Thanksgiving meal preparation retrospective

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Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Is there a consistent way to cook a large turkey, one shot, top and bottom?

I have found starting at 500 degrees for 30 minutes, then dropping to 325 for 2.5-3.5 hours (depending on size and cavity content) works excellently for meat texture on the top half of the turkey. It's okay for cavity stuffing (even with turkey breast up).

However, the bottom platform of the bird and downside parts of the legs are not cooked, which means re-cooking.

Is there a good way to roast the entire bird so it is consistently nicely cooked throughout? (E.g. turn bird, top on roaster, tent over bird)?

I have a thought for a 20 pound turkey:

500 breast down (to seal stuffing juices) 30 minutes
325 breast down 30 minutes
turn bird over
apply olive oil, butter, spices over bird
325 breast up 2.5 hours

Q. Would this cook the turkey throughout, crisp the skin top and bottom, and seal the stuffing?
-----Added 11/28/2008 at 04:20:25 EST-----
Any thoughts?

(wanted to test the new double post enhancement, too) :)
 

Grymir

Puritan Board Graduate
um, what kind of pan are you cooking your bird in? And what are you cooking the turkey in?

I would guess that the 500 degree start would be my best guess. Just do 325 degrees. Baste every 30 mins. I also wouldn't turn the bird over. Just do it breasts up. Also, lid on roaster for best results.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
A large roaster pan in a conventional oven (in the hypothetical), whether with the top on or off, do you have a sure-fire way to get the turkey cooked throughout (top and bottom)?
 

Presbyterian Deacon

Puritan Board Graduate
um, what kind of pan are you cooking your bird in? And what are you cooking the turkey in?

I would guess that the 500 degree start would be my best guess. Just do 325 degrees. Baste every 30 mins. I also wouldn't turn the bird over. Just do it breasts up. Also, lid on roaster for best results.

One thing I would add, if covering the roaster--remove the lid 45 minutes - an hour before the end of your total cooking time, to get the skin crispy and brown.
-----Added 11/28/2008 at 05:44:51 EST-----
A digital cooking thermometer usually helps. Look for an internal temperature of 170 degrees. Let bird stand 30 minutes after removing from oven, before carving.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
There is a fantastic skin seal with the 500 degree fire up then turn down but the very bottom of the turkey facing the roaster bottom and underside of legs is not cooked when the rest is. It takes about another 50-60 minutes to get it cooked.
 

Presbyterian Deacon

Puritan Board Graduate
I did a 23 pound bird yesterday @ 325 degrees. It was in the oven for four and a half hours. As Grymir says, baste about every 30 minutes---and leave uncovered for the last 45 minutes of roasting.
 

Grymir

Puritan Board Graduate
The 'fantastic skin seal' is only gonna cook the top half of the bird. Turkey is juicy enough not to need such a drastic step. This is because of the roasting pan. If you want to do such a thing, use a torch. I'm not joking. It's how its done! It will seal the skin, so that the roasting will cook the meat. But like I said, Turkey is juicy enough. Think like when you sear a piece of beef before roasting. One has to think holistically about cooking the meat, not focusing on a certain point.

By type, I also was asking gas/electric. ie, gas cooks more evenly. Some electric ovens will sometimes use the top elements to heat the oven too.

I'm a professional chef by trade, but I grew up helping Grandma/Mom cook, and I never went to no 'frenchy fu-fu' school. Do it the old fashioned way, and you'll have great results. My family always stuffed the bird and basted, but when I moved out on my own, the negative stuff about stuffing circulated, so my family went bonkers with all the new-fangled cooking techniques. ie, no stuffing, cooked in a bag. YUCK!!!!!!

I alway stuff and baste. I use a Lisk roaster. Lid on the whole time. It even browns with the lid on. Even with a normal, plain roaster, I just took the lid off the last 30 mins. When I came back from Texas and cooked the family turkey, they couldn't believe how good it tasted. I told them to drop their new-fangled ways and seek the old paths of turkeyness!
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Brimstone
After watching the Food Network for over a year and having the idea of brining your turkey pounded into our brains, my wife and I decided to go for it.

Our turkey usually turns out quite nice, but I have to say... after brining that thing for almost 24 hours it ended up being the juiciest thing we've ever had - even better than frying it. And the meat even picked up a slight hint of flavor from the spices in the brine. It was very nice.

Ours was a 21lb bird. We cooked it at 475 for about 45 minutes then down to 350 for just under 3 hours. It was great.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Ladies, please feel free to comment here as well.

I have found that you can seal a crispy skin for a small game bird (e.g. chicken) top and bottom by preheating about 25 minutes to 500, then dropping the temperature to zero (yes, zero) for about another hour to hour and a half with the oven lid closed. This really works, try it sometime and you do not have to worry about turning the oven off.

With a large game bird, this seems to work on the top 2/3, but not the bottom 1/3. Maybe turning the turkey one time will do the trick. Also, starting breast down tends to drop juices into the cavity stuffing for a great taste.
 

AThornquist

Puritan Board Doctor
I have made the family turkey for a couple years. Brining the bird is amazing. Even frozen leftovers six months down the road are juicy--it's incredible. Alton Brown is your man for this job: turkeh
Or you can buy the DvD where he does this recipe--it is the Takeout Collection; DvD "Holiday Treats"; episode "Romancing the Bird." I own it. I love it. I live it. :scholar:
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Brimstone
You're right... Alton Brown is the man when it comes to turkey prep. Good Eats is one of my favorite shows. I've learned some really good stuff.
-----Added 11/28/2008 at 09:39:39 EST-----
I have made the family turkey for a couple years. Brining the bird is amazing. Even frozen leftovers six months down the road are juicy--it's incredible. Alton Brown is your man for this job: turkeh
Or you can buy the DvD where he does this recipe--it is the Takeout Collection; DvD "Holiday Treats"; episode "Romancing the Bird." I own it. I love it. I live it. :scholar:

That link you posted... that is the same brine recipe we followed... with the exception being that we added garlic cloves. :)
 

AThornquist

Puritan Board Doctor
Oh yeah? Cool :) I used that recipe again this year, so I didn't have any garlic cloves. How did that turn out for you? Was it noticeably different?
 

cedar_chopper

Puritan Board Freshman
turkey injections....

having never cooked a bird before, i got online looking for recipes... i found three that i liked, took the three and combined them....so, basically it was a stick and a half of butter, 12 oz. of jalapenos (blend it up) soy sause (for the salt) 6 oz of lime juice, mex well and inject it in the bird. i placed in oven bag, salted the skin, ziped up the zip tie, put it in the oven, 475 to sear the skin, drop temp down to 350 for 3 1/2 hours, no muss , no fuss, no basting....enjoy
ive used the oven bags before, the work great, and make you look like the greatest cookie in the world....or at least my kids think so...lol
 

Carolyn

Puritan Board Freshman
I have to buy organic turkeys because of family allergy problems. Therefore, I brine overnight. I roast for the first 30 min at 450 and then turn the temp. down to 325. This year, to avoid basting, I made a garlic herb paste and rubbed it between the skin and the turkey. The results were fantastic!

Ditto re: Alton Brown.
 

JBaldwin

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I didn't cook turkey this year, but I when I do, I cook my turkey the old-fashioned way. Completely line the bottom of a roasting pan with chopped onion, celery and carrots. Rest the bird on the veggies and oil down the turkey with olive oil. Cover the bird with tin foil and cook at 450 for 30 minutes, and then lower the temp to 325 and uncover the bird and baste it every 20 minutes. I use a meat thermometor to ensure that the turkey is cooked throughout. I don't remember the required temp. I think it is 170 or 180 degrees for a completely cooked bird.

Last year I did this, and my family is still raving about the best turkey they ever ate.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
I didn't cook turkey this year, but I when I do, I cook my turkey the old-fashioned way. Completely line the bottom of a roasting pan with chopped onion, celery and carrots. Rest the bird on the veggies and oil down the turkey with olive oil. Cover the bird with tin foil and cook at 450 for 30 minutes, and then lower the temp to 325 and uncover the bird and baste it every 20 minutes. I use a meat thermometor to ensure that the turkey is cooked throughout. I don't remember the required temp. I think it is 170 or 180 degrees for a completely cooked bird.

Last year I did this, and my family is still raving about the best turkey they ever ate.

As far as you aware, is there also a standard way where the turkey would be turned over one time, with turkey breast down to start to seal in the juices for the dressing stuffed in the cavity?
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Good input so far.

Anyone have a sure-fire technique that involves turning the turkey while baking in the oven?
 

LawrenceU

Puritan Board Doctor
Y'all are crazy. That is way too much work in roasting a turkey. The following is what we do and have done for generations. It is just about foolproof. Every time we serve this turkey to others they want to know how in the world we got such most, tender, and evenly browned turkey. Seriously. It is that good and it is throw it in and leave it alone until it is done.


What you will need:
A turkey
A large brown paper sack ( a grocery sack ).
A stick of butter ( about half of it melted )
Salt
Pepper
Sage or other seasoning
NO INJECTION STUFF
Fruit or onions to put in birds cavity (OPTIONAL)

Here's what you do:
Open the paper sack and coat every bit of the inside surface by rubbing it with the solid butter. It doesn't have to be heavily coated, but it does have to be coated. Set the sack aside. Pull out the giblets from the bird. (You did make sure that it is thoroughly thawed, didn't you?) Set aside giblets for making that dish of heaven, giblet gravy, later on.

If you are going to put fruit or an onion in the bird now is the time to do so. Don't put stuffing in the bird.

Snap the wings of the bird under, akimbo, and tie the drumsticks together if not already done so.
Coat the outside of the bird with melted butter.
Lightly rub salt, pepper, and other seasoning into the butter.
Open the sack and place it on the counter so the seam is up.
Slide the bird into the paper sack on its back.
Close the sack and place about three staples in the edge to keep it together. Fold the close opening over once and staple it shut.
Place the sacked bird on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. A dark pan will lessen the cooking time by about 5%.

Place the bird in the oven and set the oven to 350 degrees. Leave it alone.

Cooking time will be about 3.5 hours for a sixteen pound bird. The following chart is close. The times will trend to the short side because of the steaming action of the sack.

8-12 pounds 2 to 3.5 hours
12-16 pounds 3 to 4 hours
16-20 pounds 4 to 5 hours
20-25 pounds 5 to 6 hours
25-30 pounds 6+ hours

When the cooking time is done (Don't worry. It is very hard to overcook a turkey in this manner; within reason of course. An extra fifteen to twenty minutes is not really going to hurt it. ) take the turkey out of the oven. In the roasting pan will be some juice. That is normal. Use it for gravy. Cut the sack open long way down the middle. Careful, the steam will be HOT. Juice will flow out of the sack and into the roasting pan. Again, get it for use. You will notice that the turkey is browned and the meat is very moist. If you are going to carve the bird at the table let it sit for a few minutes before placing on a carving platter.

This year I cooked a sixteen pound turkey for 3.5 hours. It was phenomenal. I've cooked wild turkeys like this and they are tremendous. It also works well for waterfowl.

It is so very easy and pretty much idiot proof. I've given the technique to very distraught newlywed wives who were almost apoplectic at the thought of 'cooking a holiday meal for his family' many times. I think it might have saved marriages and engendered offspring.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Great information, thanks.

Sounds like a family-tested recipe (the kind that really work)!

I see "don't put stuffing in the bird."

Is there any modification that would allow cavity stuffing?
 

JBaldwin

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I didn't cook turkey this year, but I when I do, I cook my turkey the old-fashioned way. Completely line the bottom of a roasting pan with chopped onion, celery and carrots. Rest the bird on the veggies and oil down the turkey with olive oil. Cover the bird with tin foil and cook at 450 for 30 minutes, and then lower the temp to 325 and uncover the bird and baste it every 20 minutes. I use a meat thermometor to ensure that the turkey is cooked throughout. I don't remember the required temp. I think it is 170 or 180 degrees for a completely cooked bird.

Last year I did this, and my family is still raving about the best turkey they ever ate.

As far as you aware, is there also a standard way where the turkey would be turned over one time, with turkey breast down to start to seal in the juices for the dressing stuffed in the cavity?

When you oil down the turkey and baste with the juice that comes from the turkey and the veggies, it seals in the moisture. That is one of the beauties of cooking turkey this way. It is very moist and tender. I have never heard of turning the turkey over.

-----Added 12/2/2008 at 09:34:33 EST-----

Great information, thanks.

Sounds like a family-tested recipe (the kind that really work)!

I see "don't put stuffing in the bird."

Is there any modification that would allow cavity stuffing?

I failed to say that I do stuff the bird and I tie it and dress it as LawrenceU described. Do you put any oil or butter or liquid in your stuffing?
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
JBaldwin
Puritanboard Junior


I failed to say that I do stuff the bird and I tie it and dress it as LawrenceU described. Do you put any oil or butter or liquid in your stuffing?

Sometimes I add about 1/2 cup orange juice.

It seems the very best, though, is when the turkey juices begin to flow down into the cavity, with no liquids having been added.

If I cook the turkey breast down the whole time the juices flow and make the stuffing very, very good. However, the meat is not evenly cooked (e.g. the breast portion, which was facing down) seems to not be done.

Lawrence's family-tested method sounds great for overall perfect cooking of the meat. Now, I am trying to figure out if there is a way to include stuffing in the cavity, and get it cooked well uniformly.
 

LawrenceU

Puritan Board Doctor
Great information, thanks.

Sounds like a family-tested recipe (the kind that really work)!

I see "don't put stuffing in the bird."

Is there any modification that would allow cavity stuffing?

Seeing how stuffing a turkey is a Yankee thing I don't know. I guess you could, but I don't know how it would affect the cooking times or the tenderness. Part of the secret to perfect turkey is cooking heat from both the outside and inside of the bird. This is one reason that frying a turkey makes it tender as well. Instead of stuffing a bird, just put the stuffing in a pan and bake it. That is what we do to cornbread dressing.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Incidentally Lawrence,

due in large part to your input here, this thread is rated a "5" (out of 5)!
 
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