Monitoring the internal temperature of your turkey leg is so important.
Not just for safety reasons.
But also so you can guarantee perfection at the dinner table.
Different cuts of meat from the same animal can have different required internal temperatures.
Today I will be discussing tasty turkey legs.
So let’s find out what the optimal temperature is and how to measure it.
What Is the Recommended Internal Temperature for a Turkey Leg?
The safe temperature for turkey leg and thigh meat is 165°F.
This will ensure the juicy turkey meat has been cooked and any bacteria destroyed.
White Meat vs Dark Meat – What Is the Difference?
The turkey legs contain what’s known as dark meat.
Any dark meat lover will go towards the legs and the thigh of the turkey.
Other than the color being distinctively darker…
It also has richer and more flavorful turkey meat.
This is because of the leg bone.
The bone has its own unique flavor which is able to transfer over during the cooking process.
Bone-in meats tend to be more flavorsome.
Due to the marrow and collagen that the bones contain.
They also retain the heat so there is heat transfer to the nearby proteins.
Which can influence and retain the moisture level.
Leaving you with tender meat to enjoy.
Try it for yourself!
The turkey white meat is found within the juicy breast meat!
The light meat will be milder in flavor without any connective tissue.
Both are delicious in their way.
So who has to choose?
What Kind of Meat Is a Turkey Leg?
By now we know the meat within the turkey leg is dark.
The internal meat will be savory and takes on flavor very well with a choice of seasoning mix.
But more of that later
How Do I Measure the Internal Temp?
So what are the best ways to monitor the leg or thigh meat temperatures?
Using a Meat Thermometer
The most effective and accurate way to measure the internal temp?
With a digital thermometer.
Insert the probe into the thickest part of the leg before cooking.
You can then actively monitor the internal cooking temperature while it’s cooking!
This also helps you gauge the rate of cooking.
Working Out the Actual Cooking Time
Another way to work out the internal temp is by a cooking time formula.
You first need to know the weight of your turkey legs.
Have your butcher select similar weighing cuts.
My recommended temperature to cook these types of meat is 225°F.
At this temperature, the leg meat should cook for around 20 minutes per pound.
You can also physically check whether your legs are done.
– Poke a knife into the thickest part of the leg.
There should be clear juices running from the cut.
– Cut into the thickest part of the leg.
There should be no pink color.
– Look for a golden brown crust of crispy skin.
Note: I advise doing this with the above suggestions.
Not the only way of telling when it is at the right internal temperature!
What if I Want My Turkey Leg Meat Ground?
I advise grinding the meat once it has been cooked.
But you want to debone and grind the leg meat into mince?
The internal temperature can read 165°F.
Which is the same as the breast meat doneness temp.
How Do I Store My Cooked Turkey Legs?
Store cooked turkey legs in an airtight container.
Once they have cooled down to room temperature while wrapped in aluminum foil.
When this is done, put it directly in the fridge.
Eat within 2 days.
Food Saftey Tips
Turkey is poultry that can contain harmful bacteria.
Familiarize yourself with some basic food safety.
Otherwise, you will have a recipe for disaster!
– Give yourself plenty of time to prepare and organize.
– Wash your turkey legs with cold water to remove any blood.
Pat down with paper towels before cooking.
– Pay attention and wash any surfaces or utensils you have used when handling raw meat.
– Don’t leave raw or cooked meat out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours.
– Use a digital thermometer probe to accurately measure the internal temperatures.
Accurate probe placement is important so put in the thickest part.
Turkey Leg Cooking Tips
See below for some tips and tricks when cooking your turkey legs.
Food and cooking in general should be fun.
Explore different cooking methods.
Get creative with simple ingredients.
Should I Use a Brine?
Use a wet brine solution for at least 5 hours before cooking.
The salt permeates the proteins to help keep the meat moist.
A simple brine starts by dissolving coarse salt in warm water.
The ratio is 1 tbsp to a cup of water.
Should I Use a Rub?
The dark meat on the legs can take on spices and aromatics.
Plus it will help achieve crispier skin.
Think garlic powder and onion powder.
With a little bit of brown sugar and kosher salt.
Or what about paprika powder?
Have fun with the seasoning ingredients.
Tip: Rub them with olive oil before adding the seasonings.
It helps them stick!
Just make sure they are bone dry from the brine.
What Is the Best Way to Cook Turkey Legs?
I always recommend cooking turkey legs on a smoker or smoker box.
With indirect heat.
Avoid intense heat as you don’t want to burn the outside.
And be left with a cooler center that is undercooked.
Throw them on a roasting tin and close that smoker lid!
See my smoked turkey legs recipe here, it always turns out juicy turkey legs.
How Long Do I Rest Turkey Legs?
Give the legs a 30-minute rest in foil to allow any carryover cooking.
It will also allow the juices to be absorbed back into the proteins.
Can You Reheat Turkey Legs?
Yes you can reheat turkey legs. See my full resource on reheating turkey legs here.
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!
You can read more on our About Us page.
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