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Do turkey legs and breast really need to be roasted separately for a succulent result?

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  • E_M Nov 8, 2010 11:24 AM
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My turkey is always too dry. Someone told me that if I cooked the legs/thighs separate from the breast I'd have a moister turkey. Is this true? Is there a work-around so that I can roast the whole bird at once?

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  1. there are many techniques for a juicy whole roasted bird. and lots of people have opinions on it. Some: brine first. start roasting breast down. baste. (Or don't baste for crisp skin). put herbs and butter between skin and meat. high heat. low heat. start with a really good heritage turkey. start with a fresh turkey. deep fry. what do you do now?

    1. Spatchcock it! Remove the backbone and flatten the bird. It reduces the roasting time by hours (literally) and allows the breast and thighs to cook evenly. My 18 lb. bird cooked in 90 minutes last year.

      1. Okay, so here's my take on the subject. I was going to be on "Barbeque With Bobby Flay" throught the home brewing club I was cooking for back in 2006. My problem? I had to smoke an entire 13.5 pound turkey in about 2 1/2 hours. How do I do this when the average roasting time is 8 to 9 hours for a turkey that size. I went into my local supermarket, picked up two fresh turkeys about the same weight, (so I could do the "swap out" on camera,) then walked up to the guy behind the Meat Counter and said, "I want these cut up!" "Cut 'em up like chicken?" he replied. "Like chicken!" I said. I watched as he went into the back room and used the blade saw to hack the two turkeys up and package them separately. I then took them home, brined the one bird overnight in an Apple Cider brine and the next day had that puppy smoked using apple and alder wood chunks done and sliced in about 3 hours! The director of the shoot even said, "Wow! That's the most moist turkey breast I have ever eaten!" The nicest thing about raosting a turkey this way is you can remove the white meat when it's ready, cover it and let it rest as you finish roasting the dark meat!

        1. Slow cook it!

          1 Reply
          1. re: jvanderh

            we've never had a problem with breast dryness since we started brining. Even tho we are not breast lovers, it renders the breast moist and edible. Typically we will follow the start at high temp roasting on each side and then lowering the temp and flipping it with breast up for the end tho Im not sure the acrobatics (recommended orig by Ray Sokolin and later by Cooks Mag) is really needed, We also aim for the vicinity of 165 degrees/juices run clear whentested in the thigh. Almost invariably we overshoot on the temperature at the end but it doesnt seem to matter with the brining technique.

          2. You can roast the whole bird and have it be moist and golden brown. I love Giada De Laurentiis's recipe. She starts at higher heat with just the breast covered in foil, then reduces heat adds some liquid to the pan and eventually uncovers the breast to let it brown and cook. I've made it for 3 years with excellent results. The foil slows down the initial cooking of the breast and the liquid in the pan keeps things moist while still allowing a good brown skin. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/gi...

            1 Reply
            1. re: Christnp

              Yeah, tenting with foil is generally the way to do it, esp. if you've got one of those ginourmous birds.

            2. I cover the turkey breast with bags of ice while I leave the bird out for about three hours on the counter. When it enters the oven, the turkey breast is much colder than the legs. If you do it correctly, the legs will be done (180F) when the breast meat reaches 160F. I also brine the turkey.

              1. America's Test Kitchen featured this very subject last weekend and I've decided this is the way I'll cook my turkey this year. They had the legs, thighs and the breast all separate. It was seasoned well with salt and pepper and brushed with melted butter. She put cut-up carrots (1) onions (2) and celery (2) and placed them on the bottom of a large cookie sheet. She then laid a large rack over the vegetables and poured a cup of chicken broth in the pan. She started by laying breast side down and the other pieces separted by and inch or so . Shen then roasted it in a 225 degree oven for one hour, took it out and turned the breast up and put it back in the oven for another hour. The meat thermometer registered done for all pieces. She let the turkey rest for 1/2 an hour, poured off the juices that had accumulated and the veggies and strained them for the gravy. She then returned the turkey to a 500 degree oven for 15 mins for browning. It looked incredible and timewise, it was so much more desirable for me.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Neta

                  I used to remove the back for stock/gravy, and the legs and thighs for a quicker roasting time at a higher heat. I would simply lay the thighs along side of the breast... the breast bone would be cracked/split, so the white meat would lay flat at an even height like the legs & thighs. All the meat was cooked on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.

                  For the last decade though, I have converted to the low temperature and slow roasting method @ 225*. I find this is the easiest method for preparation moist results.....

                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/663209