Friday, November 23, 2012

Annual Turkey Saga

Seems like every year I play with a different method of cooking the turkey.  Smoke 'em, deep fry 'em etc.  This year I decided to see how quick I could "get 'er done." 

Things learned over the years:  Prep is the most important as in, always brine the turkey for best results. This time I prepared the brine by boiling a pot of water with a heavy cup of kosher salt, couple spoon's of peppercorns,  a little ginger, and probably a half cup of brown sugar and let it cool down.  Then I put it in the refrigerator overnight to chill. 

We planned dinner at 5PM so when I woke up I put the turkey in my giant pot and poured the solution over the turkey and finished the brine by pouring ice and water into the pot to completely cover the bird. The chilled water ended up about 37­° a safe temp for the turkey. 

Due to time constraints I only soaked the turkey about 5 hours.  Then I pulled it out of the brine and dried it off with some paper towels.  I don't stuff turkeys for various reasons but I do put something into the cavity to aid in even cooking.  So at this point I Quartered  an apple, sprinkled on a little cinnamon and put it into a bowl with a half of an onion and a little water. I then microwaved this on high for 5 min while I lightly coated the turkey with some oil (to promote browning; More about this in a minute). I then stuffed the apple and onion into the cavity, folded the wings back underneath the bird and placed it in my roasting pan and put the bird into the over legs first. 

Now the good part;  I had seen this method before and wanted to try it so this was the year. (think it was on "good eats") I pre-heated the oven to 500° and put the turkey in. The idea is to brown the bird first.  The plan is to brown the bird for 30 minutes at 500° then cover the breast only with a thick tin foil and finish the cook at 350°.  This should produce perfect temps of 161° in the breast and 180° on the dark meat (legs and thighs).  I found out, 15 minutes into the cook that you should LIGHTLY coat the bird with oil because I rubbed in a generous amount of oil and the high temperature really produced a lot of smoke rolling out of the oven.  LOL At 16 minutes I had so much smoke it set off my smoke detectors.  As you can imagine this cause quite a bit of activity and excitement among the women folks and I suffered a fair amount of ridicule as I placed fans at the front and back door of the house to evacuate the smoke. 

As all good leaders should, I remained calm and assured the ladies that I was NOT burning the turkey and Thanksgiving would happen as advertised.  In view of my calmness the excitement subsided along with the smoke, the fans doing their magic clearing out the house.  25 minutes into the cook the visibility in the house returned to normal, replaced with the fine smell of a roasting turkey. 

At 30 minutes I opened the oven door, pull out a beautifully browned turkey and applied the pre-formed "breast plate", reduced the oven temp to 350° and shoved the thing back into the oven. 

I use an electronic temperature probe placed at the deepest point of the breast away from any bone.  This gives an accurate temperature and if you are going to cook any meat and want perfection this is something you can’t do without.  They only cost about $35 for a top of the line gauge so if you don’t have one it’s a good Christmas gift.  But I digress.  About one hour and 35 minutes later my probe alarm went off and the breast temp was at 161°.  The bird looked better than any I’ve seen in some time.  I covered it with foil to rest while the previously excited lady folk finished up the yams and other side dishes.  I had time to make gravy and mash the potatoes. 

We sat down for our Thanksgiving meal right at 5PM and as I carved the turkey I could tell it was going to be good.  The meat was moist and fully cooked.  The legs and thighs were cooked to perfection and all present agreed the moist meat from the breast tasted second to none.  From a presentation standpoint this turkey had a beautiful color and the color was even all over. 

At my age I guess I’ve cooked as many turkeys at thanksgiving as the average fellow and used as many methods as I could come up with.  I have to say that I will use this method again and again because from the standpoint of ease it’s really simple and getting a 16 pound bird done and ready to eat in 2 hours and fifteen minutes of cooking is another plus. 

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Thanksgiving and my wishes to all for a Holiday season full of family, friends, peace and good times.