When you hear the word turkey, I’m sure you think of big, festive meals like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Do you want to learn how to cook store bought smoked turkey legs?
Turkey traditionally makes its grand entrance onto the dinner table at those times of the year, and for many people, that’s the only time they eat turkey, opting for the smaller bird of fowl, chicken.
Yet, turkey doesn’t need to be a ‘twice-a-year thing’. The wide availability of whole turkey and packages of specific cuts such as wings, thighs, drumsticks, breasts, and legs makes turkey a terrific option for any time of the year.
In addition to fresh turkey, smoked turkey can also be found in the meat section of our grocery stores. Unlike fresh turkey, smoked turkey has already been cooked by the process of smoking.
It is a little more costly than fresh due to the extra time it takes to go through the smoking process, however, that also means that you will save time when you cook it.
Perhaps the most obvious thing that smoked turkey has over fresh turkey is the great smoky flavor. You can’t replicate the taste, and it’s a flavor that is very popular with young and old alike.
As smoked turkey legs are already cooked, you are actually just heating the turkey legs through, not cooking them.
While this makes it pretty easy, you do need to watch out for over-cooking, and ending up with dried out, rubbery meat.
The rule of thumb is 6-8 minutes of cooking time in a conventional oven for every pound of turkey.
The risk in heating the smoked turkey legs is leaving them too long in the oven, slow cooker, air fryer, grill, or microwave.
Testing the legs for doneness about 5 minutes prior to when it should be done will allow you to grab it and get it out of the heat before it is over-cooked.
Even before you think about which method you are going to use to cook the smoked turkey legs, you should exercise some caution and smarts at the grocery store. All smoked turkey legs are not created equal.
When you shop for smoked turkey legs the first thing to look for is the “best before” date or the “sell by” date.
If you are planning to cook the smoked turkey legs that night, and the “best before” date is two days from then, go ahead and pick up the package.
However, sometimes a package gets left on the shelf and its “sell by” date is already past.
It is a horrible feeling to get home, and unpack your groceries just to discover that the meal you had planned for tonight is no longer an option.
You are left scrambling to put a different meal plan together. Back to the drawing board.
In addition to checking the “best before” date, there are other things you should look for in a good smoked turkey leg. Look for lots of meat.
The turkey legs should appear plump. Stay away from turkey legs that look like they lack volume. When you bite into the meat, you want there to be a lot on the bone.
You also don’t want to buy something that looks dry, but rather looks moist as it is more likely to be tender.
Be wary of frozen smoked turkey legs as there is a chance they have been thawed and refrozen. This could increase the chances of bacteria in the meat.
One more thing you can do is read the ingredients list. You don’t have to take a long time pouring over it, just glance at it.
If there is an extensive list with words that are hard to pronounce and you don’t recognize, chances are that smoked turkey leg has additives.
Be on the lookout particularly for the sodium quantity as smoked meat can contain a good deal of sodium and be overly salty. Choose a package of smoked turkey legs that have lower sodium content.
Another important factor to take into consideration when you are choosing your smoked turkey legs is price.
Due to the time taken to smoke the meat, smoked turkey legs are more costly than fresh turkey legs. Be sure you are getting the best, plumpest turkey legs for your money.
It isn’t necessary to pay the highest price, but it’s also wise not to buy the least expensive.
Remember that the smoked turkey legs are already cooked, so that’s a big time saver, and they are delicious. Fresh turkey legs do not have that beautiful smokey flavor.
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Five Methods To Cook Store Bought Smoked Turkey Legs
In The Oven
Store bought smoked turkey legs can be heated through beautifully in a conventional oven. The oven temperature is set where you would normally set it if you were roasting poultry, at 325 F.
Wrap the smoked turkey legs in aluminum foil. This will help to keep the juices in and guard against the meat becoming dry and rubbery.
A bit of water or chicken broth sprinkled on the turkey legs will help to keep it moist and provide some extra flavor.
Testing for doneness with a meat thermometer will take the guesswork out of knowing when it’s time to take the meat out of the oven. The thermometer will read 165 F when the meat is done.
How long the smoked turkey legs will need to be in the oven will depend on a couple of factors. How many smoked turkey legs you are cooking, for instance. The more turkey legs you are cooking, the longer it will take to be done.
If the pieces of smoked turkey legs are large or if they are small this will also affect the cook time. Larger turkey legs will require more time in the oven than smaller turkey legs will.
In The Microwave
We all love our microwaves! They are so handy and speedy, and require so little food preparation.
What is key to successfully cooking smoked turkey legs in the microwave is recognizing that a microwave cooks food by using intense heat.
Moreover, the heat cooks the food evenly – inside and outside at once, as opposed to the outside first, and working inwardly which is what happens in a conventional oven.
That intense microwave heat, working on the entirety of the meat at once, can easily dry out the smoked turkey legs, so it’s necessary to take steps to add moisture to combat the potential for drying out.
First, you need to make sure you are using a microwave-safe container for your smoked turkey legs.
Then sprinkle the turkey with a little water or chicken broth, and partially cover the turkey legs with a lid, or loosely cover with plastic wrap. This will help to keep the turkey legs moist.
The length of time you cook the smoked turkey legs in the microwave will depend on how many pieces you are putting in and their size.
If you have just one and it’s small to medium-sized, 1 minute should be sufficient. If you have more turkey legs, and they are medium to large in size, then 2-3 minutes will likely be needed. Be sure to check before the time is up to avoid the turkey legs being overdone.
In The Air Fryer
Like the microwave, the air fryer provides a speedy way to cook food. Air fryers are becoming very popular in homes and are a welcome strategy for getting tasty food on the table quickly.
The steps for cooking smoked turkey legs in an air fryer really could not be easier. The fact that the turkey legs are smoked means that they have lots of smokey flavor, and you don’t need to add sauce or seasonings.
Preheat the air fryer to 375 F. Put the smoked turkey legs in the basket and cook them for 10 minutes, turning the meat after 5 minutes.
Check for doneness with an instant-read meat thermometer. The turkey is done when it reaches 165 F.
In The Slow Cooker
The beauty of the slow cooker is having dinner ready to go when you get home. A few minutes of prep in the morning gives you a hassle-free evening.
When you are using smoked turkey legs, you have the added advantage of not having to season the meat. Remember that smoked turkey legs are already cooked, so you are heating through, not actually cooking the meat.
Simply place the smoked turkey legs in the slow cooker, add chicken broth so that it just covers the turkey legs, and cook on low for 45 minutes.
Check that the meat has reached an internal temperature of 165 F with a meat thermometer. If it hasn’t, cook it a little longer and keep checking every two minutes for doneness.
On The Grill
People are using their grills more and more, and not only in the summer months, but in the fall and even the winter as long as there is some coverage.
Warming smoked turkey legs through on the grill provides the added benefit of great grilled flavor in combination with beautiful smokiness.
Smoked turkey legs cook well on a medium grill. You’ll want to preheat it so it’s at the right temperature when you place the smoked turkey legs on it.
To make sure the turkey legs do not stick to the grill, you can brush the legs with a little oil, or you may choose to brush the grill with oil.
To get even cooking, turn the smoked turkey legs frequently. To check that they are done, test with a meat thermometer. When it reads 165 F, the meat is done.
Remove the meat, and brush on your favorite barbeque sauce – delicious!
Frequently Asked Questions
How Should Leftovers Be Stored?
Leftovers may be stored in either the fridge or the freezer. If you plan to use your leftovers in the next 3-4 days, then they are fine in the fridge. You will want to place them in an airtight container with a tight-fitting lid.
If you want to leave the leftovers for a later time, then freezing is the better option. Again, place the leftovers in an airtight container, or put them in a zippered freezer bag. You can safely store smoked turkey leftovers in the freezer for 2-6 months.
It’s always a good idea to write the date on the food you put in the freezer, so you know if it’s safe to reuse.
What Foods Go Well With Smoked Turkey Legs?
Smoked turkey legs have a marked smokey flavor which is lovely. You want to choose things that will pair well with that smokey flavor.
Here are some great ideas. A coleslaw or crisp, tossed salad, green beans or carrots are nice. For a starch, mashed potatoes, or pasta with a cream sauce work well.
If you want a more casual, informal meal then opt for French fries or poutine.
What Kind Of Wine Pairs With Smoked Turkey?
A Riesling wine, with its fruity, citrus flavor, is an excellent white wine choice. Riesling has a lot of flavor and can stand up to the bolder taste of smoked turkey. Rieslings range from dry to sweet.
If red wine is a must, then a light-bodied red, such as a Gamay or Pinot Noir is a good way to go.
What Are Other Cuts Of Turkey That Are Available Smoked?
Turkey legs are not the only cut of turkey that can be purchased smoked. Look for packages of smoked turkey wings, thighs, breasts, and drumsticks.
These are also great options, and kid-friendly drumsticks are a great way to go during the busy week.
All of these cuts can be prepared and heated through in the same way as smoked turkey legs. Simply adjust the time for the size and number that you have.
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