This Thanksgiving, I am going to show you how we in the restaurant business make our turkeys for the big day.

If you go out for your Thanksgiving meal this week you will notice that the slices of turkey are all perfect and all look the same. The stuffing is in a perfect square slice or even a quenelle!

The reason is that most chefs don’t roast the bird whole as you do at home. We don’t need to do the big show of carving at the table. What we need are consistency and uniformity.

So what do we do? We take the turkey apart.

The reason why I personally take the turkey apart is that each part of the bird cooks at different temperatures. If you have the legs that are perfectly cooked then the breast is overdone. If the breast is cooked to a juicy perfection then the legs are undercooked, that’s just the nature of the beast. Plus if you have the legs deboned and the breast removed it is so much easier to carve.

I would ask your butcher to debone the turkey for you but as the local butcher is sadly becoming a thing of the past here is a quick rundown on what to do.

Remove the giblet and neck of the turkey.

With the help of the kitchen shears or the boning knife, cut the backbone of the turkey. Preserve the backbone, as well as the giblet and neck for the turkey stock.

Use your boning knife to carve the right side of the turkey’s ribcage. However, take care not to cut through the backside of the breast skin.

Remove the wing joint from the breastbone of the turkey, and make a cut that goes through its cartilage.

Move your boning knife around the wishbone. This will separate the meat from the ribs right to the thigh joints. Make sure the knife does not go through the skin that connects the two breast halves.

Take hold of the leg, and find the spot where the thigh joint connects to the breast of the turkey. Press your thumb on the joint, and pull the bottom of the leg forward.

Remove the bone from the leg by cutting or tunneling around it. Also remove the hard cartilage ‘bones’ as well.

Remove the second leg in the same manner as that of the first leg.

Chef Gilligan's deconstructed Thanksgiving roast turkey recipe


  • 1 six to 24-pound dressed turkey, fresh or frozen (allow one pound per serving)
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper
  • Chopped fresh herbs, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (3 tablespoons each)
  • 3 cups chestnut puree
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh garlic bulbs
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 3 cups white wine
  • turkey gravy


Remove the wings, legs and breasts. Use the carcass for turkey stock {put the carcass in a pot, add the parsley, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 2 hours}.

Remove the bone from the leg and season.

Apply one cup of chestnut puree to the center of the leg and liberally sprinkle with chopped herbs. Roll up and tie with butcher's twine. Rub seasoning and olive oil all over turkey.

Cut the garlic bulbs in half and lay in a shallow roasting tray with the bunch of thyme. Place the turkey legs and breast skin side up, on top of the garlic and thyme.

To roast the turkey:

Preheat the oven to 325° F.

Roast the turkey until the meat thermometer reaches 165° F and the juices run clear.
As we are taking the bird apart this should take roughly 2 hours, not 6!

The roasting time may vary up to 30 minutes, depending on the bird and the oven. Use the meat thermometer to check the temperature of the dressing. The center of the breast or leg must reach a temperature of 165° F for food safety.

Chef Gilligan's chestnut puree recipe


  • 1/2 small onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 10 oz. whore roasted chestnuts (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock or broth


Cook onion in butter in a 3-quart, heavy, covered saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add chestnuts and stock and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Puree mixture in batches in a blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids) and transfer to a small saucepan. Heat puree over moderate heat, stirring, until hot and season with salt and pepper.

Chef Gilligan's turkey gravy recipe


Poultry giblets (gizzard, heart, neck)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups turkey stock


To make the gravy, remove the turkey from the oven and place it on a serving platter or carving boards; cover loosely with aluminum foil and let it stand 10 minutes before carving. Meanwhile, make the turkey gravy. Place the roasting tray on a low flame; add the flour and cook for 5 minutes. Gradually add your turkey stock one ladle at a time until you reached desired consistency. Season and strain through a sieve. Yields about 3-1/2 cup.