These roasted turkey legs are perfect anytime and work especially 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.
Not everyone wants to roast a whole turkey for Thanksgiving. Perhaps you plan on a small gathering, or maybe your family members strongly prefer white or dark meat.
Either way, roasting just a couple of turkey breasts or a few turkey legs has clear advantages, such as a shorter roasting time and a better-tasting bird. Roasting just parts of the bird means avoiding the common 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 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 ounces each.
- Melted butter: I use salted butter in this recipe, but unsalted will work fine, too.
- Seasoning mix: Sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, dried thyme, and paprika.
- Use smoked paprika instead of regular paprika for a lovely, smoky flavor.
- Add more spices. I sometimes add ½ teaspoon of onion powder or ground cumin.
- Need this recipe to be dairy-free? Use ghee instead of butter.
Roasted Turkey Legs Instructions
Scroll down to the recipe card for detailed instructions. Here's an overview of the steps for making this recipe:
Pat the turkey pieces 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 legs 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. 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, then serve.
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 longer 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.
Many recipes say you should bake turkey drumsticks for an hour and a half at 350°F.
While this is a valid method, I find that as long as they're not too large, baking the legs for a relatively short time at a high temperature yields the best results: crispy, well-browned skin and juicy, succulent meat.
As mentioned above, if the legs are huge - around a pound each - you will need to bake them for at least an hour and a half in a 350°F oven.
The oil helps keep the spices and herbs moist and helps prevent them from burning in the hot oven.
The secret is to pick relatively small legs and roast them relatively quickly at a high temperature. Then, let them rest for a few minutes before digging in to allow the juices to settle.
You can keep the leftovers in the fridge, in an airtight container, for 3-4 days. Reheat them gently in the microwave at 50% power. Much like leftover chicken drumsticks, they are excellent when eaten cold!
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Roasted Turkey Legs
- Avocado oil spray
- 4 turkey legs (bone-in, skin-on, about 10 ounces 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°F. Fit a rimmed roasting pan with a rack and spray the rack with avocado oil.
- Pat the turkey legs dry with paper towels. Brush them all over with melted butter and rub them with the seasoning mix. Place them on the roasting rack and lightly spray them with avocado oil.
- Place the turkey in the oven. Roast it uncovered for 20 minutes until the skin is browned.
- Loosely cover the legs with foil to avoid scorching their top, and continue roasting them until the juices run clear when pierced with a fork and an instant-read thermometer not touching the bone registers 165°F, 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 will enable the internal temperature to climb a bit more and the juices to redistribute and settle.
- This recipe was written for medium turkey legs weighing about 10 ounces each. If yours are much bigger, you will need to bake them longer at a lower temperature. If they weigh about 1 pound each, bake them in a 350°F oven for about two hours, covering them loosely with foil once the tops are deeply browned, which should happen after around 75 minutes. The best way to ensure the turkey is done is to use an instant-read thermometer.
- You can keep the leftovers in the fridge, in an airtight container, for 3-4 days. Reheat them gently in the microwave at 50% power, or enjoy them cold.