The Most Flavorful Roasted Turkey Legs or Thighs
Yield: 2 servings per 1-pound thigh or leg (recipe is easy to scale up and adjust by weight of turkey parts)
A simple spice rub and one clever trick are the keys to crispy skin and tender, juicy meat that's brimming with flavor. Easy to prep ahead and pop in the oven when ready. 


  • Per pound of turkey (approximately 1 large turkey leg or thigh*)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt (use a scant ½ teaspoon if using table salt)
  • ¼ teaspoon EACH freshly ground black pepper and garlic powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon EACH dried thyme, sage, and paprika
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened or melted**



  1. Mix the dry rub: In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried thyme, sage, and paprika. (Prep ahead tip: this may be done several days in advance and stored, covered, at room temperature.)

    1-2 days before roasting the turkey: Pat the turkey dry with a paper towel if wet, and then sprinkle the herb mixture all over, gently working some under the skin and then pulling the skin back to cover the meat. Transfer the turkey to a zip-top plastic bag. Seal the bag and refrigerate on a rimmed baking sheet or plate (or wrapped in another bag to catch any leaks) for 1-2 days, turning over a few times if you think of it.

    The night before or earlier in the day of cooking: Remove the turkey from the bag and pat dry with a paper towel. Place the turkey, uncovered, back on the baking sheet. Return to the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight in order to dry out the skin (this helps crisp it).

    When ready to roast:  Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and allow it to sit at room temperature while the oven preheats. Preheat the oven to 350℉. Brush the turkey skin with the melted butter, or smear it on if you opted to soften the butter. Place the turkey in a baking dish and roast, uncovered, for 45-50 minutes or until the internal temperature taken in the meatiest part of the thigh or leg reads 175℉-180℉. (Tip: Check a little early and extend the cooking time as needed based on size of turkey part and typical oven variances.)

    At this point, if you prefer slightly crisper/browner skin, you may switch to the broil setting and broil for a minute or two, watching very carefully to avoid burning. Allow the turkey to rest for 10 minutes before serving.


*If the weight of your leg or thigh varies, simply go a little heavy or light on the seasonings and adjust cooking time up or down slightly.

**I have skipped the butter and the results are still good. However, the skin will not crisp as much or brown quite as deeply and evenly.

Prefer turkey breasts? You could replace the leg or thigh with a bone-in, skin-on turkey breast half, following the recipe as instructed but reducing the cooking time to achieve an internal temperature of 165℉.

A few more things:
Dark meat is more forgiving (harder to dry out) than white meat and, I think, tastes better when it is cooked to a slightly higher temperature than is called for with breast meat (175-180℉ versus 165℉).

I get about ¼ cup of pan juices from each pound of turkey, which is delicious drizzled overtop the turkey or mashed potatoes, stuffing, etc. If desired, you could thicken it and turn into gravy (or add it to this make-ahead gravy base).

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