Roast turkey is a time-honoured tradition; here’s a way to make it less time-consuming and more efficient. A little tip from the pros, a cooking hack perhaps, on how to make great roast turkey without taking all day at it. Here we go…
I still recall (as many of us do), the tradition of the fully roasted turkey at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Resplendent in its glistening, golden brown glory, being gently carved off the bone and handed about plate by plate….
Yeah, that’s all great for a small family where Mom has been working all day making a grand feast, including a bird that takes literally hours to roast. As a professional, I learned fast that when you’re feeding turkey dinner to a camp full of labourers who are away from their families at Thanksgiving, it needs to be done fast and in big numbers.
Turkey for 12 people? Ok. How about turkey for 200? Here’s what we do for that; it translates to so much less time and stress.
Remove the breasts from the carcass and set them in the roasting pan; remove the legs and (here’s the tricky part) debone them. Roll the deboned legs and place them in the pan with the breasts.
Once that’s done, season it up and roast it for about 90 minutes. Easy, right? Now you say, “But chef, what about gravy and stuffing and all that other good jazz?”
Well, my dear readers, The carcass and bones get roasted off and made into stock just for that very purpose. The real beauty of it is, you can butcher the bird and set aside the breast/legs a day ahead of time and give the bones plenty of time to simmer. It also allows you time to get your stuffing prepped up and gravy together well before the bird gets into the oven.
I showed this trick to my dad a few Christmas Eves ago. He was so grateful to not have to get up at 6AM on Christmas morning to get the bird in to be ready by 4PM. With American Thanksgiving just around the corner, and Christmas just after that, this may come as timely advice. As for a great apple & onion stuffing recipe that bakes outside the turkey, do visit my sister site, The Restricted Kitchen.
Pro Tip 7: Roast Turkey
- Casserole dish
- Sheet pan
- Stock pot
- 1 whole turkey size depends on you
- 1 whole onion rough chopped, skin on.
- 2 whole carrots rough chopped, skin on
- 2 stalks celery rough chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic whole
- 1 whole apple core removed
- 3-5 whole bay leaves
- rosemary chopped, save the stem
- thyme whole
- sage chopped, save the stem.
- 2 Tbsp salt half for the stock; half for the roast
- 4 tsp pepper half for the stock; half for the roast
- 1 Tbsp caraway seeds
- 2 tsp cumin
(If you've been following this blog, you likely have a supply of stock and/or frozen veg scraps on hand. If so, put it in a stock pot big enough to fit a whole turkey carcass in. Fire it up.)
- See pro tip #3 for the details on this step. It's easy as making a pot of tea.
Get youself a good, sharp knife.
Pre-heat your oven to 350F (on roast if your oven has a roast setting)
- Lay your turkey on its back and locate the keel (the ridge of cartilage that divides the breasts) with your fingers. Cut closely along the keel and work along the ribs towards the backside of the bird. See the attached video for reference. Remove the breast completely from the carcass and set aside.
- Repeat for the second breast and set aside.
- Flip the turkey over so its back is facing you. Holding a leg by its knee joint, fold the thigh back until it dislocates at the hip (for reference, see the video at the 31 second mark where the hip joint is located. If you put a finger there, when the hip pops out, you should feel it.
- Once the hip is out of socket, cut as close to the spine as you can to remove the leg and set it aside.
- Repeat for the other leg and set aside.
- Next, remove the wings and set them on the sheet pan.
- Fold the turkey carcass backwards until the spine snaps and use your knife to cut the remainder in two. Place it on the baking sheet.
- Now, here's where it gets picky…. referring to the video, slit the inside of the leg from ankle to knee and knee to hip joint, opening it up around the bones.
- Carefully cut the bones from hip to knee; knee to ankle away from the meat. Take your time and be careful here.
- Once at the ankle, the tendons (they're tough, so don't try cutting through them) need to be removed. This is a bit tedious, but keep in mind all the work you're saving yourself on the back end. Place the leg bones on the sheet pan.
- Again, repeat for the other leg.
- Once the legs have been boned out, roll them and set them aside next to the breasts.
The hard part is over. Well done!
- Rough chop your celery, onion and carrots and put them in among the bones with the garlic, salt and pepper.
- Roast the bones and veg for 40 minutes and then place them in the stock pot. bring the stock to a boil and then reduce to a moderate simmer.
- Line your casserole dish with foil and parchment; place the breasts in the outside, rolled legs on the middle.
- Strain off about 1 cup of the stock from the stove and pour it over the turkey. Add salt, pepper, caraway, cumin and herbs.
- Roast the turkey for about 90-100 minutes, or until 165F has been reached on the thickest part of the breasts.
What about the stock, chef?
- Once the stock has simmered for at least an hour, remove it from the heat and strain it. You now have a stock for your stuffing snd gravy.