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Deconstructed Turkey Recipe


The general kitchen wisdom is that the only and best way to achieve a perfectly roasted turkey is by separating the drumsticks from the breasts and roasting them separately. Julia Child may have pioneered this method in her essential cookbook, The Way To Cook. She calls it a reassembled turkey, because the individually roasted turkey parts are put back together and brought to the table for presentation before carving.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 4 hours

Total Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: Serves 10 to 15


  • 1 15-to-20 pound turkey
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon sage (optional)
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped onion, separated
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped carrots, separated
  • 2 celery stalks with leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Cooking oil or melted butter for basting
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil


  1. Remove the neck (then chop in half) and heart and gizzards from a properly thawed turkey. Set aside for the stock. Reserve the liver for the stuffing or discard. Wash and pat the turkey dry. Pre-heat oven to 325°F.

  2. Using kitchen shears, large chef's knife or cleaver, cut out the turkey's backbone, chop it into a few pieces and save for the stockpot. See note below.

  3. Locate the ball joint connecting to the backbone, and carefully cut through the joint to release the entire drumstick. Using a paring knife, scrape away the meat clinging to the thigh bone at the ball joint, then work your way down, scraping the meat from the bone, until the bone releases. Save this bone for the stock. Season the drumstick inside and out with salt and pepper, then truss together with skewers and string. Repeat for the other drumstick.

  4. Arrange the drumsticks on a rack inserted in a roasting pan, and put them in the oven (drumsticks take longer to cook.)

  5. Cut off the turkey wing tips and elbows, and save for the stock. Cut out the wishbone, season the inside with salt and pepper, then tie up the breast with butcher's string so that it resembles its pre-cut shape. Massage oil or butter over the breast, then season with salt and pepper and sage, if using.

  6. The turkey can be roasted as is, but if you want stuffing, cut out heavy duty, double-wrapped aluminum foil to create a separate baking dish. Put this foil dish into a second roasting pan, then mound the stuffing on top. Lay the turkey breast on top of the stuffing and press down so that it's secure.

  7. Put the turkey breast into the oven and roast about 3 hours, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 155°F. Baste the breast and legs frequently with oil, butter or cooking juices. For the last hour of roasting, scatter the onions and carrots around the turkey breast.

  8. When the breast reaches 155°F, remove it from the oven and cover with tin foil. Test the internal temperature, and take out of the oven when it's internal temperature at the thickest part of the thigh is 155°F. Cover with foil and let the turkey rest 30 minutes before carving. To carve, snip off the strings.

For the stock: Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add the turkey neck, thigh bones, wing tips and elbows and richly brown (but not burnt) on all sides. Add the chopped onion, carrot and celery and sauté until lightly browned. Pour in 4 cups of water, and gizzards, then bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer 4 hours while the turkey roasts. After 40 minutes, add the turkey heart, simmer 10 minutes, and remove both the heart and gizzards. Chop fine and reserve for giblet gravy.

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