Tender turkey leg roasted in the oven and served in a divine sauce with vegetables; this recipe makes a perfect festive meal despite being easy to cook. Great for any time of the year, actually!
How to cook a turkey leg in the oven? This task is more straightforward than you might think. A turkey leg (either whole or only the thigh or the drumsticks) is the best part of the bird. It makes for the most beautiful roast, flavorful and juicy… and then that crispy skin on top. Wonderful!
Advantages of roasting only a turkey leg or thigh
- Suitable for small families: One whole leg, a thigh, or a few roasted drumsticks might be a more suitable festive dinner, either Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas, than an entire turkey. A whole bird is excellent, but if your family is small, you will end up eating it until New Year.
- You could also try these Slow Cooker Turkey Legs.
- Fewer leftovers: You will probably still have some leftovers when cooking only a leg, but they will not be so overwhelming. One more meal (two tops), and you will be done with them. You could try this fantastic leftover turkey fricassee, for instance, or make a nice soup. Or a hearty lasagna with leftover turkey.
- Great for any time of the year: Why have turkey only at a certain time of the year? We love it, and we want to eat more often than that. This roasted turkey leg recipe makes everything possible. There is no need to buy, thaw and roast an entire bird for hours; just get those smaller pieces and roast them any time of the week.
- More dark meat: Most people I know prefer the flavorful meat of the leg or thigh. White meat is excellent, but dark one is juicier, so this recipe is perfect for any dark meat lover!
What do you need?
- Use a whole turkey leg (thigh and drumstick in one) or only the thigh. Whatever you choose to cook, make sure that the piece comfortably fits into the dish you are using; the underside of the meat should lie in the sauce at the bottom of the roasting pan.
- I used a huge and long cast-iron casserole pot, the only dish I have that can easily fit such a large piece of meat. It is similar to this cast-iron casserole dish but long instead of round. (Amazon affiliate link)
- If using only the thigh of the bird, things get more manageable, and in this case, a round cast-iron Dutch oven will be fine as long as it fits the turkey piece comfortably.
- I recommend using a dish with a lid; the dish will be cooked with the lid on. If you are using a regular roasting tin that doesn't have a lid, cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil, making sure that the foil doesn't touch the skin of the meat. If it does, the skin might stick to it.
- The piece I had weighed about 3.7 lbs (1.7 kg). A little more or less would be fine; the turkey leg will be smothered for a relatively long time.
- As mentioned above, use a whole turkey leg if you happen to find one. Otherwise, a large thigh of about 3 – 3.5 lbs (1.3-1.5 kg) will be just as good.
- To make the sauce (which is so good I could eat it on its own with maybe some mashed potatoes), you will need shallots and a carrot.
- If you don't have shallots, use smaller regular onions instead. The small onions should be quartered or sliced into wedges.
- You will need some chicken or turkey stock for the sauce. I always use homemade stock or bone broth, but if you don't want to cook stock yourself, use a good quality commercial stock, preferably low sodium so that the sauce won't be too salty.
- You can make the sauce using either dry white wine or dry red wine.
- Clarified butter to sear the turkey leg at the beginning of the cooking process. Clarified butter is milk fat rendered from butter to separate the milk solids and water from the butterfat.
- It has a high smoke point, making it better for searing at high temperatures.
- If you don't have clarified butter or ghee, use melted butter and a splash of regular oil instead. Or rendered fat (lard), either pork, chicken, or goose.
How to cook a turkey leg in the oven?
- Bring the meat to room temperature; about a half-hour to one hour on the counter should do it.
- Dry: You don't have to rinse turkey legs, but make sure they are dry. Dry them using paper towels and sprinkle them generously on both sides with salt, black pepper, and paprika powder (sweet or hot or a mixture of both). Rub the meat well with the spices. Set aside.
- Prepare the vegetables: peel and halve the shallots, and cut the carrots into thin slices. Set aside.
- Sear: Heat some clarified butter in the pot. Sear the meat at high temperature, about 2 minutes of cook time on each side. Remove it from the pot and set it aside.
- Add the prepared vegetables to the pot and saute for about 5 minutes at medium-high heat, stirring often.
- Add wine, turkey or chicken broth, honey, thyme, and salt. Stir well.
- Roast: Place meat, skin side DOWN, into the sauce. Place the lid on and roast for 1 hour at 180 degrees Celsius/ 360 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Turn the meat, skin side UP. Place the lid back on and continue cooking for 30-40 minutes.
- Transfer: Lift the turkey leg from the dish and place it on a rimmed baking sheet, skin side UP. Continue roasting at the same oven temperature until the skin is nicely browned and crispy. Keep an eye on it, I left mine a few minutes more than necessary, and it turned a bit too brown in some places.
- Check after 4-5 minutes already.
- Another great thing about this recipe is that you will not need a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. You can make a small cut in the thickest part of the leg to ensure that the meat is not bloody or pink, but usually, after almost two hours in the oven, the meat should be cooked. Unless you have a giant turkey leg, in which case, you should check.
How to serve?
Serve with the sauce and vegetables from the casserole dish. The sauce and the vegetables should not need any seasoning anymore, but check, just in case.
We had the oven-baked turkey leg with these amazing roasted Brussels sprouts and potatoes, but other cooked or roasted vegetables would be great as well. You could try some roasted carrots and mashed potatoes, for instance. German bread dumplings would be perfect as well.
What about leftovers?
- Refrigerate: Store in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
- Freeze leftovers for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator and reheat well before serving.
- Reheat on the stovetop, oven, or microwave.
- Stovetop: For quick reheating, strip the leftover turkey meat from the bones. Mix it with the leftover sauce. Use a nonstick saucepan to reheat the food. Add a small splash of water if the sauce is too thick, and stir often.
- Oven: Place leftovers in a suitable dish, add a splash of water, and stir with the leftover sauce. Place meat on top, cover, and reheat at 160 degrees Celsius/ 325 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes or until hot. For quicker reheating, strip the meat off the bones and mix it with the sauce.
- Leftover serving ideas: Chop the meat, mix it with sauce, and reheat. Serve with noodles or rice—a completely new main course. Make Cream of Turkey Soup.
More roasted turkey recipes
How To Cook Turkey Legs in the Oven
- 1 whole turkey leg Note 1
- fine sea salt and pepper
- sweet or hot paprika or a mixture of both
- 1 lb shallots Note 2
- 1 medium carrot
- 1 tablespoon clarified butter ghee (Note 3)
- ¾ cup dry white or red wine
- 1 cup chicken or turkey stock preferably low sodium
- 1 heaped tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/ 360 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Prepare the meat: Dry the turkey leg with kitchen paper. Sprinkle it generously on both sides with salt, black pepper, and paprika powder. Rub the spices into the meat with your hands. Set aside.
- Prepare vegetables: Peel the shallots and halve them. If using smaller regular onions, peel and cut them into thicker wedges or quarters. Next, peel and slice the carrot. Set aside.
- Sear meat: Heat the clarified butter Dutch oven large enough to fit the leg comfortably. Sear the meat at high temperature on both sides until nicely golden, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove from the pot and set aside.
- Saute vegetables: Add the prepared vegetables, lower the temperature to medium-high, and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add wine, stock, honey, thyme, and a pinch of salt. Stir well.
- Roast: Place the meat on top of the vegetables, skin side DOWN first. Cover with the lid and roast for 1 hour.
- Turn the turkey leg in the pot, skin side UP, cover again, and continue roasting the meat for another 30-40 minutes. The meat should be really soft at this point.
- Crisp the meat: Remove from the oven, lift the turkey from the sauce and place it on a regular baking sheet. Return it to the oven and let it there until the skin is nicely browned and crispy. Check after 4-5 minutes already and make sure that the skin doesn't turn too dark.
- Rest: Remove from the oven, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and rest for 8-10 minutes.
- Carve the turkey leg and serve as suggested above.
- One whole turkey leg of about 3.7 lbs (1.7 kg) OR one turkey thigh of about 3-3.5 lbs (1.3 – 1.5 kg)
- Or smaller regular onions.
- If you don't have clarified butter or ghee, replace it with ¾ tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon canola or olive oil. Or use rendered fat (lard) instead.