The great challenge in roasting a whole turkey–the challenge that leads people to fashion aluminum foil shields for cooking their turkeys, that leads to a spate of tedious posts and articles every November about the best way to brine a turkey, that leads people to burn down their houses using turkey fryers, that leads me to nearly scald or actually scald myself with hot turkey juices as I flip it mid-roast with dish towels every Thanksgiving–is the challenge of fully cooking the dark meat without drying out the breast. The simple solution to this problem is to cook them separately. Apart from that brief interlude between roasting and carving when everyone can admire what a beautiful bird you have, there’s no real advantage to cooking a turkey in one piece. You’re going to serve it in many pieces. And by separating the dark meat from the white, you can give each part the time it needs.
Of course, if you’re not cooking for a huge crowd, you might dispense with the dark meat altogether. As scientists have proven (probably), most people prefer white meat to dark when it comes to poultry. And with turkey, which is often viewed primarily as a means of delivering gravy to the mouth, this preference is even more pronounced. If you’re worried that going with the breast alone will compromise the aesthetics of your feast, please direct your attention again to the picture sitting atop this post.
A turkey breast alone can serve as a perfectly beautiful focal point for your meal and freed from the needs of the slow-to-cook dark meat, it can be as moist and flavorful as you’ve always dreamed without the need to resort to risky contraptions and strategies.
Our simple roast turkey breast recipe is over on Babble.com. If you’re dedicated to a whole bird, here’s our tried-and-true take.