Published November 1, 2008.
Roasting a whole turkey is a race to keep the white meat from drying out while the dark meat cooks through. So who says you have to roast it whole?
How can you bring dark meat up to temperature ⎯ and keep the skin crisp ⎯ without overcooking the white meat?
We wanted no less than the perfect turkey recipe—an approach that would get our fowl from supermarket to table in just a few hours. We required meat as moist as prime rib, crisp, crackling skin, and it all needed to be accompanied by rich gravy. For a greater challenge, we wanted to do it without salting the turkey or brining it, both of which take the better part of a day.
First, we roasted two non-brined turkeys, one using our standard high-heat method and the other at 275 degrees the entire time. The outer layers of the high-heat breast topped a moisture-obliterating 210 degrees. The exterior of the slow-roasted breast reached 176 degrees and the meat was moist, even without a brine. But the long cooking time and undercooked legs and thighs were still a problem. We knew from past chicken recipes that spreading the legs out from the breast helps them cook faster. Rather than breaking down a whole turkey, we bought a breast and two leg quarters (thighs and drumsticks) and roasted them on a rack over a baking sheet to promote air circulation. After about three hours, the breast reached 160 degrees. Without the insulation from the turkey’s backbone and breast meat, the thighs and drumsticks reached 175 degrees just as the breast finished cooking. The results? Tender, juicy meat. The problem now was the skin. Most recipes achieve crisp skin by starting the bird in a hot oven to brown it, then lowering the heat. But that meant a higher oven temperature, which meant dried-out meat. What if we let the turkey cool before popping it back in the oven to crisp the skin? This turned out a perfect turkey from center to edge surrounded by flawless, crisp skin. For a simple gravy, we roasted a mixture of carrots, celery, onions, and herbs under the turkey with some broth. After straining the vegetables and broth, we used the flavorful liquid as a gravy base.list of recipes