Thanksgiving tip: Cut up the turkey before roasting to cut cooking time

If you're not attached to the Norman Rockwell-eque image of a big, dressed turkey coming out on a platter, follow Amy's advice:

To cook the turkey faster, chop it up. Separate the wings, thighs, legs, breasts, etc. because a breast or thigh cooks much faster than a whole freaking turkey. This way, instead of getting up at 4am to start the turkey you can pop it in the oven an hour or two before you are gonna sit down to eat, depending on how big your bird is.

More: Best of Parent Hacks: Thanksgiving

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  1. says

    That is a fabulous idea! Why it never occurred to me to chop up a turkey before baking, I don’t know. But I am definitely going to do it this year!

  2. Kristen says

    That IS good idea, but might I suggest never getting up at 4 AM to start a bird? I know of no situation where this is necessary. Even a monstrous 30 lb. (do turkeys that big exist?) bird would not take anywhere near 8 hours to cook, assuming you want to eat as early as noon. My favorite hack is the digital thermometer with a cord that I put in the thigh of any bird I’m roasting (or any kind of meat for that matter). It has a timer which you can set for a desired internal temperature; when the timer goes off, the food is done. No thinking, checking, or clock watching of any kind required.

  3. says

    Hiya, I forgot to leave my name for Asha when I sent that hack in. It’s jibssa, a.k.a. Amy. (You can change it in the hack if you want, Asha.)

    In response to Kristen, I absolutely, 100% agree that no one should ever have to get up at 4 o’freakin-clock in the morning to start the turkey. In fact I told my dad as much the year that I was “volunteered” to help in the preparations. To no avail, so get up at 4am I did. And it was that very day that I resolved to never ever have to do that again. Thus my pre-cooking dismemberment of the festive fowl.

    P.S. Spatchcocking! Hahaha.

  4. Parent Hacks Editor says

    I am going to use the word “Spatchcock” as many times as possible for the rest of my life.

  5. Jessica says

    Spatchcocking is definitely the way to go – the turkey cooks faster, more evenly, and if you set it over a roasting pan filled with stuffing (covered with the top of a broiler pan or wire rack to hold the turkey up), you get “inside stuffing” flavor without having to worry about anything undercooking.

    (And if what I just wrote makes no sense, google “Cook’s Illustrated high roast turkey” for pictures. It’s behind a paywall, but there should be a 14-day free trial, which is plenty of time to print it out before T-day!)

  6. mikoto127 says

    Another really great way to cook a turkey is to flip it upside down and then cook as normal. The meat comes out SO moist (though you get an ugly bird).

  7. Melissa says

    I cook the turkey upside down, too (although the first year, I did not do it on purpose….you should have seen the look on my MIL’s face). Sooo juicy. But, with about an hour left, I flip it back over so that the skin on top get nice and golden brown. This also help the juices redistribute throughout the bird.

  8. jill says

    turkey only takes a few hours – thers never a need to get up befor dawn unless you like to have thanksgiving dinner at 7am.

  9. marci says

    be careful of assumptions – we usually have thanksgiving as lunch and mama will cook the turkey first to free up the oven for the rest of the baked things to be warm at lunchtime. the turkey was served room temp. anyway, that could mean some early turkey start times without early turkey eat times…

    • Angela says

      If you cut just the legs thighs and the back of the bird, then you can brine the breast for 30 minutes, remove the bone from the thigh, and you can either just salt and pepper it then tie it up with toothpicks and string or you can stuff it with stuffing then tieit up. While the breast is brining, cook your onions and celery for you stuffing then wipe out the pan with paper towels then when the breast is done brining dry it well then coat in oil heat your pan add the breast, breast side down to pan, make sure your oven is pre-heat to 375 and cook your breast for 30 minutes breast side down, after 30 minutes remove from oven set aside, take your stuffing mix and place in a large shallow roasting pan and make it a tight bundle as possble, then take your breast careful it still hot with two towels careful place the breast on the stuffing right side up then place your tied legs around thebreast covering as much of the stuffing as possible. Place in oven and cook for aprox. 40 minutes more until the internal temp. is 160-165 for the breast remove, make gravy from the giblets. ENJOY!

  10. says

    I agree to lessen the length of time in cooking a turkey you can chop it into pieces and don’t forget to maintain the shape of its part like the wings,legs, and etc. in order to maintain its eye catching look,

  11. says

    Probably too late for this Thanksgiving, but I actually cooked my turkey yesterday! Let it cool, carved it, and put it on an oven-safe platter for reheating on Thursday. I didn’t do this, but my mom suggested putting it in a disposable tin with the gravy so that when you reheat it, it stays really moist. I carved the whole thing, then picked it clean and made turkey soup in my crockpot today. I will never go back to cooking a bird on the actual day!

  12. Vickie says

    hi…… im excited just let my butcher cut up my turkey for first time n i know its gonna b great. vickie