Would it blow your mind to know Disneyland turkey legs didn’t start at Disneyland? They actually premiered at Disney World in 1980. Of course, after the great feedback they got, they migrated out west.
So here we are today. Disney sells 1.6 million turkey legs every year! They are even the subject of rumors and much speculation. Are they actually emu? Are they human? No, just turkey. Cooked with much tender loved and care. For more, check out my theme park recipes!
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How To Get The Turkey Legs
I’m pretty sure most grocery stores don’t sell just the legs of the turkey. For some reason, it’s always the whole thing or ground turkey, no in between. Maybe you can go to a butcher shop and they can get you just the legs.
If you’re dedicated to replicating Disneyland turkey legs like I was, you have to buy a whole turkey. Which, depending on the time of year can be pretty cheap meat. Who knows how to cook a whole turkey, right? What American knows how to cook a turkey that doesn’t suck? That number is lower I’d wager.
Of course, I’m not going to let you waste the rest of the bird. That would dishonor its sacrifice. There’s so much you can do with it too! Make a turkey bone broth and eat turkey sandwiches for the next 2 weeks. For a great turkey, don’t forget to slather it with butter between the skin and the meat.
Making Disneyland Turkey Legs
For now, don’t worry about the whole bird. Making the Disneyland turkey legs is actually pretty easy. First, break the legs off the rest of the turkey. You can do this with a knife, or with your hands if you’re feeling super swole that day.
Disney smokes their turkey legs, which is how they get that characteristic color on the inside. I’m not at the level where I can buy a smoker just to try this out once and I doubt many out there are. Instead, I used smoked paprika as well as a salty and sweet brine. It won’t taste smoked, but it will be flavorful!
The marinade is pretty simple, only a few ingredients here. Salt (a lot of it), dark brown sugar, smoked paprika, and soy sauce. I know what you’re thinking. Too much salt. Not all of the salt will actually be absorbed into the turkey. Also, we will blot the Disneyland turkey legs dry before roasting.
Brown sugar provides a little flavor complexity. Sweet with the salty. Soy sauce adds a little funk and extra savoriness. If you only have regular paprika, that will work instead of smoked as well.
I chose 325 degrees F because I think this gives some crispy skin as well as tender meat. Overcooking turkey is a sin and we are trying to avoid that. If you want to get fancy with a roasting pan you can do that. You can even put the turkey legs right on the oven rack and put a pan beneath to catch drippings. Or, if you feel lazy, just putting them on a baking sheet works fine.
Last, is the second most important part of the roasting process, the resting. It’s important to let big hunks of meat rest for a bit after cooking, and the Disneyland turkey legs are no exception. Resting allows the meat to reabsorb its juices. The meat will be more tender if you wait 5 minutes than if you just dive right in after it comes out of the oven. Trust me on this.
Disneyland Turkey Legs
- 2 turkey legs
- 1 tbsp salt
- 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- Combine the salt, brown sugar, paprika, and soy sauce in a bowl. Stir thoroughly.
- Put the turkey legs in a gallon freezer bag and pour the marinade on top. Rub into the turkey legs. Store in the fridge overnight.
- Next day take the turkey legs out of the marinade. Pat dry and leave out for 30 minutes.
- Roast turkey legs in the oven at 325 degrees F for 45 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. Remove from oven.
- Rest the turkey legs for 5 – 10 minutes. Dig in and enjoy!