ATLANTA — ATLANTA – The centerpiece of your Thanksgiving meal needs to look good, but you might not be doing all you can to make sure the turkey tastes good.

Norman Rockwell’s iconic painting shows a family gathered around a turkey that’s been cooked whole. Culinary experts now say the best way to prepare a turkey is to cut it into pieces before cooking.

Why?

It’s not that you can’t get a tasty bird cooking it whole, but kitchen expert Nancy Waldeck told us there’s a better way to make sure the turkey is cooked evenly.

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“When you cook a turkey whole, you have a bottom which is typically in a roasting pan and a top which is exposed to the dry heat of the oven,” Waldeck said. “That’s uneven heat distribution!”

Dark meat needs more heat than white meat. When you cook the whole turkey you risk drying out the white while waiting for the dark meat to cook.

“Dark meat like legs and thighs must be cooked to 165-degrees while turkey breast is best at 145-degrees,” Waldeck explained. “It begins to dry out after it heats 145-degrees. The best way to ensure juicy dark meat and juicy white is to cut it into pieces! When you separate it, heat can more evenly distribute around the turkey.”

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If you don’t want to cut it yourself have the butcher do it.

Your Thanksgiving table may not look like a Norman Rockwell painting, but your guests will be happy.

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