While most people roast a turkey in the oven, the occasion will arise that you may want to boil a turkey. Most cookbooks do not address this method and the cook is left wondering how much time is needed for cooking boiled turkey. There are two basic ways to boil a turkey. One, you boil the turkey whole if you have a large enough stockpot or two, you cut the turkey into pieces before you boil. Either way, no part of the turkey goes to waste.
Boiling a Whole Turkey
Unwrap the turkey and rinse the outside and inside cavities with cool, running water. With a sharp knife, slice several long slits into both breasts, legs and thighs. Place the bird in a large stockpot and completely cover with water. Bring the pot to a rolling boil and then turn the heat down to a fast simmer. Cover the pot and let the turkey cook for 2 hours. Skim off any foam that stays on the surface of the water as needed. Use a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the breast and thigh to test for doneness. The thermometer should read 165 degrees F; if the meat is not at that point, let it boil another 30 minutes and check again.
Boiling Turkey Parts
If you cut the turkey into parts, i.e., remove the legs, wings, cut the breast in half, the turkey will cook faster than if left whole. It will also allow you to use a smaller stockpot as you can arrange the parts to fit. As with a whole turkey, cover the parts with water and bring to a full, rolling boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for an hour. Test the meat with a meat thermometer. The turkey is fully cooked when all parts have an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. This can take between 1 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the parts.
Making Soup or Stock
While you're boiling your turkey, you may want to consider using the water for soup or stock for use at a later time. The turkey alone will give the water flavor, but if you add a few extra ingredients, it will help flavor the turkey and after straining, the water can be saved for soup stock. Consider adding two or three sliced carrots, two quartered onions, one clove or two of garlic, salt and pepper to taste and any other seasonings you may want to add to the water as the turkey boils. Strain the broth, after you've remove the turkey, through a fine mesh colander. Allow the broth to cool and package in freezer bags and freeze. The broth will keep for several months in the freezer.