While we all enjoy freshly smoked fresh turkey as the main centerpiece during the holidays.
Few have the time or the equipment to fresh smoke our birds. The much easier and more convenient alternative is to buy one already smoked and heat it before serving.
You might think that pre-cooked smoked turkey drumsticks lack the juiciness of a fresh smoked turkey when warmed.
If you don’t store and heat up correctly this will most certainly occur. Usually resulting in chewy meat. Then failed attempts could put you off for good.
However, we have the tricks to warm up drumsticks so they stay juicy and tender with a perfect smoky flavor.
Heating Pre-Cooked Turkey Legs
Most store-bought smoked turkey legs are considered cooked and can be eaten as is.
However, cold meat isn’t always appealing at the dinner table, so some heating-up options are required.
Generally, when reheating pre-cooked turkey, it’s recommended to add a little liquid with them to help retain some moisture and prevent chewy dry meat.
The level of liquid shouldn’t be enough to completely drown the meat, just enough to maintain moisture in the legs.
It’s not unusual for the smoked meat to have a pink tone to the flesh. This is safe to eat and is a by-product of the smoking process. It’s much more important to monitor the internal temperature, making sure it reaches 165F, rather than the appearance of the meat.
If you’re looking to smoke turkey legs yourself, you can see my tried and tested method.
Slowly reheating in the oven at a low temperature is by far the preferred reheating process to get even heat and retain the rich and juicy moisture in the meat.
It is time-consuming and will take some planning, but is certainly worth the effort.
Preheat the oven temperature to between 300 °F to 350 °F.
Remove the turkey legs from the fridge, and let them stand to come to room temperature.
Spread out in an oven-safe dish, leaving a small gap between each leg.
Add a couple of tablespoons of water, stock or gravy, and a portion of butter and your favorite seasonings.
Cover the baking dish and turkey with foil. Place in the preheated oven.
Turn at least once during the cook, to prevent them from becoming dry on the exposed side.
Cooking time will vary, depending on the size of the legs. Leave for 45 minutes to 2 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 °F in the thickest part of the turkey leg. Use a meat thermometer to monitor the temperatures.
The stove method is another great way of heating pre-cooked turkey legs and a good alternative when the oven space is at a premium.
Put the turkey legs in a pan.
Pour some stock into the pan, to a level of around 1cm.
Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and simmer on medium heat.
Turn several times during the cook, to maintain moisture levels.
Simmer until the meat is heated evenly. Once again, checking the internal temperature with a meat thermometer is the most efficient way to check they are ready.
Let drain, and fry off the skin at high heat if you prefer a crispy coating.
The microwave isn’t the greatest alternative to heating turkey legs, but when time and convenience are a priority it can be an option.
Divide the legs into smaller pieces if possible. While it’s not the most attractive serving option, it will allow the meat to cook evenly without leaving cold patches and overly dried-out spots.
Cover a plate with baking paper, and spread the individual pieces out. Leaving a gap will allow the heat to circulate.
Add a dash of stock or chicken broth.
Cover the plate with microwave-safe plastic wrap.
Microwave on medium to high power at intervals. The general rule of thumb is 1 minute for every pound of meat.
Air Fryer Method
Air fryers are the new heating appliance and are great for quick and easy preparation of food.
Air is heated up by an internal element and this air is forced around the cooking chamber in a rapid circular motion.
Line the air fryer with a baking sheet if preferred.
Load the turkey legs into the air fryer basket, leaving a gap in-between for the air to circulate.
Set the temperature to Roast function at 335F.
Set the timer on 35 minutes
Check the internal temperature is at 165F. If not, cook in five-minute intervals until it is.
The slow cooker is always a great alternative for cooking meat cuts to tender. The slow cooker can also handle pre-cooked, raw turkey or frozen turkey legs without fuss.
Put the turkey legs in the slow cooker.
Add your choice of vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, onion, and celery.
Cover with several inches of water, stock, chicken broth, or sauce. Add seasonings or any other flavor additives.
Leave to simmer for 4 to 8 hours.
The secret is to avoid overheating quickly, so the meat retains the natural juices, giving a tender result every time. What are your favorite sides for turkey?
Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)
You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!
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