When it comes to cooking turkey and other poultry, dark meat is much more forgiving than white meat but that doesn't mean that using sous vide can't help make it turn out great every time!
I prefer to cook my dark meat separately from my white meat because the legs and thighs benefit from different temperatures than the breasts. I also usually leave the bones in for the added flavor.
There are a few great options for time and temperature combinations for dark meat. My favorite is 148°F (64.4°C) for around 6 to 12 hours. You can get away with cooking it for only 2 to 4 hours (depending on the thickness: sous vide thickness times) but turkey can be cooked for that extended of a time because it's so much less tender than chicken meat and can benefit from additional tenderizing.
Some other popular time and temperature combinations are ChefSteps, who recommends 150°F (65.5°C) for 12 hours followed by 131°F (55°C) for another 12 hours while the breasts cook. Some people suggest 141°F (60.5°C) for moister turkey meat. For a more traditional confit-like texture you can go as high as 170°F (76.6°C).
Note: For questions about the low temperatures, you can reference the sous vide safety and pasteurization section of the Exploring Sous Vide course.
If crispy skin is your thing, before you sous vide the meat you can remove the skin. Then before serving use the oven to crisp it up. I usually use a skillet on medium-heat with a little oil or I bake it in an oven set to 375°F to 400°F until it's nice and brown, usually around 40 minutes. If it starts to curl, you can layer it between sheets of parchment paper and then place another sheet pan on top of it while it cooks.
You can season the turkey leg with any flavors you like. A simple combination is some citrus peel with salt, pepper, and some woody herbs like sage, thyme or rosemary. You can also use any of your favorite spice rubs.
Once the turkey is done cooking, use a dish cloth or paper towels to dry off the outside really well. Then sear it in a hot pan, on the grill, or under the broiler until the skin begins to crisp up. Some people also love to deep fry the chicken once it's done cooking.
Just serve it with your favorite sides and you are good to go!
Ingredients for Sous Vide Turkey Leg and Thighs Recipe
- 2 turkey leg and thighs, ideally bones attached
- 1 lemon
- 10 sage leaves
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Cooking Instructions for the Sous Vide Turkey Leg and Thighs Recipe
Preheat a water bath to 148°F (64.4°C).
Salt the turkey leg and thighs and add to a sous vide bag. Remove the zest from the lemon, using a vegetable peeler or zester and place into the bag on the turkey meat. Add the sage leaves to the bag then seal it.
Cook the turkey for 6 to 12 hours, or at a minimum until they are pasteurized.
For more information on the cooking times you can read my detailed article which addresses why is there a range in sous vide cooking times.
Once cooked, remove the cooked turkey from the sous vide bag and pat dry. Lightly salt the outside then quickly sear until just browned. You can serve the turkey legs and thighs whole or cut them into slices.