Seriously Simple: Roast turkey in pieces reduces cooking time on Turkey Day
Tara Bench has penned a wonderful new book, “Delicious Gatherings: Recipes to Celebrate Together,” full of creative recipes and menus. Her holiday menu included a clever and quick way to cook a turkey in parts. She divides the turkey into breast, legs (drumsticks and thighs), and wings, which allows the meat to cook more evenly — in half the time!
According to her, the meat turns out perfectly cooked, traditionally flavored, golden brown, and delicious every time. This method is in the Seriously Simple cooking philosophy, which also frees up the oven sooner for cooking all the other Thanksgiving goodies. The rub is a savory blend of all the typical spices for this holiday. All you need is a standard half-sheet pan and a metal rack that fits inside it.
If you have your butcher cut up the bird for you, ask for the neck, backbone, wing tips, and giblets, along with a few extra wings for making stock. Also, make sure to have an accurate meat thermometer to test the temperatures of the different pieces. I’ve also included the recipe for my favorite make-ahead turkey gravy.
For turkeys larger than 14 pounds, you will want to use two sheet pans, and use two ovens. Remember, you can make the gravy a few days ahead and just add the turkey drippings at the least minute. Happy Thanksgiving!
Classic Turkey in Pieces
Serves 10 to 12
- 2 ribs celery, roughly chopped
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 1 (12-to-14-pound) turkey, cut into 5 pieces
- 6 sprigs herbs (thyme, sage, parsley)
- 2 cups turkey or chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, divided
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 3/4 teaspoon paprika
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 5 tablespoons canola or avocado oil
1. Heat oven to 425 F. Spread celery and onion on a rimmed half-sheet pan and set a metal cooling rack over the top. Arrange turkey pieces on the rack with the herbs. Pat turkey dry with a paper towel.
2. Whisk together stock, Worcestershire sauce, and 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Set aside.
3. Mix together remaining tablespoon brown sugar, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, ground coriander, paprika, salt, and oil. Rub mixture all over turkey, on the skin side and the underside. (You may not use it all.) Place pan in oven and pour 1 cup stock mixture into the baking sheet.
4. Roast turkey, rotating baking sheet halfway through, until skin is light golden brown, about 30 minutes.
5. Reduce oven temperature to 325 F. Baste turkey with broth mixture and continue to roast for 50 to 70 minutes more. Baste with broth mixture every 15 to 20 minutes. Add more broth 1/2 cup at a time to the baking sheet as needed to always maintain some liquid.
6. Turkey will cook a total of about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, and the skin should be a rich golden brown, so cover with foil if skin starts to get too dark. Check the temperature of each piece after 1 hour. The internal temperature of each piece should be 160 F to 165 F on an instant-read thermometer. Wings and legs will be done first, after 60 to 80 minutes, and can be removed when done. The breast may take the entire 90 minutes.
7. Transfer turkey pieces to a cutting board and tent with foil for 20 to 30 minutes before carving. (Internal temperature will increase to the required 165 F.)
8. Remove rack from baking sheet and scrape the drippings into a gravy separator to capture the liquid. Discard the solids. Reserve strained liquid for gravy.
9. Carve turkey as desired and arrange on a serving platter.
Diane’s Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy
Makes About 3 1/2 Cups
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup all-purpose
- 4 cups favorite turkey stock
- 1/2 cup red wine
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Defatted drippings from a roast turkey
1. In a heavy large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, watching carefully so it does not burn. Add the flour slowly and whisk briskly until bubbles form. Continue whisking for a few minutes until the mixture thickens and turns a golden-brown color. The color of this roux is important, because it determines the final color of the sauce.
2. Add the stock and wine and whisk until the roux is completely blended into the liquid. Continue cooking the gravy on medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until it is thickened, and no taste of flour remains. Add the salt and pepper and taste for seasoning.
3. After you remove the turkey from the oven, strain the pan drippings into a fat separator and pour the defatted drippings into the gravy. Warm and mix the gravy over medium heat and season to taste.
Advance preparation: The gravy can be prepared up to two days ahead through Step 2, covered, and refrigerated. Reheat gently.
Art courtesy “Delicious Gatherings: Recipes to Celebrate Together” by Tara “Teaspoon” Bench.
(Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Parties,” and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.)