Why You Should Cook Turkey Parts This Thanksgiving

Say goodbye to turkey-related stress.

Published Nov. 2, 2022.

Cooking a whole turkey can be stressful. The defrosting, the awkward maneuvering between the oven and the cutting board, the carving.

It doesn’t have to be that way. You can have the picturesque Thanksgiving centerpiece without the stress. Instead of a whole turkey, cook turkey parts.

If you’ve ever cooked an entire turkey, you know the light and dark meats cook at different rates. The light meat is done first, at 165 degrees F, and is prone to drying out. The dark meat, however, should be cooked to 175 degrees F and still be plenty juicy. 

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Cooking turkey parts takes the guesswork out of your Thanksgiving spread (you already have enough to worry about). 

Another advantage of cooking turkey parts? You can choose light or dark meat—or all of one. Here is an assortment of recipes to cook the turkey parts of your choosing.

Option #1: Cook the Whole Turkey, but in Pieces

Take the stress out of carving a whole turkey, but still reap the benefits of choosing between light and dark meat.

Make an aromatic-rich bath for your turkey parts and braise them to perfection in this recipe for Braised Turkey with Gravy

Have a big crowd coming over? Cook two turkeys worth of light and dark meat separately for succulent Turkey and Gravy for a Crowd. We’ll show you how to do it and make the best gravy, too.

Watch Bridget and Julia prepare an entire turkey (in parts) right here.

Option #2: Cook Just the Breast Meat

Whether you’re cooking for a smaller crowd or you just prefer white meat, just cook turkey breasts this Thanksgiving. You can even choose between bone-in or boneless. 

To keep the meat from drying out, we found that cooking turkey breasts for a long stint in a low oven followed by a blast of high heat ensured that the meat was juicy with cripsy skin. Try a Roast Whole Turkey Breast with Gravy or spice things up with a Spice-Rubbed Roasted Turkey Breast with Green Beans

Or, use your Dutch oven to cook Turkey Breast en Cocotte with Pan Gravy. Poultry cooked in a pot with a tight-fitting lid prevents the liquid from escaping and results in perfectly moist meat. Round out the flavor with those nostalgic Thanksgiving aromatics and present the pot as a centerpiece.

See the secrets of a perfectly juicy turkey in a pot, here.

Looking for even less effort? Boneless turkey breasts are readily available and remove the hassle of the keel and breast bones. This year, try making Stuffed Turkey Breast or Cast Iron Boneless Turkey Breasts with Cranberry Chutney. Or, pull out your grill (and free up your oven!) with a Gas Grill-Roasted Boneless Turkey Breast.

Option #3: Cook Just the Thigh Meat

No more fighting over the drumsticks. Cook just the thigh meat this year. Even better, it's great for low-and-slow cooking.

This recipe for Turkey Thigh Confit with Citrus Mustard Sauce achieves turkey so tender you can cut it with a fork. Slice it against the grain of the meat and showcase what’s arguably the juiciest part of the bird (totally biased opinion).

Watch Bridget and Julia prepare the most decadent turkey thigh recipe, right here.

Looking for something a little different this Thanksgiving? Try this turkey thigh slow-cooker wonder Slow-Cooker Hearty Turkey Stew With Squash and Spinach For Two. It features richly flavored thigh meat and butternut squash in a convenient portion. All you’ll need are the rolls

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