Julia Child's Roast Turkey

Julia Child's Turkey
Maggie Starbard
  • 4 hrs 30 mins
  • Prep: 30 mins,
  • Cook: 4 hrs
  • Yield: Serves 10 to 15 (serves 10-15)
Ratings (4)

Because the white meat of a whole turkey cooks quicker than the dark meat, it can be a challenge even for an experienced chef to get an evenly cooked bird. In her essential cookbook, The Way To Cook, Julia Child introduced a method for cutting up the turkey and roast the dark and white meats separately. Once roasted, the turkey is reassembled on a platter and brought to the table for presentation for carving. Julia's added step of boning the turkey legs beforehand does make carving easier, but if you feel it's too challenging, you can skip that step.


What You'll Need

  • 1 15-20 pound turkey
  • Salt to taste (Kosher)
  • Pepper to taste (freshly ground)
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon sage
  • 2 cups onion (coarsely chopped, separated)
  • 2 cups carrots (coarsely chopped, separated)
  • 2 celery stalks (with leaves, coarsely chopped)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs thyme (fresh)
  • Cooking oil or melted butter for basting
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

How to Make It

  1. Remove the neck (then chop in half) and heart and gizzards from a properly thawed turkey. Set aside for the stock. Reserve the liver for the stuffing or discard. Wash and pat the turkey dry. Preheat oven to 325 F.
  2. Using kitchen shears, or a large chef's knife, or a cleaver, cut out the turkey's backbone, chop it into a few pieces and set it aside for the stock for the gravy.
  3. These next two steps are optional. Locate the ball joint connecting to the backbone, and carefully cut through the joint to release the entire drumstick. Using a paring knife, scrape away the meat clinging to the thigh bone at the ball joint, then work your way down, scraping the meat from the bone, until the bone releases. Save this bone for the stock.
  1. Season the drumstick inside and out with Kosher salt and pepper, then truss it together with skewers and string. Repeat for the other drumstick. 
  2. Arrange the drumsticks on a rack inserted in a roasting pan, and put them in the oven.
  3. Cut off the turkey wing tips and elbows, and save for the stock. Cut out the wishbone, and lightly season the breast's inside with salt and pepper.  Tie up the breast with butcher's string so that it resembles its pre-cut shape. Massage oil or butter over the breast, then season with salt and pepper and sage, if using.
  4. The turkey can be roasted as is, but if you want stuffing, cut out heavy duty, double-wrapped aluminum foil to create a separate baking dish. Put this foil dish into a second roasting pan, then mound the stuffing on top. Lay the turkey breast on top of the stuffing and press down so that it's secure.
  5. Put the turkey breast into the oven and roast about 3 hours, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 155 F. Baste the breast and legs frequently with oil, butter or cooking juices. For the last hour of roasting, scatter the onions and carrots around the turkey breast.
  6. While the turkey is roasting, make the stock for the gravy. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add the reserved turkey neck, thigh bones, wing tips and elbows and richly brown on all sides.
  7. Pour in 4 cups of water and the turkey gizzards, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer as the turkey roasts. After 40 minutes of simmering, add the turkey heart. Simmer 10 minutes, then remove it and the gizzards and finely chop. Reserve for the giblet gravy.
  8. When the breast reaches 155 F, remove it from the oven and cover with tin foil. Test the internal temperature of the drumsticks. When their internal temperature at the thickest part of the thigh is 155 F, take them out of the oven. Cover with foil and let the turkey rest 30 minutes before carving. To carve, snip off the strings.