The Case For Roasting Turkey Meat Separately Instead Of The Whole Bird

No matter what time of year it is, roasted turkey gives the feeling of togetherness. But what happens when everyone sits down at the table and slices off a piece only to discover that the meat isn't roasted properly? It's a chef's worst nightmare to have spent all that time and effort making something wonderful only to have it turn out dry and overcooked.

The reason cooking turkey can be such a challenge is that it isn't simply comprised of just one solid, consistent piece of meat. There are different kinds of meat within a turkey, white (the breast and wings) and dark (the legs and thighs). White meat actually cooks faster than dark meat — so while you're waiting for the dark meat to catch up and reach the right internal temperature, the white meat will also continue roasting and likely dry out by the time the whole bird is ready to come out of the oven.

With that in mind, it's no wonder people tend to prefer the moist dark meat over the dry white meat. But we're here to tell you that it doesn't need to be that way. Instead, try separating the two types of meat and cook them properly on their own, instead of cooking the whole bird.

How to roast turkey parts separately

The nice thing about cooking turkey all together is that it's a more convenient and easy method. After all, separating your turkey will be more time-consuming than the traditional route. But if you aren't satisfied with how your turkey dinner has been going, it might be time to get a little courageous. Putting in a little extra effort can go a long way.

For the white meat, a lower oven temp will ensure tender, juicier meat. Heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Season the turkey as desired and roast uncovered for 50-55 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Since white meat has less inherent flavor than dark, we recommend adding a boost with fresh herbs, citrus, and a generous lather of butter. For crispier skin, don't forget to take a paper towel and dry off the meat before seasoning. 

For the dark meat, you'll want to crank the oven up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Like with white meat, you'll want to dry off the meat with a paper towel and season as desired. Roast, uncovered, for 20 minutes before covering with aluminum foil for about another 30 minutes, or until the meat reaches 165 degree Fahrenheit. When you remove the turkey from the oven, let it rest for 10 minutes before removing the foil.