I have a confession: until recently, I had never consumed a jumbo turkey leg at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or any other Disney park. Don’t get me wrong, I am an avid carnivore and a huge fan of eating large chunks of meat off the bone, but something about the turkey leg just looked…unappetizing.
However, since I always want to do what the cool kids are doing, and since I wanted a somewhat fitting post for Thanksgiving, I decided to give one a try. This post covers my review of the ubiquitous Disney turkey jumbo leg, plus about 900 words of filler since the review itself only needs to be like 2 sentences.
First, let’s start with a bit of unnecessary background. According to a recent New York Times article, the turkey leg made its Walt Disney World debut in Frontierland at the Magic Kingdom near the Big Al stand in the 1980s. As a Country Bear Jamboree fan, I could not be any prouder that the prolific history of this snack involves the Magic Kingdom’s most storied attraction.
I’m also not surprised that Big Al is mentioned in the same sentence as the jumbo turkey legs. He seems like a jumbo turkey leg kind of bear. Since every red-blooded American enjoys a good piece of bone-in meat from time to time, the turkey legs were an immediate sensation, and eventually became somewhat of a culinary symbol of the Disney Parks, much like the churro.
As an “eating things that are awful for you” craze swept America in the 2000s, sales of the turkey leg exploded, with an estimated two million plus turkey legs sold per year in Disneyland and Walt Disney World. With this has come coverage in mainstream media, as well as controversy from animal welfare groups that have wondered just what kind of mutant turkey is producing legs that large. I remain fearful of the day one of these artificially bred turkeys is fed after midnight and transforms into something truly terrifying.
Now, for some more necessary background. Despite urban legends to the contrary, the turkey leg Disney sells is, in fact, made of turkey. Not emu, ostrich, or any other giant bird. I know people like to jokingly(?) claim that there are no calories on vacation, and I’m a strong advocate of this approach, as it helps me justify eating cupcakes for breakfast and 6 servings of ice cream per day. With that said, it is worth noting that the jumbo turkey leg is probably the single worst thing you can ingest at Walt Disney World or Disneyland, with the average leg containing 1,093 calories, 54 grams of fat, 15 grams of saturated fat, and 5,284 milligrams of sodium. In case you’re unfamiliar with nutritional information, bigger numbers in those categories are not better. The jumbo turkey leg is basically a real world version of the Weight Gain 4000.
The recent iconic status Disney has tried to bestow upon the turkey leg is “interesting.” Unlike the Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar, which looks cute and is an edible representation of Mickey Mouse himself, the turkey leg looks a bit like a cross between Keith Richards and a turd. Sorry if that description ruined the turkey leg for any of you, but you know it’s true. In an era where Disney has paid face to notions of healthy eating, going so far as distancing itself from McDonald’s and adding healthy checkmarks to menus, I’m surprised the turkey leg is so highly-touted by Disney. The turkey leg is not something to be celebrated: it’s something to gnaw on in a quiet corner of the park near a trash can before afterwards doing the walk of shame to a restroom to wash the grease from your hands and face, and the shame from your soul.
Given all of this, I can only hope Disney’s new merchandising and marketing fascination with the turkey leg is done so with a heavy dose of irony and with tongue firmly planted in cheek. I know all of the hipsters (well, the few who aren’t vegans) love things like this, so maybe Disney is trying to build a cult following for the turkey leg in a hip, ironic, almost self-deprecating kind of way. I really hope that’s the case, as I can’t think of any other logical explanation for why things like a turkey leg air freshener or turkey leg wallpaper exist. It does seem like it’s all in good fun.
Now to cut to the chase and actually review the thing. I am slightly embarrassed to admit it, but the jumbo turkey leg I had was amazing. I’ll start with the ‘unboxing.’ My jumbo turkey leg was purchased in Frontierland at Disneyland near the Mark Twain, and came wrapped in a Hot Food Bag with a couple additional layers of wrapping underneath that, both of which were almost completely soaked through with juices/grease.
The meat had a nice, smokey flavor to it. The leg was also incredibly juicy and tender. After the first couple of bites, I was not surprised that so many people suspect that it’s actually not turkey at all, since it doesn’t really taste like turkey–it is almost like a cross between cured ham and chicken. I suspect the turkey leg is brined, but I can’t confirm this. The strong salty flavor would certainly suggest as much.
After getting the obligatory photos and taking a couple of bites, we actually moved from the seating area near the Mark Twain to a secluded area standing over a trash can to finish eating, because the leg was so messy. So messy, but so delicious. Even Sarah loved the jumbo turkey leg, although I suspect now that she knows the nutritional information, she would never eat it again.
The turkey leg itself was large enough to be a snack or light meal for two people, and splitting it among a few people is probably a good idea. Ours cost around $11 after tax. It’s definitely not a snack or meal I’d have every time I go to Walt Disney World or Disneyland, but my first experience with the jumbo turkey leg has solidified it among my list of other guilty pleasures that I will have from time to time. I expected it to taste beyond disgusting, and I was surprised to find that it was beyond delicious.
Oh, and finally, here’s a super useful photo of the jumbo turkey leg with a backdrop of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. This is (probably?) to scale. Feel free to make this photo the lock screen on your iPhone.
I know the jumbo turkey leg is one of those controversial, love it or hate it type of things, so…what do you think of it? Do you have to have one every time you visit? Does the very smell of the turkey leg make you nauseated? Do you have a “favorite spot” to get the turkey leg? Let us know in the comments!