Do You Have To Tie Turkey Legs Together (For Smoking and Roasting)

Many cooks may argue whether turkey legs need to be tied up before cooking.

That said, there are many pros and cons to tying the legs of the bird up before you cook up a feast.

Read on to find out the reasons for tying a turkey up, so you can decide your method of cooking and achieve a perfect, golden-roasted turkey the next time. 

Is It Necessary? 

It isn’t necessary to tie turkey legs together before the cooking process.

However, doing so gives the bird a much more compact shape and prevents any stuffing from falling out of the cavity.

Furthermore, it prevents the legs from reaching the optimum internal temperature before the breast meat overcooks.

Why Tie the Legs Up? 

Aside from preventing the white meat from overcooking and giving the bird a uniform shape, most people tie turkey legs up because of it’s eye-appeal. 

Tying your turkey’s legs up will undoubtedly lead to a photo-ready finished product that provides aesthetic appeal on the plate. When I cook our thanksgiving Pit Boss smoked turkey, I usually do tie the legs as you can see from our turkey this year in the picture below.

Hence, tying the legs up may be the best option for when you are hosting people or during festive occasions. 

Why Not Tie The Legs Up? 

Tying the turkey legs up may add aesthetic value to your plate, but may not be the best for the taste and texture of the meat. 

Firstly, the warm air from the oven or smoker circulates properly around the drumsticks and thighs when the legs remain untied. This leads to a higher proportion of golden, crispy skin

Secondly, the legs take a long time to cook. If they are pressed snugly against the breast meat, they may take even longer than usual to reach the desired temp. This will dry the breast meat out completely. 

Thirdly, even if you intend to roast the bird, it can be problematic to tie the legs together. Tying the legs up together will block the bird’s neck cavity which may prevent any stuffing you have added from cooking through properly. 

Finally, tying the legs adds another step to your prep list. This makes the process more tedious than it already is. 

Does Turkey’s Size Matter?

Choosing to tie your turkey’s legs up has nothing to do with the size of the turkey or how much it weighs. 

However, you may want to consider tying the turkey up if it is larger as it may be more difficult to handle if left untied. This is especially true if you are smoking it directly on the cooking grate. 

Tying the legs up will give the large turkey a sleeker shape which may make the cooking process and transporting the turkey much simpler.

How To Truss A Turkey? 

Should you choose to tie the bird’s legs, this is probably the best way to go about it. Note: if you’re smoking a spatchcocked turkey, you don’t need to tie the legs.

  • Firstly, turn the turkey breast side down on your work surface. Fill the cavity with aromatic vegetables or stuffing, should you wish to do so. Pull the skin of the neck over the filling and secure this flap to the underside of the bird using a wooden skewer. You can still do this if you have opted to not fill the cavity with stuffing. 
  • Thirdly, turn the bird so the open chest cavity faces you after tucking the wings. 
  • Lastly, cross the ends of the drumsticks so one of them is positioned above the other. Wrap kitchen twine around the ends, forming an overhand know to secure the legs in place. You can then trim away any excess twine once you have tightened the knot. Note:

What String Do You Use To Tie Turkey?

Kitchen twine is the best choice for tying turkey legs together. It would be a good option to invest in some as it is cheap and may be useful across a wide range of cooking applications.

Using The Right String 

Furthermore, using the right kind of twine is important to avoid chemicals and unwanted flavors from leeching into your turkey. A flammable string may also melt and cause a fire in your kitchen. 

The following twines are the best option: 

-‘Cooking’ twine 

-‘Butcher’ twine 

‘Kitchen’ twine 

What If You Don’t Have Twine? 

If you find yourself without kitchen twine at the last minute, there is no need to panic. You can also use silicone rubber bands, aluminum foil, or cotton kite string to tie your turkey legs together.

Remaining Cautious When Using Substitutes

Some may suggest using unwanted dental floss to get the job done. However, this is not recommended as it may be flammable and ignite in your oven. 

When tying up your turkey, you should always proceed with caution when using unconventional substitutes for twine. This means not leaving your oven unattended, and keeping an extinguisher handy at all times. 

Does Tying The Legs Affect The Temperature That Your Turkey Will Be Done? 

Your turkey will be considered safe to eat once it achieves an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. 

That said, breast meat may turn chalky or dry if you allow it to cook past 165 degrees.

On the other hand, dark leg meat thrives at higher temperatures and can be cooked till the 180-degree mark. 

Some chefs prefer to tie the legs against the breasts, to shield the white meat from direct heat. 

Hence, if you choose to forego the trussing process, you can prevent the breasts from overcooking by tenting the aluminum foil partway through the smoke. Although you should make sure the skin has a chance to crisp up first. 

It All Boils Down To Preference 

When it comes to smoking turkey meat, the question of whether or not to tie the legs together is widely debated. 

In conclusion, it all boils down to your personal preference and whether or not you want your turkey to have a camera-ready appearance. 

You may also want to tie the legs together as an experiment, but just ensure to monitor the internal temperature of the breast and thigh meat to prevent overcooking

By considering the points and the steps mentioned above, you will be able to make a sound decision for when you need to roast up a turkey for your next family feast. 

Smoke On!


Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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