Friday, November 21, 2014

Whole Boneless Thanksgiving Turkey – As Close to Turducken as I’ll Ever Get

If you’re a turkey, and you’re getting boned-out, there’s a good chance you’re about to become Turducken, which in this chef’s opinion, is one of the most overrated recipes of all time. When was the last time you sat down in a restaurant and thought, “I hope the chef’s doing a turkey, duck, chicken trio.”

However, the idea of removing those pesky bones before your bird makes its grand entrance may be worth considering. Not only do you get an impressive looking roast to wow the table, but carving is significantly easier. I didn't have time to show here, but of course you are making a killer turkey stock with all those bones, so that's another advantage. Also, if you're worried about losing flavor, don't. This tastes virtually identical. 

If you’ve ever found yourself hacking up a perfectly good turkey in front of the family, while flop-sweat drips onto the mangled meat, then this approach may be for you. Sure, it takes a good hour to prep, but that’s pretty much where the hard work ends.  

These types of videos are near impossible to edit into any reasonable length, but the good news is this is a lot easier to do than I make it look. Just go slow, and keep that knife against the bone, and you’ll be fine. By the way, chickens make an affordable and delicious thing to practice on.

I’ve included my “prop” stuffing below, which was great. It’s more the style you’d see in a stuffed pork chop, but as I said in the video, your favorite stuffing will work beautifully.

I’ve also posted a bonus video below that goes into more detail on the tying technique. So, if you’re looking for a new and exciting challenge for Thanksgiving, I hope you give this a try. Enjoy!

  • My turkey was about 15 pounds, but this will work on any sized bird.
  • I wanted to try salt only on the outside, without butter or oil, like in our salt chicken recipe, just to see what would happen, but nothing did. So, feel free to slather on the butter.
  • You’ll need about 3-4 cups of prepared stuffing depending on the turkey.
  • My pan sauce was nothing more than the drippings with a big splash of cream, reduced until slightly thickened, and strained.  
Start in a 450 F.  oven for 15 minutes
Reduce to 325 F. until you get an internal temperature of 150 F. (mine took about 1 1/2 hours more)

For the stuffing I used:
1 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup finely minced onions, sautéed golden
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup turkey or chicken broth, or enough to moisten
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp fresh chopped rosemary leaves

Bonus Knot Tying Video


Jeff in Philly said...

That was damn impressive. Bravo, Chef!

Jeff in Philly said...

That was damn impressive. Bravo, Chef John!

Gloria - The Internet GADabout said...

Have always wanted to learn how to do this. Will be trying it in a few weeks. Curious....Brining is so popular now because of the flavor you can add to the turkey. Could you brine the turkey before deboning?

konshau said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

That looks fantastic! I bet if you got that carcass out the day before you could roast it down and make some killer stock with it for the gravy and cornbread stuffing! I usually buy turkey wings to roast and make stock but it's such a waste of some good turkey wings. I always have a "boat" load of gravy on the table as I smother everything in it. I would need some stock. Thanks chef!

Salli Gillespie said...

Interesting. I wonder how this would deep fry. By the way, Chef John, if you have never had a deep fried turkey, you are missing out. Y'all need to come to the South and get you some. Thank you again, I enjoy your demos, they always crack me up, and I always learn something new.

Salli Gillespie said...


Jeannie said...

I think this is great! But I want to do it without the stuffing. I just kind of like my stuffing on the side. But I think it would make carving the turkey so much easier - and everyone would get some crispy skin with their slice of turkey.

Ken Friend said...

Could this be done on a rotisserie grill or would the stuffing fall out?

Mickey Maloney said...

i think i've seen the vast majority of your videos, and this is by far your best in my opinion! i was very impressed and more importantly, inspired! i'm a huge fan of yours and videos like this are the reason why.

Chef John said...

thank you!

Chef John said...

This should work no matter what cooking method you use!

TOM said...

Could one debone, stuff, roll and tie this the night before and still have a great tasting bird the next day.

Chris Koch said...

Any concerns with freezing the tied-up roast and then thawing just before baking? (assuming bird wasn't previously frozen)

David Suarez said...

Great job, looking forward to trying this myself. Thank you.

dandelion said...

So excited to try this turkey. It was worth the wait. :)

Chef John said...

Chris, I've never tried to freeze then cook after thawing, but it doesn't sound like a good idea to me.

Tom, Yes, you can do the day before and then roast.

OneGamersOdyssey said...

Awesome video. Chef, I have deboned it but am not putting anything inside. Instead, I am have brined it as the loin and will smoke it tomorrow. Do you have any advice? Thanks so much.

Aristocob said...

I just finished deboning our bird and I have to say that I learned two things: 1.) There are a BUNCH of tenacious tendons in a turkey leg, and yanking them out is not for weaklings. I'm a 6'1" burly-man and that was one of the toughest tug-of-wars I've experienced in years. 2.) Never commit to cooking the family's Thanksgiving turkey using a new method. I was 45 minutes into the deboning process when I had that little epiphany. The bones are roasting in the oven and will become stock overnight, and I'll finish the bird in the afternoon. I'm excited to see how it comes out and am competing against my son's traditional "Alton Brown method" bird, so my fingers are crossed. Thanks, Chef John, for all the years of entertainment and encouragement.

Joe Marinello said...

This was the BEST turkey I ever made and i will make it the same every year from now on. I wasn't sure what i was doing when deboning it, i was all over the place, Chef John made it look real easy. I knew what i had to do, and I got the job done with a sharp knife and a pair of pliers. Truely everyone was satisfied.

Andrea, Cape Coral Florida

K Mertes said...

Chef John, thank you for giving me the courage to de-bone a turkey. I invested in a good boning knife which made all the difference. The turkey roast was perfect! Moist, juicy, my dressing was heaven nestled in the flavorful meat! My family was deeply impressed.

Mark Anderson said...

I did it! I de-boned it, I cooked it, and we ate it. It looked great and tasted even better.

Think for a moment how difficult it must be to create a video that in the space of 10 minutes or so can successfully guide someone through the complexity of boning and rolling a turkey. Brilliant piece of work, Chef John.

TOM said...

What more can I say about my de-boned turkey than others have said. Thank for the "gift" of your video.

Ron Zucker said...

My local, sustainable producer knew I was having a crowd, so she saved the largest turkey for me. It was 23 pounds, so too big to do my normal spatchcock and roast, at least in my standard 30 inch oven. So I thought of ballontining the sucker, though I knew it would be harder than a chicken, since I couldn't just pull it away from the breast the way I do with a chicken. I had just finished the work (about 35 minutes for me) when I got the bright idea to look online for some ideas for stuffing. Lo and behold, my favorite online chef had already posted this. I wish I'd read this first, if only for the tip about needlenose pliers for the legs. I just used my boning knife to cut them out, but that looks faster.

I used the stuffing (sorta - I had dried cranberries and pine nuts, so I used those) from this video. EVERYONE was so impressed, and the huge bird cooked totally in 3 hours. It came out beautifully browned. I basted it once, just to get a bit more browning, but I'm not convinced it needed it. Just salt and pepper on top and inside, though the stuffing had herbs. It was a hit! Thanks, Chef John!

Marshalrusty said...

Came our spectacularly. Thanks Chef John!

Michael Chester said...

For practice chickens, how long is the cooking time (roughly)?

Kris Blouch said...

Hi Chef. Love your work (and food, the buckle was excellent!).

Why is this only cooked to 150? (160 after a rise, I'm guessing. Doesn't dark meat need to hit 180?

Anon Ymous said...

Chef John did this last year and it was amazing-ly good but alotta work! I'm lazy this TG and I've seen websites for spatchcocked turkey. I saw yours on chicken. Have you ever tried this on turkey? hint hint easy TGD turkey video?

Jim Bob said...

I did this last year. It came out great. This year, everyone asked if we will be going it again because it was the best turkey they ever had. So, time to sharpen the knife.

Vilim Papa said...

would the stuffing from this recipie work i stuffed tenderloin?


Aryeh Rubin said...

Chef john u da man!
One question....can u give quick instructions on how to make that stuffing??

Matt said...

I did this (without stuffing) and the most apt comment from those around the table was "It tastes just like turkey." Anyway, one thing I liked about this method was shifting a chunk of time from the day of to the day before, as carving the finished roast was so much faster and easier.

Juliana Jaques said...

Gave this a try for Christmas Eve dinner, even though I'm not the most apt cook. Had the video on replay the whole time I was preparing the turkey. It was so much fun, and so much worth it to debone instead of carve. It came out great! Thank you Chef John for being such an amazing source of inspiration!

Patrick O said...

I did one for Thanksgiving. After an hour in the oven, the broiling time included, I realized the bottom burner on my oven had conked out! After a momentary freakout with my girlfriend epiphany struck. I got my charcoal Weber going to finish it off and I'm never looking back! I will never prepare a bone-in turkey ever again. I'm actually deboning one right now for a party I'm going to tomorrow and was reviewing the video for a refresher. On T-giving my 83 y/o godmother/aunt also baked her traditional bird and after a serving of mine said she has retired from the turkey game because there was a new bird in town! Love that lady. Thanks Chef John your videos are informative and hilarious.

David Syber said...

Thank you!
Never boned a turkey or any other poultry before.
Purchased a flexible boning knife today, because the one I had was meant for beef or sheep boning.
Got out the turkey (only 8 pounds) , picked up the old knife, and started, not noticing which knife I was using.
My wife commented just as I finished!

35 minutes, no tears in the skin, :-)
Bones and wings now on stove to make soup.

Penny is doing the stuffing and tying.

Your video inspired us.

Can't wait for dinner

David Syber said...

served it up to 9 carnivores, who all went back for seconds, ignoring my sister in law's roast pork.


thank you for showing us the technique.

Next will be boneless lamb shoulder with pomegranate which you inspired us with.

Hopefully by Christmas, I can have three or four dishes ready to cook on the day, so my Sister in law caqn relax.


pjdell said...

Hypothetically, if I forgot to flip the bird over for the first cut and cut through the breast skin what would be the best course of action hypothetically

pjdell said...

I cut through the bird, what do I do!

War_Fairy said...

Hi Chef John long time viewer first time commenting. I tried this the other day and it came out super dry, with some of it being pink in the middle as well. Not to sure what I did wrong, would you having any ideas? Thanks for your videos, and recipes they have been a huge help in my cooking.

Stephanie Stalcup said...

Anyone try it on a V-rack instead of right on the pan? Any major differences except maybe the cooking time?

JL said...

I did this last year and it was hard, but the results were totally worth it. Super yummy and very amazing appearance.

I'm curious if you think this might work with Jacques Pepin's steaming method? I've done turkeys each way, but curious if you think there's a reason steaming the roll before roasting won't work?

Shaughn Shea said...

This will be my third Thanksgiving making this recipe, thank you for helping trick my family into thinking I am a chef!

Question, is there a food safety or flavor quality issue if I were to debone (but not stuff) the bird the night before so I can get the stock (and then winter veggie soup) going sooner?

Thanks for all you do!

Roki MowntinHi said...

Thanks, Chef John! I’m so excited because I’m trying this today, preparing to cook it tomorrow. Is it ok to refrigerate overnight and cook straight from the fridge? I suppose, the most important thing is the food-safety guidelines of internal temp. My ThermoPop recommendation is 165F, so I’m going for that, which, I assume, will mean a final resting temp of 175F, which suits me fine. ��

Going to attempt to make your Butternut Squash Soup, adding some Acorn & Pumpkin... and definitely some cayenne!

I’m making your Cracker Stuffing, as well as some Jalapeño Cornbread dressing. Anyone ever stuffed it with cornbread dressing?

Off to search for a broth-making recipe... Lots o’bones with two 11lb turkeys! Thanks again!