Let’s Talk Turkey

 

I am cooking Thanksgiving dinner for a fairly new group of friends. I was not sure if I wanted to cook a whole turkey or just a large turkey breast. Just cooking the breast allows for stuffing but is much easier to cook uniformly.

After checking out my options at the grocery store, I selected a whole turkey on sale for 49 cents a pound. The store was very crowded and there was a line at every register. An elderly Hispanic woman just ahead of me in line looked at my turkey and asked how much it was. I told her it was only seven dollars and she look dismayed. Hers was over 15 dollars because her family insisted she buy a Butterball. I said that that was OK because it was a holiday after all.

A few moments later, she said she makes the best turkey: lemon turkey. I asked what that was and she proudly explained that she soaks the bird overnight in a cooler of water to which she adds the juice of two lemons. She then rinses it, pats it dry and injects a paste of fresh garlic and olive oil under the skin. I asked if she added salt or sugar to the brine and she replied that you could, but she thought it was better with just lemon.

When I got home, I researched lemon brines for roasting turkey and found she was definitely on to something, although every recipe I found included salt, sugar, or both. Most also had rosemary or other herbs in the brine. Betty Crocker actually took it up a notch and suggested adding grated lemon peel to your gravy. I am going to try it without sugar or salt and see how it works.

The woman went on to tell me she has seven children and she is not sure how many grandchildren. They will have to play outside while she prepares the meal. What if it rains, I ask?

That will be a big problem, she responds.

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  1. Mad Gerald Coolidge
    Mad Gerald
    @Jose

    Delicious – Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday!

    • #1
  2. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Thanks for this. We’ve got plenty of lemons. We’ve tried several different brines but this sounds good. We’ll try it on at least one of our three turkeys.

    PS. After 30 years of hosting 30 + people, I’ve found that the gravy and the stuffing are the two things people get pissy about. Thankfully SIL is in charge of the gravy and my stuffing is killer.(my mom’s recipe. I change it one little bit and I catch hell)

    • #2
  3. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    That poor woman will be very disappointed in her Butterball turkey.  Check out the ingredients (yes, there are ingredients), which include a generous portion of salt water.  I tried making a Butterball turkey breast roast once, and only once.  It was almost too salty to eat at all.  One of our local supermarkets sells two kinds of ready-to-cook turkey breast roasts, one stuffed and one not.  We tried a stuffed one last year, and it was just heavenly.  Since there are only two of us, it was the perfect amount, leaving enough leftovers for two or three turkey sandwiches for each of us.  Ray makes Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, and we will be having asparagus, as our favorite market has it on sale for $1.99 a pound.

    I try to maintain a no-added-salt diet, and use no salt at all in cooking, so it makes me very sensitive to over-salted food. The only ingredient I look for on a packaged food label is sodium content.

    • #3
  4. EODmom Coolidge
    EODmom
    @EODmom

    Annefy (View Comment):

    Thanks for this. We’ve got plenty of lemons. We’ve tried several different brines but this sounds good. We’ll try it on at least one of our three turkeys.

    PS. After 30 years of hosting 30 + people, I’ve found that the gravy and the stuffing are the two things people get pissy about. Thankfully SIL is in charge of the gravy and my stuffing is killer.(my mom’s recipe. I change it one little bit and I catch hell)

    I cheat and make gravy ahead just enriching with juices when warming to serve. 

    • #4
  5. MWD B612 "Dawg" Member
    MWD B612 "Dawg"
    @danok1

    I’ve brined turkeys, but I stopped when I read a Cook’s Country recipe that suggested “larding.”

    Prick the skin of the breast and tops of legs all over with a fork. Place strips of salt pork on top, then cover that with cheese cloth that’s been soaked in 4 cups of cold water. Pour the remaining cold water in the roasting pan. Place a probe thermometer in the turkey breast. Cover the cheesecloth with foil.

    Place the turkey on the bottom rack of a 325 oven and leave it alone until the breast temp hits 140 degrees. At that time, remove the foil, cheesecloth and salt pork, and kick the oven temp up to 425. Continue cooking until the breast hits 160-165.

    Very simple, and this technique gives you a moist, flavorful bird without a lot of fuss. I suppose you can stuff the bird, but we don’t; we much prefer dressing. I do put a quartered onion, a quartered apple, a couple sprigs of rosemary, thyme, and sage in the cavity.

    ETA: You should check the temperature of the thigh at the end. It should be 180F in the thigh.

    • #5
  6. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    Years back I did a recipe from Bon Apetit for Apricot Glazed Turkey.   It turns out spectacular results but it’s very fussy and labor intensive so I’m not recommending it.   That being said, it is a family favorite and every time I did something different people requested that I go back to the Apricot Glazed Turkey, so I suck it up and do it.

    But

    What I really want to do is Beer Can Turkey.  My go-to chicken recipe is Beer Can Chicken.   How can you not like a recipe that starts with “Drink half a beer.”

    Drink half a beer

    Stick a handful of the fresh herbs of your choice into the half-full can.

    Stand the chicken up vertically and Impale the chicken on the beer can.

    Put the impaled bird/beer can vertically on a foil pie plate on a medium hot grill.  (The pie plate prevents flare ups)

    Cook got 45 – 60 minutes depending on the size of the chicken.   After 30 minutes or so you might want to put a little foil over the very top of the bird to keep the skin from scorching.

    Tbe skin will be super crispy but the steam from the herbed beer keeps the white meat super moist.

    Its easy as can be and virtually foolproof.

    I really want to do a Turkey version using one of the giant Fosters beer cans!

    • #6
  7. Painter Jean Moderator
    Painter Jean
    @PainterJean

    I have used a turkey recipe from Martha Stewart that has given me a perfect turkey every time – it’s turkey roasted in three layers of parchment paper. I initially used sheets of parchment paper, folding and stapling each of the three layers as called for in the recipe, but then I discovered parchment bags. I use three of them to duplicate the recipe, and it is easier than rolling out the sheets. The turkey comes out moist and delicious! It’s taken out of the parchment at the very end for browning.

    • #7
  8. I am Jack's Mexican identity Coolidge
    I am Jack's Mexican identity
    @dnewlander

    I wonder where that lady was from. Here in Sonora limes, oranges, and grapefruit are always in season, but it’s very rare to find a lemon at the store. Every time I see one I buy a couple with the intention of making lemon squares, but the lemons always go bad before I get around to it.

    • #8
  9. Chowderhead Coolidge
    Chowderhead
    @Podunk

    Southern Pessimist: I am cooking Thanksgiving dinner for a fairly new group of friends. I was not sure if I wanted to cook a whole turkey or just a large turkey breast.

    If you like your new group of friends please don’t serve them sandwich meat. The smallest most basic bird will do. Actually the turkey is just window dressing to all the other stuff, and usually doesn’t taste like much, so my advice would be to go with a traditional bird no matter what.

    The past two years I have cooked turkey that is actually juicy and delicious. That’s unusual for using such terrible raw materials (turkey). I use a sous vide stick and cook it for 24 hours at 151 degrees in a coleman cooler, then finish it off in a 525 degree oven to brown. 

    The drawback is you have to reach in and pull the giblets out which hurts a little. Also, the juice stays in the bird so there isn’t enough fat for gravy. Just buy jars.

    • #9
  10. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I don’t do anything to my turkey except roast it upside down. (I cook the dressing on the side.) I turn it right side up for the last half hour. It works pretty well. :)

    • #10
  11. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    We are having 5 guests join us.  4 are from Turkey and 1 is from Portugal. They are members of the men’s volleyball team at the local college.  

    • #11
  12. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    Chowderhead (View Comment):

    Southern Pessimist: I am cooking Thanksgiving dinner for a fairly new group of friends. I was not sure if I wanted to cook a whole turkey or just a large turkey breast.

    If you like your new group of friends please don’t serve them sandwich meat. The smallest most basic bird will do. Actually the turkey is just window dressing to all the other stuff, and usually doesn’t taste like much, so my advice would be to go with a traditional bird no matter what.

    The past two years I have cooked turkey that is actually juicy and delicious. That’s unusual for using such terrible raw materials (turkey). I use a sous vide stick and cook it for 24 hours at 151 degrees in a coleman cooler, then finish it off in a 525 degree oven to brown.

    The drawback is you have to reach in and pull the giblets out which hurts a little. Also, the juice stays in the bird so there isn’t enough fat for gravy. Just buy jars.

    This comment is too old to respond to but almost everything about it is wrong. I have heard that that happens on the internet sometimes.

    Sous-vide is definitely the best way to cook meat but probably not appropriate for a stuffed turkey. Pulling the giblets out of a turkey is pretty basic unless you had to kill the turkey before you plucked it. The juice does stay in the meat when you cook sous-vide but there will be plenty of fat to be rendered into gravy if you finish it in an oven. If you have to buy jarred gravy for your Thanksgiving feast you have failed.

    • #12
  13. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    Hmm, Maybe I was trolled by Chowderhead. If so, good job. I should have known that by the sandwich meat comment.

    • #13
  14. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    1- Yes, cook the turkey breast side down for at least the second half of baking.

    2- You can also “brine” it in Coca Cola or orange soda and that works well.

    3- And cut the turkey yourself.

    I once allowed my someone to carve the 15-pound turkey while I got something from the kitchen and when I got back, she had cut off both legs and given one to her father and one to herself.  Fortunately the breasts were moist.

    • #14
  15. Chowderhead Coolidge
    Chowderhead
    @Podunk

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    Hmm, Maybe I was trolled by Chowderhead. If so, good job. I should have known that by the sandwich meat comment.

    Haa. Not trolling. Just having fun. I love food talk. I cook it in the sealed plastic it comes in. By doing that you can’t stuff it and it’s a tad too hot pulling the pieces  out by hand. The payoff is an extremely juicy bird and very easy to do. This will be my third year in a row.

    • #15
  16. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    OK, Chowderhead, now I know you are real. I don’t cook turkey sous-vide for the reasons I mentioned, but next month when I cook for my Knights of Columbus council, I am going to cook baked ham exactly the way you describe. Let it get happy in its own juices in the original vacuum seal and then finish it briefly in the oven with sides of macaroni and cheese and green bean casserole.

    • #16
  17. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    Flicker (View Comment):

    1- Yes, cook the turkey breast side down for at least the second half of baking.

    2- You can also “brine” it in Coca Cola or orange soda and that works well.

    3- And cut the turkey yourself.

    I once allowed my someone to carve the 15-pound turkey while I got something from the kitchen and when I got back, she had cut off both legs and given one to her father and one to herself. Fortunately the breasts were moist.

    You should have thanked her. She thought she was doing you a favor. No one likes turkey legs. There is a reason that the only place they are sold publicly is at state fairs next to the clown show.

    • #17
  18. Suspira Member
    Suspira
    @Suspira

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):
    If you have to buy jarred gravy for your Thanksgiving feast you have failed.

    I always buy jarred gravy. The drippings never yield enough gravy. If you mix store-bought and homemade together, it works well. I also realized at this late age that I hate cooking turkey. It gives me anxiety. Why should I buy/thaw/roast a turkey when restaurants and grocery stores across my metro area offer to do it for me? Next year and beyond, I’m ordering a pre-cooked turkey.

    • #18
  19. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    1- Yes, cook the turkey breast side down for at least the second half of baking.

    2- You can also “brine” it in Coca Cola or orange soda and that works well.

    3- And cut the turkey yourself.

    I once allowed my someone to carve the 15-pound turkey while I got something from the kitchen and when I got back, she had cut off both legs and given one to her father and one to herself. Fortunately the breasts were moist.

    You should have thanked her. She thought she was doing you a favor. No one likes turkey legs. There is a reason that the only place they are sold publicly is at state fairs next to the clown show.

    For brevity I didn’t stipulate the leg was the drumstick and thighs.  They are the moistest and more flavorful, and they were perhaps half the weight of the turkey.  My parents also like the thighs best, and I should have carved the turkey myself.  And so should every host!

    • #19
  20. Chowderhead Coolidge
    Chowderhead
    @Podunk

    You guys don’t know what your missing. They have been cooking since 6am. I just noticed I have Jesus keeping an eye on it for me all day too. The temperature is a balance between light meat and dark meat.

    • #20
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