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  1. #1
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    Cooking a Turkey

    I've only cooked a turkey once, over 20 years ago, using the Frugal Gourmet's recipe, i.e., boiling the legs for some amount of time and then adding in the rest of the carcass and boil until done. It was incredibly juicy and tender, and I got a great stock out of it, but the downside was no gravy.

    I'm not sure what I was thinking, but I ordered a fresh turkey this year, and just got word that it will be 12.2 lbs, so at least I won't have to put it in the oven at 7am.

    I've researched recipes and have found four basic themes:

    1. Cook at 325 or 350, 20 minutes per pound

    2. Cook for 20 or 40 minutes at 425, then 20 minutes a pound at 325

    3. Cook for 40 minutes at 425, then 20 minutes a pound at 325, then another 40 minutes at 400

    4. Cook for 20 minutes at 400, then 20 minutes a pound at 250. Claims that this is the only way not to dry out a turkey.

    always extending cooking time if the thigh or breast temperature is not 170 or 180 on the meat thermometer.

    Clear as mud.

    Most advice is not to baste often, in order to keep the oven temperature consistent. I cook chicken using Julia Child's recipe, which means basting every 8-10 minutes, and with my oven, that usually means adding another 10-20 minutes of cooking time to get over 180 degrees for 6-7 pound chicken.

    For a turkey, I'd expect the meat to bone ratio to be bigger than a chicken and for the additional cooking time to be more than double that, but that's just a guess.

    Please help me
    "The team doesn't get automatic capacity because management is mad" -- Greg Smith, agile guy

  2. #2

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    I roast my turkey at 20 minutes per pound if unstuffed and 25 minutes per pound if stuffed. However, I am bad about paying attention to the weight of the turkey; IIRC the more the turkey weighs the less minutes per pound. I preheat the oven to 400, put the turkey in for ten minutes or so and then turn down to 350.

    I've taken to covering the turkey with cheesecloth soaked in stock and butter and periodically I pour more stock over the cheesecloth.

    I have never, ever covered a turkey with foil.

    OK, that's how Thanksgiving happens in the Mason household. A household of one, but I am a New Englander, and Thanksgiving is a religion for me. (Although one year I did have roast chicken and last year, gasp, I made ham.)

    Fresh turkey, by the way, is THE way to go in my opinion.

    Roasting turkey however, is like making meatloaf - everyone who does it does it differently. Hope this helps.

  3. #3
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    I really love the tip about using cheesecloth -- it will keep the bird lubricated without opening the oven over and over and over and over...again.
    "The team doesn't get automatic capacity because management is mad" -- Greg Smith, agile guy

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    Quote Originally Posted by kwanfan1818 View Post
    I really love the tip about using cheesecloth -- it will keep the bird lubricated without opening the oven over and over and over and over...again.
    Make yourself some good stock from the giblets or whatever, add plenty of butter and keep hot on top of the stove. You do have to baste but not over and over and over. I like this method (purloined from Martha Stewart) because I don't have to smear butter everywhere.

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    When I roast a turkey I put in celery, an onion cut up, and an apple. I put it in one of those roasting bags just because I'm totally lazy. It always comes out delicious!

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    One of the most important things to do is brine the turkey. It can be awkward to find a big enough container to do it, but I think it's just a must.

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    I make a variation of an herbed roast chicken recipe for my turkey. I make a blend of fresh garlic, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram (sometimes a little sage, too) mixed with some bread crumbs and olive oil. Then I pack the herb mixture between the meat and the skin. Not only does it give the meat great flavor, but it also helps keep the meat moist. I've never seen a need to brine the turkey.

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    Last year I soaked a turkey in brine after it had defrosted. Then I covered the skin with mayonaise to bake it, and it was the best turkey we ever had. I would prefer a fresh, never frozen turkey but this one was free.....so....I used this method. It worked! You can't soak it in brine too long though, or it absorbs too much salt. There's charts on the internet for how long per pound.

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    Are you roasting it today? If not, can you buy a meat thermometer? That will really, really help. The X minutes per pound suggestions are very general. This epicurious recipe is pretty good:
    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/fo...y-Gravy-236409

    The standing time is important to let the cooking finish and the juices distribute throughout the bird.

    I've brined the turkey before with some great results -- though it is a little big -- but last year we just salted it heavily several hours before roasting it (and wiped it off and rinsed the bird well inside and out before cooking) and thought that worked just as well with less salt and less mess.

    I hope your dinner is fabulous.

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    I just stuff butter under the skin,give it a good rub down with salt(or sometime cajun seasoning) and put it in an oven bag and cook at 350 till it's done.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KHenry14 View Post
    One of the most important things to do is brine the turkey. It can be awkward to find a big enough container to do it, but I think it's just a must.
    Especially a fresh turkey. Best turkey I ever cooked.
    Those who never succeed themselves are always the first to tell you how.

  12. #12
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    I've got a very good meat thermometer, so I'm set there.

    I've seen several dozen recipes for brine, from salt only to salt, sugar, and a slew of spices and herbs. Any suggestions for the brine mixture?

    Thanks to everyone for their cooking suggestions!
    "The team doesn't get automatic capacity because management is mad" -- Greg Smith, agile guy

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by kwanfan1818 View Post
    I've seen several dozen recipes for brine, from salt only to salt, sugar, and a slew of spices and herbs. Any suggestions for the brine mixture?
    I haven't found that different liquids or spices other than water make much of a difference (tried once with apple cider rather than just water. It's the kosher salt that matters. We've pretty much perfected the process and did it successfully again yesterday. This time we cut back the salt and used 1.5 cups for a 14 pound bird.

    I brine for at least 24 hours and then cook the bird in bath of 1/2 white dry wine and 1/2 chicken stock. I don't know the exact measurements but the liquid covers about 1/6th to 1/4th of the pan. I add poultry seasoning, savoury, bay leaves and lots of garlic to the liquid. Then cook at 350 for approximately 20 minutes per pound - yesterday it was about 25 minutes as the bird had a lot of stuffing.

    I smear olive oil over with bird before cooking and cover with tin foil until it's time to broil so the skin turns golden. I baste about once an hour and strain the liquid in a fine sieve when the bird is done.

    The meat is so tender that it freezes well. I use some of the liquid for gravy and freeze what is left as it makes an awesome soup base.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rfisher View Post
    Especially a fresh turkey. Best turkey I ever cooked.
    I like fresh turkeys more than frozen.

    My niece bought some uber-organic, free-range, hoity-toity fresh turkey one year and everyone at the dinner agreed that it was the worst turkey they had ever eaten. It was tough and tasteless, they said, but they didn't want to hurt her feelings. (I wasn't there and the guests didn't say anything at dinner, I heard it via phone greetings over the course of the next week.)

    I think my sister turned the abundant leftovers into some sort of casserole to use it up, but they still ended up throwing out a lot.

    I doubt it was my niece's cooking - she makes grilled turkey breast that is out of this world. My sister said it was the turkey itself, which my niece bought from a local organic farm/ranch. My niece no longer buys from them.

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    We love Alton Brown's (Good Eats) Brined Roasted Turkey Recipe. It's takes a little extra work, but it is so worth it.

    http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/a...ipe/index.html

    For those celebrating this weekend - Happy Thanksgiving.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by kwanfan1818 View Post
    I've researched recipes and have found four basic themes:

    1. Cook at 325 or 350, 20 minutes per pound

    2. Cook for 20 or 40 minutes at 425, then 20 minutes a pound at 325

    3. Cook for 40 minutes at 425, then 20 minutes a pound at 325, then another 40 minutes at 400

    4. Cook for 20 minutes at 400, then 20 minutes a pound at 250. Claims that this is the only way not to dry out a turkey.

    always extending cooking time if the thigh or breast temperature is not 170 or 180 on the meat thermometer.

    Clear as mud.

    Most advice is not to baste often, in order to keep the oven temperature consistent. I cook chicken using Julia Child's recipe, which means basting every 8-10 minutes, and with my oven, that usually means adding another 10-20 minutes of cooking time to get over 180 degrees for 6-7 pound chicken.

    For a turkey, I'd expect the meat to bone ratio to be bigger than a chicken and for the additional cooking time to be more than double that, but that's just a guess.

    Please help me
    Cooking a turkey isn't rocket science. Any of these "basic themes" will work. And you don't need to baste very often. Once an hour should do it.

    Quote Originally Posted by kwanfan1818 View Post
    I've seen several dozen recipes for brine, from salt only to salt, sugar, and a slew of spices and herbs. Any suggestions for the brine mixture?
    I say go with your own predilections. How do you want your turkey to taste?

    I personally don't like the flavor of brined turkey and don't want the bother of brining either. I prefer to flavor my turkey with what I add just before I put it in the oven (garlic, onion, celery, wine, olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs). But that's just me.

    Bon appetit!
    Last edited by Vagabond; 10-09-2011 at 07:06 PM.

  17. #17
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    My mother salt brines her turkey and it is DELICIOUS. Highly recommend. She has a split sink so she brines it in one side.

  18. #18

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    OK, next logical question: How do you make your turkey gravy?

    I am roasting my turkey uncovered for the first time this year, as last year on this board I learned that what I thought was roasting was actually poaching (I was cooking the bird in the roaster with the lid ON rather than OFF, and was adding water to the bottom of the pan which is a no-no for roasting, which is supposed to be a dry cooking method.)

    So now for the first time, my bird is in the oven with no lid. And I am wondering how I'm going to make the gravy, as I fear there will be no drippings left. (Luckily it's just me and Mr. lurker today, and he's on board with this new approach.)

    So. How DO you make your gravy?
    just my two cents...

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by lurvylurker View Post
    OK, next logical question: How do you make your turkey gravy?

    I am roasting my turkey uncovered for the first time this year, as last year on this board I learned that what I thought was roasting was actually poaching (I was cooking the bird in the roaster with the lid ON rather than OFF, and was adding water to the bottom of the pan which is a no-no for roasting, which is supposed to be a dry cooking method.)

    So now for the first time, my bird is in the oven with no lid. And I am wondering how I'm going to make the gravy, as I fear there will be no drippings left. (Luckily it's just me and Mr. lurker today, and he's on board with this new approach.)

    So. How DO you make your gravy?

    I have never had a problem with drippings and I always roast with no foil or lid. I make stock from the turkey neck and use it as part of my basting liquid. I always have plenty left so I deglaze my roasting pan with the stock and then whisk in flour and cook the gravy until it's the color I like, check for seasoning and so on and voila, gravy.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by emason View Post
    I make stock from the turkey neck and use it as part of my basting liquid. I always have plenty left so I deglaze my roasting pan with the stock and then whisk in flour and cook the gravy until it's the color I like, check for seasoning and so on and voila, gravy.
    Thanks emason. I hadn't thought about basting! Do you add any spices or seasoning to your basting liquid? (I have some store-bought stock I can use, but it's a bit bland.) Or should I just baste with the plain stock, then add seasoning later when I make the actual gravy?
    just my two cents...

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