The key to making perfectly cooked turkey lies in roasting the turkey in parts. By breaking down a turkey and roasting it in parts, every inch of the turkey cooks evenly, and can be pulled out of the oven as it hits its ideal temperature. No sacrificing light meat for perfectly cooked dark meat, or vice versa. Every part is cooked perfectly!
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Why This Recipe Works
For starters, roasting a turkey that’s been broken down into individual parts means each part can be roasted to its ideal internal temperature. Which translates to no dried out meat! (A huge bonus for the people who look forward to white meat.) Plus, once broken down, an entire turkey can be roasted and ready to eat in about an hour and half.
Aside from the ease and speed of roasting turkey parts, it’s also much easier to serve. Since you do most of the heavy butchering before it cooks, you can let the meat rest then slice the breast and thighs right before serving. Everything else can be served as is.
Plus, we’re using a flavor-packed dry brine which is inspired by Alison Roman’s dry brined whole turkey. The brine is loaded up with herbs and black pepper. Dry brines are great for keeping meat moist and for flavoring the meat. We find dry brines are much more successful at imparting flavor as opposed to its cousin the classic brine.
And finally, this recipe is ideal when you’re short on fridge space. You just need to carve out a spot for a baking sheet—no large brining bucket or roasting pan.
Breaking Down a Turkey
Channel your ancestors and break down a whole turkey into parts! The process is definitely intimidating, but do it once and you’ll find it’s much easier than you originally thought. We’ve got a whole guide on how to break down a turkey, which includes step-by-step shots and a video that walks you through the process.
Of course, if you don’t want to break down a turkey yourself, you can purchase separate parts from your butcher. Be sure to grab two each of boneless turkey breast, thighs, drumsticks and wings.
Benefits of Dry Brining
Come join the camp where less is more. This year, instead of fussing over the turkey for hours, and more likely days, opt for a simpler technique. Skip the messy wet brine and opt for a dry brine (aka a salt, sugar and herb rub).
A dry brine does a few things; it seasons the turkey meat really well, imparts flavor (not just salt), and it locks in moisture, which keeps the meat tender and juicy.
And we’re always happy when there isn’t a tub of turkey water sloshing around our fridge. But if you’re curious about using a wet brine, we’ve got a complete guide on dry brines vs wet brines.
To cut down on the fuss even more, skip the basting and instead opt for a quick drizzle of olive oil over the skin right before roasting. This will encourage browning and crispness (plus you won’t have to babysit the bird for hours).
What is a Dry Brine?
A dry brine is essentially a dry rub which is made up of salt and flavorings such as spices and herbs. Not always, but often times sugar is also added to dry brines.
The difference between a dry brine and a dry rub is how long it’s on the meat prior to cooking. A dry rub is often applied to a piece of meat shortly before being cooked. A dry brine is applied and allowed to rest for anywhere between 8 and 24 hours.
Sure! We have a recipe for Roasted and Glazed Turkey Breast (it utilizes a wet brine).
Use leftover turkey meat in this flavorful and light soup. We also love to use leftover turkey meat in our Slow-Cooker Turkey Wild Rice Soup. If you want something other than soup, try our Chinese-Inspired Turkey Lettuce Wraps.
The beautiful thing about this Roast Turkey in Parts is that it’s SO simple to serve—all the hard work of carving is done before it comes out of the oven! Simply slice the breast and thighs and them pile onto a large platter with the drumsticks and wings.
We like to garnish the turkey platter with a few sprigs of herbs along with the roasted shallots and lemon wedges from roasting. You can serve the braised celery on the platter as well.
For sides, anything goes! Check out all of our Thanksgiving recipes for some ideas. We love to serve this turkey with our Savory Sweet Potato Casserole, Cauliflower au Gratin, and our homemade Kaiser Rolls.
Watch How to Make It
Roast Turkey in Parts
- 1 (12–14 lb.) whole turkey, thawed if frozen
- ⅓ cup Morton kosher salt
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 bunch fresh thyme, divided
- 1 bunch rosemary
- 6 shallots, peeled
- 4 stalks celery, cut into 4-inch pieces
- 1 lemon, quartered
- 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
- 1 bunch sage
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cups turkey stock, chicken broth or vegetable broth + more as needed
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, or soy sauce
Break Down Turkey
- Remove and reserve neck and giblets for stock. Pat turkey dry with paper towels. Remove wings by flexing wing forward and running knife between wing joint and breast. Make small sweeping cuts until wing releases.
- Loosen legs then press skin into leg crease to ensure skin covers breast. Cut alongside leg to slice through skin and expose connection between leg and breast. Repeat with second leg. Bend legs backwards. Cut up along backbone, through socket to release leg from body.
- Cut down inside of backbone until knife hits neck bone. Pull bakbone outward until neck pops out of joint. Cut around joint to release backbone (reserve for stock).
- Place turkey breast-side up; cut along both sides of breastbone (keel bone), then cut and pull breast meat away from keel bone (the plastic-like piece of cartilage). Remove and discard keel bone (or reserve for stock).
- Slice into thighs and drumsticks by cutting through joints at top of drumsticks.
- Arrange turkey pieces, skin side up, on wire rack set inside sheet pan.
- Set a wire rack in a baking sheet.
- Combine salt, sugar, pepper, 2 tablespoons thyme, and 1 tablespoon rosemary.
- Rub dry brine all over turkey skin. Place on wire rack in sheet pan. Transfer to refrigerator for 18–24 hours. (No longer than 24 hours.)
- Heat oven to 325°F with rack set in middle position. Remove turkey pieces from refrigerator 1 hour hour prior to roasting.
- Drain off any liquid in pan. Remove wire rack then arrange shallots, celery, lemon, garlic, sage and remaining rosemary sprigs on baking sheet in an even layer.
- Arrange turkey pieces, skin sides up, on top of aromatics. Drizzle turkey with 2 tablespoons olive oil.
- Roast turkey pieces until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part, but not touching bone, registers 155°F in breast and 172ºF in thighs and drumsticks; about 1¼–1½ hours.
- Remove and transfer individual turkey pieces to a cutting board as they reach ideal internal temperature.
- Transfer shallots and lemon wedges to a bowl. Discard celery (or reserve for serving). Reserve herbs and garlic. Pour drippings from sheet pan into a measuring cup. Add enough turkey stock or chicken broth to reach 3 cups total liquid.
- Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until flour is sizzling and deep golden brown, 4 minutes.
- Slowly whisk in stock mixture, about ½ cup at a time, letting it bubble, thicken and incorporate completely between each addition, until all has been added.
- Juice roasted lemon wedges then add 1 tablespoon lemon juice to gravy. Stir in worcestershire sauce and reserved roasted herbs and garlic.
- Increase heat to medium-high and simmer until gravy is thickened, glossy and at desired consistency; about 8 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve set over a large liquid measuring cup. Season to taste with additional salt, pepper and lemon juice as needed.
- Cut turkey breast and thighs into thick slices. Arrange on a platter. Arrange legs and wings around sliced turkey. Garnish with roasted shallots, roasted lemon wedges and fresh herbs.
- Serve with gravy on side.
I think you just saved my Thanksgiving! I really don’t like cooking a whole turkey, it is never flavorful enough for me and the white meat is dry before the dark meat is ready. You are a genius, cutting the turkey into pieces is perfect. Flavor from the bottom and the top and I can pull the turkey parts as they are ready. Thank you for this recipe.