How to Roast a 20 Pound Turkey in 2 Hours

Roast Turkey

I’m here to let you in on the biggest turkey roasting hack of your life.


Here it goes…

You can roast a whole turkey, as big as 20 pounds, in 2 hours or less.


Ask your butcher to cut it into eighths.
2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 wings
(plus the neck if your butcher is as generous as mine).

There you have it. One whole turkey, 8 pieces.

Why does this make a difference? Now that the turkey is no longer one giant bird, the increased surface area allows the pieces to cook faster. When the pieces are roasted individually the heat can reach more of the meat quicker than if it was a whole bird.

The obvious thing about a turkey is that it is really just an extra large chicken as far as the anatomy goes. And just like a chicken, your butcher can cut it up for you into eighths. (If you live in L.A. you can ask my butcher to do it for you. He’s been carving it up for me this way for years. His contact info is below. You’re welcome. 😉)

The quicker roasting time is just the beginning of why it is better to roast a turkey cut into eighths instead of whole. Here are 6 more reasons why:

1)You don’t have to clear out half of your fridge (at the least opportune time) to make room for an extra large turkey carcass. When you order a turkey cut up it in to eighths it comes neatly wrapped in manageable size foam trays. Stack and stash them in your fridge wherever you have space until you are ready to prep.

2) Dividing the turkey up among multiple roasting pans, instead of one giant roasting pan, makes it infinitely easier and lighter to take in and out of the oven.

3) Also, dividing the turkey up among multiple roasting pans allows you to remove each piece of the turkey at a time from the oven when it is perfectly cooked as indicated by the thermometer. The drumsticks and thighs cook quicker than the breast pieces and should be taken out sooner.

4) Taking the thighs and drumsticks out first also allows you to get a jump on the carving instead of letting the whole bird sit on the counter and get cold.

5)Baste if you want to or don’t. Your turkey is going to finish cooking so quickly that it won’t have time to dry out.

6) Don’t feel like roasting an entire turkey or aren’t going to need that much meat for Thanksgiving? Go ahead and freeze any pieces that you aren’t going to use. Or roast all the pieces and freeze the ones that you aren’t going to eat or want for leftovers on Thanksgiving. I prefer to do the latter as it allows me to get all of the initial roasting out of the way and free to use the rest of the cooked meat whenever I wish. I’ve got many, many recipes that use roast turkey coming up so I suggest roast as many pieces as you can fit in your oven.

Worried your family is expecting the classic Norman Rockwell picture perfect whole roast turkey on the table? Trust me, they’re not going to miss it one little bit. In fact they will be too busy telling you what a genius you are to have not slaved over a roasting turkey the entire day and boasting about your hosting abilities to even care.

I order my turkey cut into eighths every year from Le Market in Valley Village. It’s best to have it ordered one week before Thanksgiving. Ask for Avraham. His family has been running the small kosher market and butcher shop for over 30 years.

*This is NOT a sponsored post. I am not being compensated in any way for references made to specific products or brands. All opinions are my own

Roast Turkey

Hana Itzhaki
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Resting Time 15 minutes
Course dinner, Main Course, Thanksgiving
Cuisine American, Thanksgiving


  • 4 9×13 Roasting Pans
  • Meat Thermometer


  • 12 Celery Stalks with Leaves
  • 4 Large Carrots peeled and halved
  • 4 Large Onions quarters
  • 2 Tablespoons Sea Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Rubbed Sage
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon Paprika
  • 6 Cups Water
  • 1 18-20 Pound Fresh Turkey cut into eighths


  • Preheat oven to 425 F.
  • Divide vegetables evenly between the roasting pans.
  • Combine all the spices together in a bowl.
  • Add 1 teaspoon of the spice mixture to the vegetables in each roasting pan. Toss to evenly coat.
  • Add 1.5 cups of water to each pan.
  • Divide the turkey evenly between the roasting pans. Each turkey breast should take up an entire 9×13 inch pan. One thigh and one drumstick should fit together in the remaining two pans. (Freeze the wings for a future recipe. More on that coming soon!)
  • Divide the remaining spice mixture evenly (about 1 tablespoon) to season the turkey pieces on both sides. Leave pieces in the roasting pans skin side up.
  • Place the roasting pans in the preheated oven. After 30 minutes check for doneness in the thighs by inserting a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. When the temperature reaches 160 F (plus or minus 5 degrees) the turkey is done. Check the breast pieces for doneness after 45 minutes. Continue to check the temperature of the pieces every 15-20 minutes until the temperature reaches 160 F. The thighs and drumsticks should be done after 45 minutes to 1 hour and the breast pieces should be done after one and a half to an hour and 45 minutes.
  • Allow the turkey to rest for 15-20 minutes before carving and placing on a serving platter. Reserve the bones for soup!
  • Remove the carrots and onions from the roasting pans and onto a to a serving dish. (I prefer not to serve the celery as it becomes too soft during roasting. You can freeze it and add it to flavor broth. Recipe for that coming soon too!)
  • Strain the liquid from the roasting pans into a large bowl or pitcher. You should have 6-8 cups. Place in the refrigerator and allow the fat to rise to the top. If you leave it to chill overnight the fat will solidify and be easier to remove.
  • Remove the fat with a large spoon. Do not throw it away! Reserve it for frying potatoes in!
  • Reserve the remaining liquid to make gravy. Gravy recipe up next so stay tuned!
Keyword roast, thanksgiving, turkey

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating