Here's Why Smoked Turkey Legs At The Fair Taste Like Pork

Smoked turkey leg with potatoes and greens
Smoked turkey leg with potatoes and greens - WhiteYura/Shutterstock

Among the cotton candy, funnel cake, deep fried Oreos, and churros that are staples at fairgrounds across the country, smoked turkey legs remain one of the most iconic and beloved fair foods you can get. Deliciously salty and brimming with umami flavor, they're hard not to love. But while munching away at the succulent, meat, you wouldn't be alone if you find yourself wondering why the hefty treat tastes suspiciously like pork.

There certainly are similarities. A smoked turkey leg has a similar crumbly, brown skin like ham, the same pink flesh, and the same savory, sweetness as ham. Despite all the similarities, though, the turkey leg is just that — turkey. However, there is a scientific reason behind the two meats' resemblance: Both smoked turkey and ham are cured in the same way, yielding their corresponding flavors.

The meats are steeped in a solution of both salt and sodium nitrate, as well as a blend of various seasonings. The sodium nitrate is responsible for the ham-pink color of the turkey, as well as the smoother texture it acquires. This curing process effectively preserves it, allowing you to eat it as is. However, the turkey legs typically go on to be smoked, sealing in the flavor while giving them a richer taste. Meanwhile, ham isn't always smoked post-curing, so the flavors won't share the same complexity as its smoked counterparts.

Read more: 8 Absolute Best Cuts Of Meat To Deep Fry

Can You Substitute Smoked Turkey For Pork?

Whole smoked turkey
Whole smoked turkey - Nice-pics-125/Shutterstock

If you avoid pork for health or religious restrictions, smoked turkey makes an excellent stand-in. Smoked turkey comes in both halal and kosher options, so the meat can easily be used in common pork recipes without compromising on flavor. Since there is a lot of salt used to preserve the turkey, you may want to reduce the amount in the recipe as you cook. A simple salt water soak is all you need to revive overly salty smoked turkey. Just steep it in hot water or boil it to lower the sodium quantity. From there, you can use it as a substitute in pork recipes.

Although smoked turkey legs are beloved, smoked turkey breast is equally as delicious and highly versatile. The cut of meat works especially well in sandwiches that typically call for ham. It makes an excellent breakfast ingredient, particularly in a sweet and savory Monte Cristo sandwich. Save some turkey breast for lunch and use it in an all-out Cuban sandwich. You can also smoke the turkey yourself to utilize different parts of the bird. Place it in a salty brine overnight and then smoke it at 275 degrees Fahrenheit until it reaches a temperature of 165 degrees. Afterwards, you can pull it apart to make apple cider smoked pulled pork or slow cooker carnitas.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.