Let’s Get Primitive: Turkey Legs

By Jonathan Bowman

Photos by Jonathan Bowman

Let’s get primitive.

That sounds simple right? Well, old school “caveman” cuts might not require much processing, but they do require attention while under heat and also proper expectations of the eating experience. This is not a recipe for dinner with the friends you want to introduce to wild game. This is a meal you eat with your hands, probably outside, and it’s going to be messy. It’s also worth it. If you want to “gobble” down your hard-earned turkey meat, this might be my favorite way to utilize the legs.

Here’s what you need:

A quality coarse-ish salt that will add some texture. A whole turkey leg (skin on).

Feel free to add your own flair with things like garlic, cumin, etc., but salt and fire are really all you need to enjoy a turkey leg.

You can make this a few different ways, my favorite being over an open campfire followed closely by using the smoker.

What is challenging? You need to pay attention to the the flame if using a camp fire or other open flame so that it doesn’t not burn on one side. This could require constant turning, a manual rotisserie. If you don’t have the ability to pay attention, use the smoker or oven.

As to setting proper expectations, understand that the leg is not uniform in size, so the thinner parts will be cooked more. I recommend you wrap the bottom 1/4 of the leg (where you would hold the bone) in aluminum foil to prevent burning the thinnest part.

Our fellow Virginia and wild game wizard, Wade Truong, recommends brining the legs first, which I completely agree with as long as you have time. He has a great article on MeatEater about this as well.

Whole Turkey Leg (skin on)
A coating of salt to your preference. I do it by sight (a light-medium coating), but would guess about a tablespoon per leg roughly.

Start fire or preheat smoker/oven as it goes (or a little higher if time is against you). I typically do 170⁰F, but have done 225⁰F when I only had 1-2 hours.

At 170⁰F it will take a few hours to arrive internally to 155⁰/160⁰, at which point you will let it rest in loosely rented foil as it comes up to temperature over the next 10-20 minutes.

Eat outside where the juices can freely drip, and I recommend leaning forward so you don’t ruin your shirt. Not that I have any personal experience…


Jonathan Bowman lives in Amelia County, where he spends as much time as possible hunting, fishing, and cooking. Jonathan loves sharing his passions with others, and is determined to one day convince his wife to join him on a turkey hunt.

  • October 28, 2022