The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Turkey in Pieces

Have you ever struggled with getting the turkey perfectly cooked for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner? The breast meat is often dry, while the dark meat remains undercooked, or vice versa. Well, worry no more! Cooking turkey in pieces is the solution to this age-old problem. This method ensures that every part of the turkey is cooked to perfection, resulting in juicy and flavorful meat.

Why Cook Turkey in Pieces?

Cooking turkey in pieces offers several advantages over roasting a whole bird:

  • Even Cooking: When roasting a whole turkey, the breast meat and the dark meat (legs and thighs) require different cooking temperatures and times. By separating them, you can cook each part to its ideal temperature, ensuring that the breast meat doesn’t dry out while waiting for the dark meat to reach the desired doneness.

  • Faster Cooking Time: Turkey pieces cook much faster than a whole bird, saving you valuable oven time and allowing you to focus on other dishes.

  • Customization: If your family prefers white or dark meat, you can adjust the quantities of each part accordingly. No more fighting over the last drumstick!

  • Crispy Skin: With more surface area exposed to the oven’s heat, you’ll achieve crispier and more evenly browned skin on all the turkey pieces.

  • Easier Carving: Forget the hassle of carving a whole turkey at the table. With turkey pieces, there’s minimal carving required, and everyone can serve themselves effortlessly.

Where to Get Turkey Pieces

There are a few options for obtaining turkey pieces:

  1. Purchase Pre-Cut Pieces: Many grocery stores offer turkey parts (breasts, wings, legs, and thighs) in the meat section, either fresh or frozen.

  2. Ask Your Butcher: If you prefer to buy a whole turkey, you can ask your local butcher to cut it into pieces for you.

  3. Cut It Yourself: If you’re feeling adventurous, you can break down a whole turkey into parts yourself, just like you would a whole chicken. A sharp knife and some basic butchery skills are all you need.

How to Cook Turkey Pieces

While the cooking method may vary slightly depending on the specific recipe you follow, here’s a general outline of how to cook turkey pieces:

  1. Prepare the Pieces: Pat the turkey pieces dry with paper towels and season them with your desired spices, herbs, or a compound butter.

  2. Preheat the Oven: Typically, you’ll want to preheat your oven to 325°F (165°C) or 350°F (175°C).

  3. Separate the Pieces: Place the breast pieces on one baking sheet and the dark meat (legs and thighs) on another. This allows you to remove each part from the oven when it’s cooked to the desired temperature.

  4. Roast the Pieces: Roast the turkey pieces in the preheated oven, keeping an eye on the internal temperatures using a meat thermometer. The breast meat should reach 165°F (74°C), while the dark meat needs to reach 175°F (79°C).

  5. Crisp the Skin (Optional): For extra crispy skin, you can crank up the oven temperature to 500°F (260°C) or broil the pieces for a few minutes at the end of the cooking time.

  6. Let It Rest: Allow the turkey pieces to rest for about 10-15 minutes before serving. This will help the juices redistribute throughout the meat, resulting in a juicier and more flavorful turkey.

Tips for Perfect Turkey Pieces

  • Dry Brine or Brine: Consider dry brining or wet brining your turkey pieces for extra moisture and flavor. This step is especially helpful if you’re not used to cooking turkey pieces.

  • Use a Meat Thermometer: Invest in a good meat thermometer to ensure accurate temperature readings and avoid overcooking or undercooking the turkey.

  • Baste or Butter: Basting the turkey pieces with melted butter or the pan juices during cooking will help keep the meat moist and add extra flavor.

  • Make Gravy from the Drippings: Don’t let those flavorful pan drippings go to waste! Use them to make a delicious gravy to accompany your turkey pieces.

  • Plan Ahead: Since turkey pieces cook faster than a whole bird, plan your side dishes and other components of the meal accordingly to ensure everything is ready at the same time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I cook turkey pieces from frozen?

Yes, you can cook turkey pieces from frozen, but you’ll need to adjust the cooking time accordingly. It’s generally recommended to thaw the pieces in the refrigerator overnight for more even cooking.

How far in advance can I cook turkey pieces?

Cooked turkey pieces can be refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 3 months. When reheating, make sure to bring the internal temperature back to 165°F (74°C).

Can I use a convection oven for cooking turkey pieces?

Absolutely! A convection oven can help cook the turkey pieces more evenly and potentially reduce the overall cooking time.

Should I cover the turkey pieces while cooking?

It’s generally not necessary to cover the turkey pieces while cooking, as this can prevent the skin from crisping up. However, if the pieces seem to be browning too quickly, you can loosely tent them with foil.


Cooking turkey in pieces is a game-changer for achieving perfectly cooked and juicy turkey meat every time. With this method, you can say goodbye to dry breast meat and undercooked dark meat. Embrace the convenience, customization, and delicious results of cooking turkey in pieces, and enjoy a stress-free and delectable holiday meal.

F*ck The Whole Bird, I Cook My Turkey Like This Now

Leave a Comment