I know Thanksgiving is over and whatnot, but I can still talk turkey, right? Besides, I couldn’t report on how I cooked my turkey until after I did it. So, consider this an investigative reporting piece. 20/20 here I come.
For years I’ve been wanting to cook a turkey that is cut into pieces. I read about it in Sunset magazine. But, for whatever reason, roasting a butchered bird felt, I don’t know, un-traditional or something. This year since I was cooking a turkey just for us and not on Thanksgiving, the pressure was off and I gave it a go.
The week before Thanksgiving I saw an episode of America’s Test Kitchen where they cooked a turkey that they slow roasted in pieces. I totally trust them, so I decided to do exactly what they said to do. Please click on this link to read the recipe. (You need to register with the site to view it, but registration is free and TOTALLY worth it – great site and recipes!)
Instead of rehashing the recipe, I just want to discuss the results. The turkey was good. Honestly, though, it wasn’t great. It was not as tender, juicy and flavorful as I was expecting. (By the way, I’m starting to think the perfect turkey is almost as elusive as the perfect watermelon.) Here are a few of my thoughts:
- I do like cooking the turkey this way. It’s much more manageable to work with than a giant bird, and you have a lot more control when cooking. If one part of the turkey is cooking faster than another part, you can just take it out of the oven when it’s ready.
- Next year I think I’m going to cook two turkey breasts and forget the dark meat altogether. And, since I’ll be cooking it in pieces, I’ll have that option.
- It takes a lot longer roasting at this lower temperature (275 degrees F), so you need to plan accordingly. However, I like the slow roasting method for sure. The meat was definitely more evenly cooked – the temperature of the outer portions of meat wasn’t that much higher than the center temperature of the meat.
- I think I’ll brine my turkey pieces prior to slow roasting next time. On the America’s Test Kitchen episode, they said you don’t need to brine the turkey when you slow roast. But, I’ve gotta say, I think if the turkey had been brined, then it would have been that much moister and more savory in flavor.
- At the end of the recipe, they brown the turkey at a high heat for about 10 minutes. My dark meat pieces were already quite brown, so I should have just left them out of this step. And I should have browned the breast a bit longer.
I’m really glad I did this “experiment.” I will use this technique again for sure, and next time I think I’ll have it figured out!
P.S. If you DID have a totally delectable, juicy, tender turkey this year, please tell us how you did it! What kind of turkey did you buy and how did you cook it? Spill your secrets!
P.S. #2: I also tried making gravy the way they described in the episode I linked to above (although, I used white roux to thicken). My gravy is better. Not to brag or anything. 😉 I think next time I roast turkey this way, I’ll do half of the amount of chicken stock that they put in the pan at the start of roasting, and I’m going to buy turkey giblets separately to simmer in water, like I normally do when buying a whole turkey. That all makes for a much more flavorful gravy.