A smoked turkey leg contains around 1,100-1,400 calories, depending on the size. A typical smoked turkey leg weighs around 1/2 pound to 1 pound. Based on the USDA, a 3 oz serving of roasted, bone-in turkey leg with skin contains around 210 calories. So a 1/2 pound smoked turkey leg has around 420 calories, while a 1 pound leg has about 840 calories. However, smoked turkey legs are often coated in seasonings and basted while cooking, which can add more calories. Overall, expect a smoked turkey leg to provide between 1,100-1,400 calories.
Calorie Estimates for Different Sized Turkey Legs
|Turkey Leg Weight||Calories|
|1/2 pound||420 calories|
|3/4 pound||630 calories|
|1 pound||840 calories|
As shown in the table above, a typical 1/2 pound smoked turkey leg contains around 420 calories, while a larger 1 pound leg provides about 840 calories. However, the calorie content can vary depending on the preparation method, added seasonings and basting.
Key Factors Affecting Calorie Content
There are several factors that affect the calorie content in a smoked turkey leg:
Turkey legs come from the lower portion of the bird and contain more fat and calories than breast meat. According to the USDA, a 3 oz serving of roasted, bone-in turkey leg with skin has about 210 calories, while the same amount of roasted turkey breast only has 161 calories.1
Skin and Bones
Skin adds significant calories, providing about 50 extra calories per ounce compared to skinless turkey meat. Bones also contribute additional calories over boneless cuts of meat. Most smoked turkey legs are sold bone-in and with the skin on for added flavor and juiciness.
Smoking uses low, indirect heat over long periods, which allows the turkey leg to self-baste in its own juices and absorb smoke flavor. However, some preparations also baste the turkey legs frequently as they smoke or coat them with seasoning rubs, adding extra calories from oil, butter or sugary ingredients.
Larger turkey legs contain more calories. A typical smoked turkey leg weighs around 1/2 to 1 pound. A 1 pound turkey leg has about double the calories of a 1/2 pound leg. When served as an entree, some smoked turkey legs can weigh up to 1.5 pounds.
Brining is commonly used to keep smoked turkey legs moist, but brines often contain sugar and salt. Dry rubs, mops and glazes also add flavor, but bring extra calories. If you are watching your calorie intake, request a smoked turkey leg prepared without added seasonings.
Nutrition Facts for Smoked Turkey Legs
The nutrition information provided below is for a 1-pound smoked turkey leg, with the skin and bone.2
|Nutrient||Amount||% Daily Value|
As shown above, a 1 pound smoked turkey leg is very high in protein and also contains a significant amount of fat, mostly from the skin. It provides over half the recommended daily value for calories and contains no carbs.
Cooking Methods and Calorie Changes
Below is a comparison of calories in a 1 pound turkey leg prepared using different cooking methods:3
|Roasted (no skin)||925|
|Roasted (with skin)||1,075|
Roasting adds some calories as natural fats melt and drippings are reabsorbed. Smoking results in a similar calorie increase. Frying significantly increases the calories, adding an extra 400+ calories from the oil.
Ways to Reduce Calories in Smoked Turkey Legs
Here are some tips for lowering calories and fat when eating smoked turkey legs:
– Remove the skin before or after cooking to reduce calories by about 50%
– Opt for a smaller 1/2 pound leg instead of a full 1 pound portion
– Eat only a portion of the meat and refrigerate leftovers for another meal
– Avoid legs with heavy barbecue sauces or glazes high in sugar
– Rub with dry seasoning instead of basting with oils/fats during smoking
– Pair with low calorie side dishes like a green salad instead of high-calorie sides
Healthiest Preparation Methods
For the healthiest smoked turkey leg, choose one of these lower calorie preparation methods:
– Dry rubbed – Rub lightly with salt-free seasonings before smoking
– Brined – Soak in a saltwater brine only, no sugars
– Unseasoned – Smoke plain without any rubs, mops or glazes
– Skinless – Request the turkey leg without skin
– Lighter smoke – Use milder woods like apple vs. hickory or mesquite
– Oven finished – Partially smoke and finish cooking in the oven
This minimizes excess calories from oils, sugars and smoke absorption while still providing flavor.
Serving Size Guidelines
When eating smoked turkey legs, keep these serving size recommendations in mind:
– A 1/2 pound leg is considered one serving
– A full 1 pound leg is two servings
– For a meal, allow 1/2 pound turkey leg per person
– As an appetizer, calculate 2-3 ounces of meat per person
– For small children, stick to about 2 ounces of meat
– Avoid extra large 1.5 pound turkey legs, as they provide over three servings
– Remove skin and bone before weighing smoked turkey leg portions
Following these serving sizes can help keep your calories under control.
Health Benefits of Turkey Legs
Despite their high calorie and fat content, smoked turkey legs can be part of a healthy diet in moderation. Benefits include:
High in Protein
Turkey legs are an excellent source of protein. A 4 oz serving provides over 30g protein for muscle recovery and maintenance.
Lower in Saturated Fat than Red Meat
Poultry contains less saturated fat than beef or pork when comparing skinless portions.
Source of Iron, Zinc and B Vitamins
Smoked turkey legs provide minerals like iron and zinc plus B vitamins niacin, B6 and B12.
Can Promote Weight Loss When Portion Controlled
Due to the high protein and lack of carbs, turkey legs may help with fat loss if eaten in smart portions.
Overall, in moderate portions, smoked turkey legs can fit into a balanced, calorie-conscious diet due to their nutritional profile.
Cooking and Serving Tips
– Slice the turkey leg meat off the bone before weighing portions for easier calorie control.
– Chop leftover turkey meat and add it to salads, wraps or soups.
– Allow 1/2 pound uncooked weight per person when cooking turkey legs for a meal.
– Brine turkey legs overnight before smoking to increase moisture and flavor.
– Carve off the skin after cooking if you want to reduce fat and calories.
– Pair smoked turkey legs with low-calorie sides like a green veggie salad.
Are smoked turkey legs healthy?
Smoked turkey legs can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet. They provide lean protein, vitamins and minerals. However, the skin and bone add a lot of calories and saturated fat, so practice portion control.
Are smoked turkey legs gluten-free?
Plain smoked turkey legs without breading, batter or glazes are naturally gluten-free. But always check labels as some seasonings may contain gluten.
Can you freeze smoked turkey legs?
Yes, you can freeze fully cooked smoked turkey legs for 2-3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating to serve.
What wood is best for smoking turkey legs?
Good all-purpose wood choices for smoking turkey include hickory, apple, cherry, pecan, alder and mesquite. Avoid stronger flavored woods like oak.
What is the white stuff on smoked turkey legs?
The white substance on smoked turkey legs is coagulated protein. It forms when the meat reaches temperatures between 140°F and 160°F during smoking. It is harmless and can be scraped off.
The Bottom Line
A smoked turkey leg contains about 1,100-1,400 calories for a typical 1/2 to 1 pound portion. Exact calories vary based on size, added skin and seasonings. While they are high in protein, vitamin B12 and minerals, smoked turkey legs should be enjoyed in moderation if you are concerned about weight or heart health due to their high fat and sodium content. Overall, incorporating smoked turkey legs into a healthy diet with proper portion sizes, low calorie sides and exercise can allow you to balance their benefits and drawbacks.