I trust everyone had a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving this year. Since we celebrated Thanksgiving the weekend before, I really wasn’t in that big of a hurry to make any turkey for ourselves. Our dinner with friends was so delicious and I was almost turkey’ed out, but I did buy my own turkey because leftovers are just delicious and we needed those around for a while.
We did the obligatory calls to family on the holiday, but in the end just sat around and did our own thing. It was quite relaxing. The turkey I bought was still mostly frozen, so we decided to wait until Saturday to make turkey. We are such rebels.
One thing I hate about dealing with the turkey is… well dealing with the stupid turkey. I almost always misjudge the cooking times and have a habit of under cooking the bird. That kind of puts a damper on your holiday plans, and generally put me in a really bad mood for the dinner.
So last year I decided that I didn’t want to make the whole turkey, instead I lopped off the breast meat and legs and just cooked those. It drastically cut down on the cooking time and it turned out delicious!
This year I decided to do the same.
The only reason I keep buying a whole bird instead of just buying the breast by itself is because it’s cheaper with a deal a local store runs. The whole bird will be one sale for either $0.38 or free, depending on how much you spent. I paid with $0.38 and got the turkey for $5, where as the turkey breast by itself would have cost me $14. It’s worth saving the money plus I have a little more freedom if I decide to change my recipe or have others over for dinner!
Cutting off the meat is really not that big of a deal as long as you do it in the right order and with a sharp knife. Our knives suck, and even though I tried to sharpen the heck out of those things they were just not awesome.
I really need a good quality chef’s knife. Like, seriously. Because it was ridiculous when the knife had a hard time cutting through turkey skin. Getting annoyed while wielding a knife is not a good thing, even if the knife is dull.
I roasted the meat on an oven safe rack on top of a disposable tray filled with veggies. The veggies (carrot, onion, celery) roasted nicely and flavored the drippings deliciously. Next year I would probably add some garlic to the mix, but it still turned out tasty. I added the drippings to the gravy, and I’m a terrible foodie when it comes to gravy since I just use the gravy mix from a packet. I’m a little chicken to make my own gravy and screw it up. Plus, it’s just memories from growing up!
Another thing I noticed from when I roasted the meat this way, the drippings had a LOT less fat in it than from the times I watched my Aunt make it (she usually makes Christmas dinner, and she uses the drippings in her gravy also). Her gravy separator (best thing ever, get one) usually had quite a layer of fat on top, where mine had probably 1/8″. I think because there is a lot less skin and other things that are roasting and dripping.
I tented the meat this year like you would normally with a whole turkey, but since it took so much less time to cook the skin didn’t brown. It kept the meat moist and all, but was really quite inedible. Next year I would just let it roast without tenting to see if it crisped the skin.
Next year I would also probably also not roast the dark meat. My husband and I are not huge fans of dark meat, but I would cook it if we had people over. Or maybe use it to make a stock. We’ll see.
Either way it was delicious!
Some tips from my encounter of roasting the turkey parts:
- Disassemble the turkey in the right order. For me it was to take off the legs/thighs first, then next to either the wings or breast. I didn’t use the wings since they don’t seem to do much for me, but if you want to use them, take them off before the breast. This is what worked for me, but once you start on the bird you’ll figure it out.
- Don’t bother taking off the skin. I did that last year and while it might be “healthier” to not have the skin, it keeps the meat moist and the fat will drain and flavor the drippings for your gravy. Seriously, get a fat separator. It’s cheap and works awesome. This is my exact one, except mine was $2 on sale.
- You don’t have to tie up your meat. I saw a lot of recipes that called for tying the meat to keep everything all wrapped up. I tied it up last year and I didn’t this year without seeing much difference. As long as you position your meat to keep covered mostly with skin it’ll be fine.
- Check your meat at least a half an hour before it “should” be done. The breast meat cooks faster than the dark meat, so you can take the breast meat off the rack and keep roasting the dark meat if you need to.
Alright, so now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, here are some directions.
- Whole turkey
- Olive oil
- Salt & pepper
- Vegetables/herbs (to roast under the meat)
- Plan accordingly. This method will take a lot less time to cook than a whole bird. Figure out when you need to start your meat in the oven before you attack the meat. A good rule of thumb is 10 minutes for each pound of whole turkey. Mine was 14.5 lbs whole, so it cooked for roughly 2:30 (and that was pretty accurate!)
- Preheat your oven to 350F. Cut your veggies, herbs, spices, garlic, whatever you want to roast in your pan. Oil your cooking pan and put your veggies/herbs in the pan.
- Rinse off the turkey, it can be a little slippery out of the package. Remove the plastic thing holding the legs together from the legs (mine was still attached to the body somehow after taking it off the legs). Drain off any water or blood and transfer to a large cutting board.
- Disassemble the turkey by starting with the legs, before moving on to the wings and the breasts. This is a decent slideshow showing how to break through the bones, granted it’s a chicken but the principle is still the same. No need to break through the bones of the chest, just slice the breast meat from the bones by slicing along the breast bone to cut the skin, then slowly start making cuts along the breast bone to start freeing the meat. Cut all the way down to the bone to get all of the meat. Careful in this step to keep the inner tenders mostly attached to the breast. (Here’s a pretty good video on how to do it.)
- Rub the skin of the meat with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You can use any spices you like but simple can be best. Place the turkey pieces skin side up on either a rack over the veggies, or directly over the veggies, keeping the breast meat towards the middle of the pan and the legs/things to the outside.
- Roast your meat for the time you figured out in step 1. Check the meat about 30 minutes before the time is up, the beast meat might cook faster.
- When ready, remove the meat from the oven and let it rest for roughly 20 minutes. Meanwhile finish the rest of your side dishes and enjoy!