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Dec 5, 2012 10:15 PM

Breaking down turkey before cooking?

What are your thoughts about breaking down the turkey, with bones still attached, before roasting it to ensure even cooking? Furthermore, similar to the slow roast prime rib technique, it will be cooked at 250-275 degrees till it hits temp. It will be brined overnight. Obviously, it will not be stuffed. It will not be carved table side so presentation is not a concern

Will be cooking Christmas dinner for 20+ people and will be doing this with either one large bird or two smaller ones.


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  1. Breaks down just like a chicken. My only comment on the technique is the low team might not crisp the skin, and I loves me some brown crispy turkey skin.

    1. Hi Curry. Do you have to leave the bones attached? If you are not attached to that there is a really terrific article on Serious Eats about how to cook the turkey pieces parts to utter separate perffection. Just in case they frown on the link at Chow: Serious Eats-should you cook your turkey in parts? (that's the location and article title).

      If you go whole, opt for two smaller birds. They will cook more evenly. If you are not concerned about the skin (which I cannot even fathom really!) You can cook it breast down.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Sal Vanilla

        Hi Sal, keeping the bones in would, I imagine, lend more flavour to the meat. Not sure if I should blast the bird under high heat at the beginning or the end of the cooking process to crisp up the skin. Towards the end would be nice as I'd like to have it cooked and rested prior to guests arriving. A brief broil will crisp up the skin and warm up the meat followed by a short rest before carving. Not sure if this will reduce the juicyness of the meat though.... btw thanks for the link. Will check it out.

        1. re: curryjello

          Ya know, I would wait to blast it at the end. Why? Well, it could be that you may not need to blast. If you preblast, then you might have to fuss with it and tent it and - meh. Why bother with that when you can zap it later if need be. The time could be better spent drinking some sort of rummy eggnog or some such.

      2. Your low oven idea is a good one based on sound science, but as Brandon Nelson mentioned, it will not yield crisp skin. For that you'll need a at least a medium oven.

        As for final temps, shoot for 150 degrees F in the breast and 160 degrees F in the leg meat. This will give you the juiciest turkey meat you've ever had.

        Oh, and make sure you unfold that triangle of fat (basically, the turkey's butt) that is oftentimes tucked into the cavity before you roast the turkey. Let it roast along with the rest of the bird. That triangle of fat with its super juicy inside and brown, crispy skin outside is my favorite part of the entire bird.

        1. have you thought about flattening the turkey? it will have more even access to heat and cook thoroughly

          4 Replies
          1. re: rtms

            I just spatchcock my turkey and really like how it tasted. Dark meat done, breast still very juicy. But I did do mine low and slow at 325F until my probe beeped at 165F.

            1. re: Crockett67

              You know hubs and I were just discussing the possibilities of spatchcocking a turk. I think it is a fine idea. PLUS you can make some lovely garlicky, butter croutons to set below it to catch some of the juices that leak out. Heaven. We spatchcock chickens pretty much every time we bake them and they turn out fab.

              Plus I get to say spatchcock which works out well for me since I have the humour of a ten YO boy.

              If you put croutons below them - add time to the cooking.

            2. re: rtms

              I'd also go with spatchcocking over cutting into pieces.. If you cut it into pieces, the skin will shrink down as it cooks and expose the meat to the dry oven heat, or at least that's been my experience.


              1. re: gmm

                Update. Spatchcocked a 22 pounder with herb infused butter injected into the meat and cooked it at 275 to 300 for about 3 hours. Bird was placed on a wire rack with aromatics placed between the rack and the bird. Took it out when breast was 153 and let it rest for 40 minutes. Not sure if it came up to the recommended 165 during the resting period but there was no sign of pinkness when carved. (Will update if i get sick within the next 24 hours ) Also basted the turkey 5 times durring cooking process and skin came out sufficiently browned to my liking although broiling it at the end would have yielded slightly better results. It was unanamously voted the most moist turkey ever! The white meat was literally gistening! Ironically, it was the dark meat that came out slightly on the dryer side. Next time i will tent the legs. Thanks to all for your advice towards a near perfect turkey. Will try to post a pic soon.

            3. For crisp skin, I'd crank the oven to 450 and cook for about 45 min, then lower the oven to 250-275.