Turkey is a classic protein to enjoy during the holidays, but you can also cook it year-round for a great alternative to chicken. Just like chicken, various parts of a turkey are delicious and easy to cook. For another method of cooking turkey legs, try my Air Fryer Turkey Legs. Or, try your hand at roasting turkey parts with my Melt in Your Mouth Turkey Tenderloins and Marinated Turkey Tenderloin.
One of my favorite aspects of this recipe is that it looks (and tastes) so delicious for how easy it is to whip up, making it an ideal crowd-pleasing centerpiece for a small holiday dinner or a fun handheld dish to serve on Game Day. However you make it, this roasted turkey leg recipe is sure to impress dark meat lovers everywhere.
All you need for crispy-on-the-outside, juicy-on-the-inside oven-roasted turkey legs are a few simple ingredients, which we’re using to make a rub with lots of butter and yummy seasonings. Here’s an ingredient breakdown:
- For the roast turkey drumsticks, I used 12-14 ounce drumsticks, but feel free to use any size that’s available at your local grocery store. Turkey drumsticks (also sold as whole turkey legs) are more widely available during the holidays, but you can also find them year-round, depending on the store. Another option is to buy them when they’re available and freeze them for later use (just make sure to thaw the drumsticks before cooking).
- To make the simple rub, gather unsalted butter, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika (or smoked paprika for a slightly smokey flavor), kosher salt, and black pepper.
How to Cook Turkey Legs in the Oven?
While oven-roasting an entire turkey takes ages and lots of patience, cooking turkey legs only takes about an hour or so. Plus, they’re ready to eat right out of the oven. No carving required! Here’s how to make them:
- Prepare your equipment: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F, and use foil or parchment paper to line a baking sheet or roasting pan.
- Make the butter rub: Add the softened butter, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, and pepper to a small bowl. Mix until well combined.
- Prep the turkey legs: Use a paper towel to pat dry the turkey legs on all sides.
- Apply the rub: Use a pastry brush or your hands to evenly coat each turkey leg with the butter mixture.
- Transfer to the baking sheet: Arrange the seasoned turkey legs in a single layer on your lined baking sheet.
- Bake: Bake for 25 minutes, uncovered.
- Cover with foil: After the 25-minute mark, loosely tent some aluminum foil over the turkey legs to prevent them from browning too quickly.
- Continue baking: Roast the turkey for another 30 minutes until they reach at least 165 degrees F.
- Let rest: After removing the roasted turkey drumsticks from the oven, tent them with foil and rest for at least 10 minutes. Serve on a large plate. You can use the juices in the sheet to either drizzle them before serving or make gravy.
How to Store, Reheat, Freeze, & Thaw
These easy oven baked turkey legs store, freeze, and reheat well, making them an ideal holiday meal prep option or a perfect make-ahead dish for a busy weeknight. Here are some tips to maximize the longevity of your roasted turkey:
- Store: Once you roast your turkey legs, let them rest until they come to room temperature. Store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
- Reheat: I recommend reheating your roast turkey legs in the oven to help them maintain their crisp outer layer using this foolproof method I learned from The Cooks Illustrated. Wrap your leftover turkey drumsticks in foil and place them on a wire rack set on a rimmed baking sheet. Reheat the foil wrapped turkey legs in a 275-degree F oven for around 35-45 minutes (of course, the timing will vary based on the amount of leftover turkey). For a great way to achieve extra-crisp skin after reheating, place the legs in a lightly oiled skillet (use olive oil or your oil of choice) over medium heat and cook until you have a nice and crispy skin.
- Freeze: To freeze, let the baked turkey drumsticks cool to room temperature, wrap them tightly in foil, and place them in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag. Freeze for up to 3 months.
- Thaw: Thaw your frozen turkey drumsticks overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, reheat per the instructions above.
It takes a little know-how to achieve a crispy, tender turkey leg on your first try, so I’ve compiled some helpful tips and tricks to set you up for success. Here’s what you need to know:
- Consider the size: As mentioned earlier, pay attention to the size of your turkey drumsticks and alter your cook time accordingly. I’ve found that a 12-14 ounce drumstick takes about an hour to cook in a 400-degree F oven, but you may need to decrease the time if your drumsticks are smaller or increase the time for big turkey legs.
- Roasting turkey legs and thighs together: Some stores sell turkey legs with thighs (similar to whole chicken legs), so we wanted to make sure we tested this recipe using turkey legs and turkey thighs together, and it worked well. However, as mentioned earlier, the roasting time depends on the size of the turkey parts.
- Think ahead: It’s difficult to spread that delicious butter rub on cold turkey, as the butter tends to harden quickly, so make sure to take your turkey drumsticks out of the fridge as your oven is preheating to give them a little time to warm up. Make sure to also use softened butter, which will make your job easier when mixing it with spices and spreading it on your turkey. Melted butter will make a mess as you’re trying to spread it on the turkey leg, so make sure not to soften it too much!
- Turkey leg marinade: We did not marinate our turkey legs in this recipe. However, if you have the time, you can use my Turkey Tenderloin Marinade to marinate your turkey drumsticks. However, if your turkey drumsticks are very large, I would recommend adjusting (perhaps, multiplying) the recipe accordingly.
- Check internal temperature: Take the guesswork out of cooking turkey and invest in an instant-read thermometer. I love this one (affiliate link.) Always use a meat thermometer to check doneness, and ensure the turkey reaches at least 165 degrees F before pulling it out of the oven. Also, make sure not to poke the turkey legs with the thermometer too many times, as this will cause all those yummy juices to run out.
- Cover with foil: It’s crucial to loosely (emphasis on loosely) cover your drumsticks with foil halfway through cooking, as this prevents them from browning too quickly. Tightly covering the turkey with foil will cause it to steam rather than crisp up, resulting in soggy, not-so-appetizing turkey legs.
- Let it rest: Here’s a secret that will take your drumsticks to the next level: let them rest for 10-15 minutes after cooking. Letting the turkey rest on the baking dish or in your roasting pan allows any remaining liquid to redistribute into the meat, creating that sought-after juicy inside.
- Try the convection setting: Have you ever wondered what that “convection” setting on your oven means? The convection setting uses a fan to circulate hot air around your oven, which allows your food to cook faster and more evenly. This article on convection ovens explains it in more detail. Try the convection setting when roasting your turkey legs, which will result in more even roasting and a super crispy exterior. Just keep in mind that it will cook faster, so I recommend checking your turkey at the second 25-minute mark.
- Don’t throw away the bones: I usually freeze the drumstick bones, and when I have enough, I make a quick turkey stock by mixing it with some vegetables, similar to how I make my Chicken Stock recipe.
Turkey legs, also known as drumsticks, consist of dark meat that stretches from the thigh to the knee. They are especially popular during Thanksgiving and are also often served at state fairs and amusement parks like Disneyland.
Turkey offers a variety of health benefits, as it’s a good source of protein, rich in B vitamins like B3 and B6, and loaded with minerals like zinc and phosphorus.
We didn’t brine our turkey for this turkey drumstick recipe, but feel free to brine them if desired. I recommend brining for a minimum of 6 hours, but don’t brine turkey legs longer than overnight.
The trick to achieving tender, juicy meat is to let your turkey legs rest for 10-15 minutes after roasting. Doing so will allow the turkey to soak up any residual juices that seeped out in the baking process.
If you purchased pre-smoked turkey, this method won’t work for you since the turkey is already cooked. I recommend simply reheating your pre-cooked smoked turkey in the oven until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
Other Turkey Recipes You Might Also Like
Turkey is a high-protein, flavorful meat that can replace chicken any day of the week. Whether you’re searching for turkey recipes for the holidays or simply wish to add some variety to your diet, you’re sure to find inspiration by browsing the delicious turkey recipes below:
If you try this Easy Roasted Turkey Legs Recipe or any other recipe on Foolproof Living, please take a minute to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. It helps others who are thinking of making the recipe. And if you took some pictures, be sure to share them on Instagram using #foolproofeats so I can share them on my stories.
Turkey Drumstick Recipe
- 4 turkey drumsticks 12 to 14 oz. each*
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika or smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Prep your equipment: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet or roasting pan with a sheet of aluminum foil or parchment paper. Set it aside.
- Set out the turkey: Take the turkey legs out of the fridge while the oven is heating and you are working on the turkey seasoning.
- Make the rub: In a small bowl, combine melted butter, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, kosher salt, and black pepper.
- Dry the turkey legs: Pat dry turkey legs with paper towels on all sides.
- Apply the rub: Using a pastry brush or your clean hands, evenly distribute the butter rub over the turkey legs.
- Transfer to the baking sheet: Transfer the seasoned turkey legs onto the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake: Bake for 25 minutes. After the first 25 minutes, loosely tent the top with aluminum foil to prevent it from browning too fast. You do not want to seal the turkey as it will create steam and prevent it from getting crisp.
- Continue baking: Continue to roast for 30 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the turkey registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Let rest and serve: Remove from the oven, tent it with aluminum foil, and let it rest* for 10 minutes before serving.
- Cook time*: Keep in mind that there’s a direct correlation between the size of the drumstick and cook time. Roasting large turkey legs will take longer than roasting small ones, and you’ll also need to adjust the amount of butter rub to ensure there’s enough to coat each leg. The turkey drumsticks we used when testing this recipe were 12 to 14 ounces, so please adjust the timing accordingly.
- Rest time: Do not skip the resting time. Letting the turkey rest allows any remaining liquid to redistribute into the meat, creating that sought-after juicy inside.
- Roasted turkey legs and turkey thighs: You can use this exact roasting method and the turkey seasoning to roast turkey drumsticks and thighs together. We tested this recipe with one turkey leg (9 ounces) and one turkey thigh (9 ounces) and it worked perfectly. As mentioned earlier, be sure to adjust the timing according to the size and weight of your turkey parts. Be sure to roast them until they reach 165 degrees F.
- Store: Let the leftover turkey legs rest until they come to room temperature. Store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
- Reheat: I recommend reheating them in the oven to help them maintain their crisp outer layer. Wrap each drumstick in foil and place them on a wire rack set on a rimmed baking sheet. Reheat the foil wrapped turkey legs in a 275-degree F oven for around 35-45 minutes (of course, the timing will vary based on the amount of leftover turkey). For a great way to achieve extra-crisp skin after reheating, place the drumsticks in a lightly oiled skillet (use olive oil or your oil of choice) over medium heat and cook until you have a nice and crispy skin.
- Freeze: To freeze, let them cool to room temperature, wrap them tightly in foil, and place them in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag. Freeze for up to 3 months.
- Thaw: Thaw your frozen turkey drumsticks overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, reheat per the instructions above.