I refuse to roast a whole turkey.
It takes too long. It takes up too much space in the oven. The breast is dried out by the time the legs are done. It takes up too much space in the refrigerator the night before. Et cetera.
Many years ago my friend Kasey shared with me her secret for hassle-free turkey: She asks the butcher to cut it into parts, like a chicken. That way you can roast it flat. You can store it overnight in a plastic bag. You can roast the white and dark meat separately, so you can pull them at different times. And it cooks in half the time of a whole bird.
I've been doing turkey this way ever since. I go one step further and have my butcher bone the breast halves, which makes carving a snap. I also order an extra breast to be sure we have enough leftovers.
You have to be willing to give up on the big reveal of the burnished bird. I'm fine with that; everyone's too busy to notice anyway. You also need a friendly butcher, like the guys at my beloved Bob's Market in Santa Monica, which shouldn't be a problem unless you're buying a frozen supermarket turkey. (If you are, you'll have to learn to take it apart yourself. Think "big chicken.") It's worth finding a butcher, because the absolute best thing about this method is that it gives you plenty of time to concentrate on the sides - aren't they the stars of the show, anyway?
Roast turkey, in pieces
- 1 turkey, any size, cut into eighths; breasts boned, skin left on
- olive oil
- garlic salt
- any other spices or herbs you like
Put the breast halves skin-side up in one roasting pan. In another, put the legs, thighs, and wings. Rub everything with a little olive oil and sprinkle it liberally with the garlic salt, paprika, and/or whatever spices you prefer. I keep it really simple, but it's up to you.
Put the turkey in the oven. You want to roast it to an internal temperature of about 165 degrees, because once you take it out, it will rise to the desired 170 while it's resting. For a 15-pound turkey, I start basting after an hour and checking the temperature after 90 minutes. If yours is smaller, start everything sooner. There's nothing worse than overcooked turkey.
When the turkey parts reach 165, take them out of the oven, cover them with foil, and let them rest at least 20 minutes before carving. Note that you do not have to pull the dark and light meat at the same time - that's the beauty of this method. Take each pan out when it's ready. Carve, which should be extremely quick and easy. If, after carving, you need to rewarm the meat, pour some of the pan juices over the carved meat, cover the dish with foil, and put the whole platter in the oven for a few minutes.