Roasted turkey legs are perfect anytime and also work well for small Thanksgiving gatherings.
Baking them at a high temperature ensures crispy skin and juicy meat. And with this method, this recipe takes just a little over one hour to be ready.
Not everyone wants or needs to roast a whole turkey for Thanksgiving. Perhaps you plan on a small Thanksgiving gathering. Or maybe your family members have a strong preference for either white or dark meat.
Either way, roasting just a couple of turkey breasts, or a few turkey legs, has some clear advantages, such as a shorter roasting time and a better-tasting bird. Roasting just parts of the bird means avoiding the issue of white meat that becomes too dry by the time the dark meat is fully cooked.
You'll only need a few simple ingredients to make this recipe. The exact measurements are included in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
Avocado oil spray: I use it to grease the rack and also to spray the turkey pieces after seasoning them. This oil has a high smoke point, making it ideal for high-heat roasting.
Medium-sized turkey drumsticks: Bone-in and skin-on, weighing about 10 oz each.
Melted butter: I use salted butter in this recipe, but unsalted should work fine too.
Seasoning mix: Sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, dried thyme, and paprika.
Scroll down to the recipe card for detailed instructions. Here's an overview of the steps:
- Pat the turkey legs dry with paper towels. Brush them all over with melted butter and sprinkle them with the seasoning mix, pressing to help it adhere.
- Place the turkey pieces on a greased rack fitted into a rimmed baking sheet (it's a good idea to line the baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup). Spray them with avocado oil.
- Roast the turkey, uncovered, for 20 minutes in a preheated 450°F oven.
- Now, loosely cover the turkey pieces with foil and keep roasting them until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F. For medium drumsticks, this should take about 30 more minutes.
- Let them rest, still covered in foil, for 10 minutes.
This recipe was written for medium turkey legs weighing about 10 ounces each. If yours are much bigger - some are as big as a pound each - you will need to bake them for a longer time at a lower temperature.
See the drumsticks pictured above under "Ingredients?" Those come from a big bird and weigh about 1 pound each. I baked them in a 350°F oven for almost two hours, covering them loosely with foil once the tops were deeply browned, which happened after around 75 minutes.
They emerged from the oven beautiful, with dark crispy skin and perfectly cooked juicy meat:
So you'll need to adjust the oven temperature and the time the bird spends in the oven according to the size of the turkey pieces.
Frequently asked questions
I realize that many recipes will tell you to bake turkey drumsticks for an hour and a half at 350 degrees F.
But as always when roasting poultry, I find that as long as they're not too large, baking them for a relatively short time at a high temperature yields the best results: crispy, well-browned skin, and juicy, succulent meat.
Having said that, as mentioned above, if the drumsticks are very large - around a pound each - you will indeed need to bake them for at least an hour and a half in a 350°F oven.
This helps keep the spices and herbs moist and helps prevent them from burning in the hot oven.
The secret is to pick relatively small pieces and roast them for a relatively short time at a high temperature. Then let them rest for a few minutes before digging in, to allow the juices to settle.
The best way to vary the basic recipe is to experiment with different spices and herbs. Good candidates include smoked paprika, cumin, and onion powder.
This recipe is so good, that I often double it and make eight pieces, to ensure I have tasty leftovers. The leftovers are good just as they are, or you can use them in one of these leftover turkey recipes.
You can keep the leftovers in the fridge, in an airtight container, for 3-4 days. Reheat them gently, in the microwave on 50% power. Much like cold leftover chicken, they are also very good cold!
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Roasted Turkey Legs
- Avocado oil spray
- 4 medium turkey drumsticks (bone-in skin-on, about 10 oz each)
- ¼ cup butter melted
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Fit a rimmed roasting pan with a roasting rack and spray the rack with avocado oil spray.
- Pat the turkey legs dry with paper towels. Brush them all over with melted butter and rub them with the seasoning mix. Place on the roasting rack and lightly spray with avocado oil.
- Roast, uncovered, for 20 minutes, until the skin is browned.
- Loosely cover with foil, to avoid scorching the top, and continue roasting until the juices run clear when pierced with a fork and an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees F (make sure it isn’t touching the bone), about 30 more minutes.
- Remove the turkey legs from the oven and allow them to rest, still covered in foil, for 10 minutes before serving. Do not skip this step - it allows the internal temperature to climb a bit more, and the juices to redistribute and settle.