Talking (Boneless) Turkey

Save prep time on Thanksgiving with a boneless turkey roast, and after your holiday feast is history, follow up with an encore of turkey soup.

I’ve often thought that the turkey is the least interesting part of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

It’s no wonder that the Butterball hotline receives more than 100,000 questions every year from distraught cooks who are having trouble getting their birds to the table. And then, all of the side dishes get stone cold during the dismemberment and carving of the main course. Finally, after the labor and anxiety, people can remember certain things from the meal: candied yams, bacon-studded Brussels sprouts, stuffed mushrooms and pecan pie.

turkey soup
Turkey soup recipe.

It’s no wonder that we’re more than happy to relegate turkeys to a once-a-year visit on our dining-room tables. But what if you could prepare the turkey in such a way that you only needed to throw it into the oven on Thanksgiving two hours before dinner, then serve it piping hot along with all of your side dishes and a delicious bowl of gravy? Enter the boneless turkey roast.

Basically, you deconstruct your fresh turkey so that you end up with two boneless breasts onto which you lay the boned meat from the thigh sections. Using the turkey skin practically like a casing, you roll the roast so that the dark meat is in the center. Then, tie up the whole package for easy roasting.

The legs can be roasted separately, and the wings and carcass make all of the stock you’ll need for gravy.

Boneless Turkey Roast

1 turkey, approximately 15 pounds
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
4 tablespoons melted butter

Remove the leg and thigh pieces from the turkey. Reserve the legs for roasting, and cut the meat off of the thigh bones. Cut the wings off the turkey. Turn the turkey over, and cut along both sides of the backbone. Loosen the skin, and try to remove it in one piece. Use a sharp knife to cut under the breast meat along the rib cage and up to the breast bone. Do this on both sides to end up with two boneless breast pieces.

Remove the tendon from each tenderloin section. Lay out the turkey skin, and place the white-meat pieces to create a somewhat-even layer.

Sprinkle with a generous amount of salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Mound the dark meat from the thighs close to one long edge and roll up, using the skin almost as a casing to hold it all together. With the seam side down, tie the roast at one-inch intervals, tucking in the ends to form a neat bundle.

Just before roasting, you can sprinkle it with a little more salt and pepper. Heat the oven to 325 degrees, and place the roast onto a rack in a roasting pan. Cook for two hours or until the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Then, raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Baste the roast with melted butter, and bake until it’s golden brown and the skin is crispy.

Remove and let rest for about 20 minutes before slicing.

Chris Fennimore is the director of programming at WQED and the producer/host for QED Cooks. Follow his blog on food and family at

Categories: Eat + Drink Features