How to Cook Pre-Smoked Turkey Legs? 4 Easy Methods to Achieve Perfection

September 7, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton
Edited by John Smits 

Cooking pre-smoked turkey legs is as simple as brushing them with olive oil and grilling them over medium heat until they are warm. They’re fully cooked already – you just need to heat them! You can also reheat smoked turkey legs in the oven, air fryer, or slow cooker.

Turkey legs have always been a holiday favorite for me. They make for a hearty dinner or lunch when served alongside creamy mashed potatoes and gravy. I use the leftovers to make sandwiches that are legendary. I’m not too proud to admit that I get store-bought smoked turkey legs sometimes. They’ve got a rich, smoky flavor and are a quick fix.

I put together this detailed article on what to look for when buying pre-smoked turkey legs and four different ways to cook them.

How to Cook Pre-smoked Turkey Legs

How Do I Cook Store-Bought Smoked Turkey Legs?

The best cooking method should be based on your favorite cooking gear. You can cook smoked turkey legs on your grill (my favorite), in the oven, in an air fryer, or in a slow cooker.

You will need the smoked turkey legs, a tablespoon of your favorite cooking oil, and a brush. For a flavor boost, add fresh thyme.

On the Grill

Preheat your grill to medium (350°F). You’ll be direct grilling the legs. 

If your turkey legs were frozen, allow them to thaw completely before grilling. Tuck thyme under the skin if using.

Generously brush the turkey legs with oil. This will help keep them from sticking to the grates. It also gets the skin nice and crispy.

Cover the grill with the lid and allow the smoked turkey legs to grill undisturbed for around 5 minutes.

Turn them to cook evenly. Grill, covered, for an additional 5 minutes.

Brush with your white sauce. I’m a fiend for Alabama white sauce – this is my favorite commercial version. You can also whip up your own. Or, use your favorite poultry-friendly sauce. You can also choose not to sauce and let the turkey flavors really come through!

Cover and grill for 3 more minutes. Once the turkey is warmed to your liking, it’s ready.

That drumstick’s gonna be hot! Let it cool for a couple of minutes before biting in.

In the Oven

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

As it warms up, prepare a quick mop by mixing chicken broth and apple juice or apple cider vinegar. 

Place the turkey legs in an oven-safe dish. Next to them, place the thyme.

Hit the turkey legs with the mop. Don’t put a lid on the cooking dish.

Cook the smoked turkey legs in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Turn the drumsticks and cook for another 5 minutes.

Once they’re sufficiently warmed, they’re ready. Serve them up!

If you want crispier skin, take the turkey legs out of the oven and grill on high heat. You can also bump up the temperature of your oven. A temperature of 500°F for around 1 minute per side should crisp that skin nicely.

two turkey legs on a plate

In the Air Fryer

Start by preheating your air fryer to 350 °F.

While it preheats, brush each turkey leg with vegetable oil or your favorite cooking oil.

When your air fryer is ready, place the turkey legs in the air fryer basket. Tuck thyme under the skin of the turkey leg. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Turn the smoked meat to allow it to cook evenly. Cook for 5 minutes.

Brush generously with sauce, if using, and let it cook for 3 minutes. Again, your goal is simply to warm up the turkey legs. 

In the Slow Cooker

The best thing about cooking meat in the slow cooker is that you’re braising the meat in liquid. This results in ultra-tender, juicy meat. I like to use chicken broth as my base.

In a skillet, pan-fry some onions, garlic, salt, and black pepper over medium heat. Add a can of crushed tomatoes and allow to cook on low heat till it turns to a paste, around 10 minutes. Pour the mixture into the slow cooker.

Add the smoked turkey legs to the paste. Next, pour in enough chicken stock to cover the turkey meat. No stock? No problem. Use chicken bouillon. I like the Better Than Bouillon brand.

Set your slow cooker to low. Cover and cook until hot. It’ll take a couple of hours. If you’re crunched for time, kick the temperature dial to high. This should heat things up in 30 minutes or so.

I like to shred the turkey meat at this point. The extra surface area lets the meat absorb the broth and tomato mixture.

What is the Best Way to Know if They Are Done?

Pre-smoked turkey legs are already fully cooked. You could gnaw on a frozen one if you wanted. People might give you side-eye if they catch you munching on a frozen drumstick, though. 

You can also eat the legs at room temperature. But I think they taste best when reheated. Get the legs warm enough to eat, and you’re good to go!

Where Can I Buy Smoked Turkey Legs?

Most grocery stores and well-stocked supermarkets will have smoked turkey legs, especially during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Check both the freezer aisle and by the lunchmeats. Ask at the deli or an employee to help if you can’t find them.

Alternatively, you can order smoked turkey drumsticks from online meat retailers like Farmer’s Fresh Meat or Farm Pac Kitchens and have them delivered right to your doorstep.

turkey legs on a smoker grill

What Should I Look for When Buying Smoked Turkey Legs?

Before you buy smoked turkey legs, consider the following factors:


First, go for smoked turkey legs that won’t bruise your wallet.

Smoked turkey legs cost more than fresh turkey legs. Pre-smoking the legs requires more effort, so it costs more to get them to the store. 

Like most products, cheaper usually means lower quality and standards. Try some different brands to find your favorite.

Farmer’s Fresh Meat and Opa’s Meat are good options for quality, affordable pre-smoked turkey legs.


Take a look at the ingredient list. Ingredients used by different brands vary, but some ingredients, such as salt, bay leaves, garlic powder, and onion powder, can be found on many ingredient lists.

Depending on the flavor, spicy smoked legs will have paprika or chili added, while sweet smoked legs will have brown sugar among the list of ingredients. There is a wide range of options to suit different palates.

If you are watching your salt intake, go for low-sodium pre-smoked turkey legs.


Consider the sell-by date on the package. It is meant as a guideline for retailers as to when it should be sold for optimum quality.

Go for smoked turkey legs that haven’t been sitting on the shelf for long. This will give you the best bang for your buck. You’ll have longer to store the turkey and consume any leftovers.


Keep in mind the number of people you will be serving. The last thing you want is to run out of smoked turkey legs if it’s the main dish. I recommend figuring around 1.25 pounds of turkey per person. Again, these make for fantastic leftovers. Grab extra.


If you’re buying from the grocery store, choose turkey drumsticks that are plump and meaty. They should also look moist – not dried out. Moisture equals juiciness.

How Do I Store Leftover Smoked Turkey Legs?

The leftovers will be safe in the fridge for 4 days. You can also freeze the leftovers. Try not to freeze them for longer than 3 months, as the flavor degrades. 

Store your leftovers in a small, shallow, airtight container or Ziplock baggie. Remove as much air as possible.

Store the meat in portion sizes so that you’ll only thaw what you need. This will keep your meat fresher for longer.

For optimum safety, don’t leave the leftover meat out of the fridge for more than two hours. Temperatures between 40°F-140°F encourage the rapid growth of bacteria that can cause food-borne illnesses. This temperature range is known as the danger zone.

cooked turkey legs in a sauce

What Is The Difference Between Fresh And Smoked Turkey Legs?


The major difference between store-bought smoked turkey legs and fresh turkey legs is the distinct flavor of smoked meat.

Smoked turkey, which has been flavored with smoke from aromatic wood, has a deep smoky taste. It is hard to miss.

Fresh turkey is not exposed to any smoke, so you get a clean slate. You can choose to smoke fresh turkey legs on your grill or smoker or simply cook them in your oven.


Smoking turkey leaves the meat with a darker color compared to fresh turkey legs. They are a toasted brown color.

Fresh drumsticks have a rich pink hue that is evenly distributed throughout the meat.

Cooking Time

Fresh turkey legs require more cooking time because you’re starting the cooking process from scratch. Some recipes call for between 90 minutes to two hours.

Store-bought smoked turkey legs are cooked during processing. They will take a shorter time to cook.

Most recipes will take no more than 30 minutes if you’re reheating a fully-cooked smoked turkey leg.


1. Do Smoked Turkey Legs Need to Be Cooked?

No. Smoked turkey legs are fully cooked already, so you only have to heat them to improve the flavor.

2. How Long Do You Cook Precooked Smoked Turkey?

Reheat precooked smoked turkey until it’s warm enough to eat. You can check if the internal temperature is at 165 F using a thermometer.

Wrapping It Up

You’re armed with everything you need to know about reheating pre-smoked turkey. Your grill, oven, air fryer, or slow cooker will all do the trick.

It’s just a matter of getting the turkey leg up to the temperature you want to eat it at. It’s a delicious and quick meal – perfect for a busy weeknight. Enjoy!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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