Let’s talk turkey…deconstructed turkey

Finished bird

I tried this out a couple of years ago just for fun and came out with the most awesome tasting turkey you’ll ever eat.  No, I’m not kidding.  Do you ever feel like a perfectly cooked turkey is out of reach?  Not so with this method.  I’m sure you have tried every method on the planet to get this right.  Breast side down, deep fried, brined, organic, stuffed, unstuffed and still the meat was decent at best and sawdust at worst.  I got to point where I wanted to quit eating turkey all together.  Why bother if it never tastes good.  The deconstructed turkey changed that view.

So what the heck is deconstructed turkey?  Julia Child first came up with this method because of the reason why a whole roasted bird doesn’t come out quite right.  The dark and light meat cook completely different.  So why cook them together?  Julia separated the legs from the breast and wings and cooked them separately.  It is a game-changer.  America’s Test Kitchen updated the method.  I’m going to show you how to deconstruct the turkey yourself and how to cook the breast meat.  Unless you have people in your family that love dark meat, I’m going to skip the braising of the dark meat and make something else with it.  It takes three hours to braise the dark meat, which makes no sense if your family is all about the breast meat.  If you want to see how to do the dark meat see the full recipe.

If you want to see how to do this in real time, watch the video

So let’s start with the bird.  You can use a frozen or fresh bird.  If you have a frozen bird, it will take several days to thaw.  I suggest taking the bird and placing it in the fridge with something underneath for about a week.  The key is to have a completely thawed bird.

Bird in the fridge

Next, you will need to take off any wrapping and remove the neck and giblets.  The tools you will need for the deconstruction are:

  • A large cutting board
  • A sharp chef’s knife
  • A pair of kitchen shears
  • Plastic glove (optional)


There are three cuts you will need to make: one for each leg section and to remove the backbone.

To remove the leg section:

  • Break through the skin with your chef’s knife to reveal the joint.
  • Pull the leg away from the body, pulling hard enough so that the socket pops out.
  • Cut right between the joint to release the leg. Repeat on other side.

To remove the backbone:

  • Flip the breast section on to the breast meat
  • Use your kitchen shears to cut on either side of the backbone.

Here is what your now deconstructed turkey looks like:


Save the dark meat sections and the backbone.  The next recipe I’ll post is for a great dinner with these parts.  If you have a family that is a while meat only clan, you can easily buy a bone-in breast section.  Just cut out the backbone.  I did this this year and and worked beautifully.

Now on to cooking the breast meat:

Preheat your oven to 425F

Place your turkey breast section in a cast iron skillet.  Loosen the skin around the breast meat with your fingers.  Take 1 tablespoon of softened unsalted butter and rub all over the breast.  Take your seasonings (I used garlic and thyme) and rub that all over the breasts.   I did not salt the meat because the turkey already came pre-brined.

Prepped bird

Place the pan with the breast section into the oven a roast for 30 minutes.  Then reduce the heat to 375F and roast for about an hour or until the temperature reaches 160F.  It may take more or less time depending on the size of the breast section.  I would suggest checking at 45 minutes.  Be sure to use a thermometer to check the temperature.  The biggest mistake a lot of people make is not using a meat thermometer to check for doneness.  Take the breast section out of the oven and place on your cutting board and let rest for 15 minutes.  Cut the meat off the bone and serve.

Finished bird 2


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