pretty similar to chicken, so I treated it pretty much the same as a chicken drumstick, just bigger. I try to always brine poultry before cooking it now, and other than that, there’s really not a lot to this recipe.
The Swanson: a bacon wrapped turkey drumstick
- 2 Turkey Drumsticks – the ones I used were about 1.75 lbs each
- 8 strips of bacon (not thick cut)
- Your favourite poultry spice rub (I used this one)
- 1/2 cup salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- Olive oil
- First we’re going to brine the turkey legs. Prepare a brine by boiling 3.5 liters of water with the salt, sugar, black peppercorns, and bay leaf – then allow to cool completely Tip: to cool it faster, use 2.5 liters of water when preparing the brine, then pour in 1 liter of ice water to cool it off. If you just add ice to the regular amount of water, you’ll dilute your brine as it melts.
- Once cooled, submerge the turkey legs in the brine, and refrigerate for anywhere between 4 and 24 hours. I find that with poultry, less brining time is good, so for these I did 4 hours.
- Take the drumsticks out of the brine and dry them very well with paper towels. It’s not a bad idea to dry them, then leave them uncovered in the fridge for 30-60 minutes to to let them dry off completely.
- Prepare a smoker with a light flavoured fruit wood like apple or cherry. I used a 22 inch Weber Smokey Mountain with sugar maple lump charcoal, and 4 chunks of cherry wood. I smoked at about 260 f.
- Give the drumsticks a nice even coating of rub.
- Starting from the bottom, start wrapping the drumstick in bacon. If you stretch it a bit as you wrap and then tuck the slice under itself, it should stay in place without toothpicks, but if you’re having trouble, add some toothpicks to hold it in place. Each drumstick should get 4 slices of bacon. I used thinner bacon here, because I wanted it to get nice and crispy.
- Put a light coating of rub on the bacon.
- Put the bacon wrapped drumsticks on the smoker.
- After about 2 hours, the internal temperature was about 150 f -155 f. I took a brush and gave the legs a thin brushing of olive oil, to help crisp up the bacon.
- After about 2 and a half to 3 hours, the internal temperature of the legs was about 165 f – 170f. This is when I pulled them off the smoker, and wrapped them in foil to rest until dinner.
- Unwrap, and enjoy!
We had these with some grilled corn on the cob, coated with a feta/chili/lime compound butter. No utensils required!
When I bit into The Swanson, it was glorious. The brine kept the turkey meat juicy and tasty, and the combination of the smoke, the rub, the bacon, and the turkey made each bite fantastic. My wife said it was too primal, and my reply was that it was everything this site was about: delicious carnivorous food, and wrapping things in bacon. I’d like to think that Ron Swanson would be proud.
Bonus – some of my favourite Ron Swanson clips: