turkey cut into eights for roasting or braising

Cutting a Turkey into Eighths – A Quicker Way to Brine and Cook Your Bird

Want to brine and cook a turkey in the shortest amount of time? To do that, we recommend breaking down the bird into eighths: Two turkey breasts, two thighs, two legs (drumsticks), and two wings.

turkey thigh turkey leg turkey wing and turkey breast

The benefit of this method is two-fold. First, you can brine your turkey in your refrigerator in about four hours (broken down, the bird will fit much easier in a refrigerator versus brining a whole bird which requires the space of a cooler). Second, you can cook the turkey quicker by spreading out the sections on a cooking sheet and roasting in an oven or by smoking or grilling outdoors.

If roasting, the turkey will cook for roughly 2.5 hours at 325°F until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.

Braising a Turkey

For Yankel Polak, Head Chef of the ButcherBox Kitchen, breaking the turkey into eighths has another benefit: Braised turkey.

To braise a turkey, Chef Yankel recommends putting all the turkey pieces in a casserole dish or large Dutch oven) with some liquid covering half to three-quarters of the meat. For a braising liquid, try a combination of turkey or chicken stock with something acidic. Chef Yankel says to add a couple of tablespoons of vinegar, ketchup, red wine, tomato sauce, citrus, or BBQ sauce to the stock to braise. “Add anything acidic to the braising liquid to improve the tenderness,” he adds.

To braise, cover it with foil or a lid and cook at 375°F for two hours. Then, uncover for the last 15 minutes to crisp the skin.

For an extra crispy turkey, once the turkey is cooked, move it to a baking pan and broil it for 3-5 minutes on the lowest shelf.

Another benefit of braising? Gravy. Let the braising liquid cool down to room temperature and then add it to a blender or food processor with a couple of tablespoons of flour or cornstarch. Blend it together for an easy, amazing turkey gravy.

Step-by-Step Guide to Breaking Down a Turkey Into Eighths

To start, you’ll need to follow the instructions for spatchcocking your bird. You can find all those instructions here: “A Step-by-Step Guide to Spatchcocking a Turkey.”

Step 1: Spatchcock the turkey.

spatchcock turkey

 

Step 2: Insert scissors under the turkey’s skin and cut between the breasts until fully separated.

breaking down a turkey

turkey cut in half

 

Step 3: Remove the legs and thighs, by inserting the scissors at an angle underneath the wing and cutting through the skin, taking care to leave as much skin covering the breast as possible.

As you cut, pull the leg away from the breast. This will allow you to see where the thigh meets the breast. The final cut will be through the cartilage connecting the thigh to the breast bone. Don’t try and cut through the bone, just feel around for the cartilage and your scissors will cut it easily.

cutting off a turkey breast and leg

turkey breast cut off of turkey

 

Step 4: Remove the leg from the thigh by inserting the scissors at a 45-degree angle towards the leg and cutting through.

Make sure to cut through the cartilage connecting the thigh and leg joints, and not through the bone itself.

removing a turkey leg from a turkey thigh

 

Step 5: Remove the wing. Lift the wing up and cut underneath it, angling through the joining connecting the wing to the breast.

removing a turkey wing

Chef Yankel shooting in the ButcherBox Test Kitchen
ButcherBox Kitchen

The ButcherBox Kitchen is a test kitchen and studio based in the North Shore of Massachusetts. Contributors have included Yankel Polak, Emilie Abijanac, Leigh Belanger, Simeon von Berg, Jennifer Valley, and others.