Roasting turkey halves in the oven is a truly great way to cook a turkey, especially for Thanksgiving. The turkeys cook evenly, the skins get golden brown and crisp, the halves are easy to carve, and the turkeys cook in about 2 hours.
Three smaller turkeys (@ 30 pounds total) cut into halves easily fit into a regular home oven at the same time. Super efficient and temperature-wise safer because laid out flat and low down in the half sheet the more delicate white breast meat is now sharing the same heat intensity as the dark. This allows the delicious and stubborn dark meat and leg/thigh joint to fully cook through before the breast dries.
This roasting turkey halves method also frees the oven for side dish cooking and rewarming at mealtime. The turkeys are done faster and if you roast them a little early just gently rewarm the carved meat on a platter in a low oven before mealtime.
Buy small birds, cut them in half, and roast them lying down on half sheets.
- Cook small turkeys–around ten pounds. Meat counters will usually separate and wrap them in a few minutes. At home your electric knife is the choice. Start with a clean, straight line at the top of the breast, let the blades cut (don’t saw) and gently separate the halves as the knife works its way downward.
- Place the turkey halves on half baking sheets or in a large roasting pan. Rub the halves liberally with oil or butter (or a combo), and season with Kosher salt and coarse ground pepper. Add other herbs if you like. Simple seems best.
- Place the turkeys in 450°F oven and immediately turn down the heat to 350°F.Baste the skin periodically if you like, we don’t bother. We don’t see a noticeable difference from basting and periodically opening the oven door just lets the heat escape.
- Just keep the oven closed and the halves should be cooked through in about 2 hours. Look for 175 – 180°F in the thickest part of the thigh with an internal temp thermometer. The escaping juices should run clear, not pinkish. Let the birds rest 15 minutes or more before carving.
Some thoughts about cutting the birds, and a plug for the electric knife:
Once you reach the backbone spread the halves as though you were spatchcocking the bird and cut along one side of the backbone.
Once separated, use the knife to cut out the backbone completely. Use the backbone for your crock pot stock. It will contribute to a spectacular brown gravy.
Carving Tip: Separate each breast from the leg/thigh portion and cut the breast meat crosswise into thick medallion-like slices instead of the traditional thin lengthwise slices. Separate the thighs and legs at the joint with a sharp knife. Serve the legs whole and remove the dark thigh meat from the bones.
Instead of roasting turkey halves, try grilling them. Cut in half makes grilling a cinch. We use our favorite shelf chicken method and grill the turkey on a second grate set on bricks to raise the bird away from the heat a bit and get the skin closer to the cover which radiates heat down and makes a nice golden crispy skin. Leave the cover cracked slightly and grill on medium for about an hour. This method really frees up the oven and give your parade-watching staff something to do.
Note about stuffing: You’ll have to give up on stuffing the bird when roasting turkey halves. That’s just fine because the our Cheater Chef Southern Cornbread Dressing recipe bakes up nice and crisp in a casserole and you can make as much as you want. Let the bird be the bird. No need to be a 9×13, too.
If there is any, leftover dressing out of a hot skillet with runny eggs, or by itself just out from under the broiler, will cure what ails ya. Happy Thanksgiving, Min & R.B.