What Are the Different Ways of Cooking Turkey Legs?

A.M. Boyle

When the desire for turkey strikes, one way to satisfy the craving without the hassle of making a whole turkey is by cooking turkey legs. Turkey legs are relatively inexpensive and can be prepared in a number of delicious ways. Some chefs choose bake them in the oven, while others prefer the grill or smoker. This versatile poultry can even be done in a slow cooker. Regardless of the chosen method for cooking turkey legs, the key is to cook them long and slow.

A turkey.
A turkey.

Oven-baked is a good alternative for cooking turkey legs, especially for chefs who have other things to do when the meal is cooking. Generally, the oven is set at a low temperature of about 325 to 350°F (about 163 to 177°C). Cooks coat the legs in whatever seasoning is preferred, such as pepper, garlic, or other herbs or spices, then they bake it for about two to three hours, depending upon the size of the legs. In addition to spices, other sauces, such as barbeque or lemon garlic, work well. Some chefs choose to coat the turkey legs in a light flour mixture before baking to give them an oven-baked taste.

Turkey brine should include one cup of salt per gallon of water.
Turkey brine should include one cup of salt per gallon of water.

Grilling is another popular option for cooking turkey legs. Many chefs coat turkey legs with a desired seasoning blend and grill them over very low heat for about two to three hours. Barbeque sauce can also give the legs extra zest and flavor. Using this method, cooks turn the turkey legs every 20 minutes to ensure even cooking, so it is important to be in close proximity during the entire process.

Cooks can also smoke turkey legs. Usually, a commercial smoker works best for this process, but there are ways to smoke turkey legs using a regular gas or charcoal grill. Either way, smoking generally takes the longest out of all the cooking methods, often as long as four to five hours, so meals should be planned accordingly.

No matter which method is chosen for cooking turkey legs, brining them beforehand tends to give them better flavor and texture. Due to the fact that turkey legs need to be cooked for a long time, they can get dried out during the process. Brining them first helps keep them juicy and flavorful, especially when grilling or smoking. Cooks can prepare a simple brining solution by mixing kosher salt and sugar with either water or chicken broth. This process requires some planning ahead because brining typically takes about eight to ten hours.

Other marinades aside from a salt and sugar brine are tasty too. Grocery stores sell a variety of prepackaged marinades, but some cooks prefer to make their own. A number of recipes for marinade are online, along with a host of ideas for seasonings and sauces perfectly suited for cooking turkey legs. Whatever the cooking method, turkey legs can be a delicious and nutritious addition to any family's menu.

Jewish chefs traditionally use coarse-grained kosher salt to season a turkey that has been prepared according to kosher dietary laws.
Jewish chefs traditionally use coarse-grained kosher salt to season a turkey that has been prepared according to kosher dietary laws.

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Discussion Comments


If you have a deep fryer, you can also fry turkey legs, in about the same way you'd deep fry the whole turkey. It doesn't take as long as some methods, and I love the crispy outside skin you get from the fryer.

I've also been known to take the meat off the bones and pound it very thin, dredge the meat in flour and pan fry it, like chicken scallopine. That's another variation on the method. It's always good if you don't have a lot of time. It takes less time to get the meat off the bones than it does to roast the whole legs.


Smoked turkey legs are probably the best things to get at a fair or something like that. You actually get something for your money. I was at a music festival and the concessions were unreal, as far as price. I got a roasted cob of corn, and it was like, $4. I should have gone with the turkey leg for $6.

I prefer to roast turkey legs. I just leave the skin on so they will stay moist, and roast them on a pan, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. They're really not a big deal to cook, and they're a heck of a lot cheaper than a whole turkey!

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