Large Bird in Small Portions
Roasted Turkey Breast with Sweet White Wine. Courtesy of Ronnie Fein
Turkey Parts for Thanksgiving
Turkey Parts for Thanksgiving
A big roasted turkey looks magnificent, but preparing it properly takes some fussing. The dark meat and white meat don’t finish cooking at the same time. Some people complain about dry breast meat, others fear undercooked thigh meat. The uneven cooking has to do with the way the bird is built, where the bones are and how everything is attached.
So why not unattach? Serve turkey parts. It’s much easier.
Turkey parts may not be traditional for Thanksgiving dinner, but when you present the golden brown pieces on a platter, your meal will be just as festive and visually beautiful as any. The meat will taste better too. Parts are also helpful if yours is a small gathering for Thanksgiving, because a whole turkey may be too much food, even considering leftovers for a day or so.
We are a turkey-loving family, so some turkey part or other is something I make quite often. Depending on who’s coming for dinner, I prepare a separate whole breast or half breast, sometimes with extra wing parts, sometimes with a couple of extra thighs. Everybody eats white meat or dark as they wish.
The bonus: it’s faster to cook turkey parts, whether it is a whole, cut-up turkey, or simply one or two parts.
A variety of kosher turkey parts is available, including whole and half breasts, thighs, drumsticks, drumettes (from the wing), boneless roasts, and so on. You can mix and match by size as well as part – make a small thigh, for example, and a large breast. You can season them the same way and use the same roasting pan but place the larger parts that take longer to roast in the oven first, then add the smaller parts later.
Cooking time varies tremendously depending on the size of the part. It’s smart to use a meat thermometer. Breast meat is done when the temperature reaches 160 degrees; dark meat is fully cooked at 165 degrees. In general, a 4-6 pound breast (either a large half or smaller whole) may take 1-1/4 to 2 hours; 1-1/2 pound thigh may cook in 1-1/4 hours; large drumstick, 1-1/2 hours; whole wing, 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Timing depends on your oven, what else you’re cooking in it, and so on. Whatever part you are cooking, look at the meat thermometer after one hour, then every 10-15 minutes until the meat reaches its safe level. Remove parts that have reached their required temperature and keep them warm and tented with foil.
If you plan to serve stuffing, you can place some of it under the turkey parts before you roast the pieces and bake the remainder in a separate casserole. If you don’t include the stuffing in the roasting pan, place the turkey part(s) on a rack for more even roasting. Be sure to preheat the oven too, to 425 degrees; this helps to brown the skin. Turn the heat down to 325 degrees as soon as you place the parts in the oven.