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Cooking a Turkey

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by kwanfan1818, Oct 8, 2011.

  1. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I <3 Kozuka

    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 :fragile:
  2. emason

    emason Well-Known Member

    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.
    kwanfan1818 and (deleted member) like this.
  3. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I <3 Kozuka

    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.
  4. emason

    emason Well-Known Member

    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.
  5. Lanie

    Lanie Well-Known Member

    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!
  6. KHenry14

    KHenry14 Well-Known Member

    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.
  7. reckless

    reckless Well-Known Member

    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.
  8. Holley Calmes

    Holley Calmes Well-Known Member

    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.
  9. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

    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:

    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.
  10. Andrushka

    Andrushka Well-Known Member

    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.
  11. rfisher

    rfisher Will you rise like a phoenix or be a burnt chicken

    Especially a fresh turkey. Best turkey I ever cooked. :swoon:
  12. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I <3 Kozuka

    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!
  13. Japanfan

    Japanfan Well-Known Member

    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.
  14. FigureSpins

    FigureSpins Well-Known Member

    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.
  15. icie

    icie Keeping up appearances

  16. Vagabond

    Vagabond Well-Known Member

    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.

    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: Oct 9, 2011
  17. vesperholly

    vesperholly Well-Known Member

    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. lurvylurker

    lurvylurker Active Member

    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? :)
  19. emason

    emason Well-Known Member


    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. lurvylurker

    lurvylurker Active Member

    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?
  21. emason

    emason Well-Known Member

    You know, in all honesty, I probably do it differently each year. If I make a stock of the turkey neck (and maybe the giblets, but I'm not fond of giblets) I season it with salt and pepper and use aromatics like celery, onion, carrot that have been diced up. I probably add ground sage too. There is always plenty of stock, more than I need to baste with, so I just use what's left to make the gravy and I taste it again for seasoning before I serve.
  22. lurvylurker

    lurvylurker Active Member

    OK then, I guess I'll just WING IT!!:D
    Thanks for your help! Wish me luck!
  23. emason

    emason Well-Known Member

    Good luck, of course. The secret is not to be intimidated. People have been roasting turkeys and making gravy for years. I believe anyone can.
  24. rjblue

    rjblue Having a great day!

    I don't baste my turkey, and I've always had plenty of drippings for gravy. Some of the drippings get quite brown, but that just tastes wonderful in the gravy and adds colour. I make a roux with the drippings (which are mostly the fat rendered as the turkey cooks, and then add water to deglaze the pan and dissolve the other drippings. I season with salt and pepper, and I rarely have to add any stock, because there is plenty of flavour in the drippings.

    I do cover just the breast of the turkey in a loose tent of foil after it reaches the browning I want, because my oven is very small and it'll get too brown if I don't. I'd never cook my turkey covered, because it loses so much flavour as it poaches.
  25. Nomad

    Nomad Celebrity cheese-monger

    I don't do whole turkeys any more. I just buy the breast and legs separately, brine them, and roast like I would a whole turkey except that the light and dark meats go in the oven at different times. That way I avoid cooked legs/dry breast or done breast/underdone legs.
  26. algonquin

    algonquin Well-Known Member

    Do you stuff your turkey or cook the stuffing separately?
  27. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I <3 Kozuka

    I guess I could just brine and baste it in syrop d'erable :)
  28. topaz

    topaz Well-Known Member

    Has anyone grilled or fried a turkey?

    Fried Turkey is so good and juicy. For the last few years, my mom and me alternate between frying and grilling a whole turkey.

    This is the recipe I use for grilled turkey. You can also use marinade injections to really season the meat. Grilled Whole Turkey
  29. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I <3 Kozuka

    I've never used this for turkey, but I have for chicken, which is to dip the parts in yougurt, roll in bread crumbs, and bake, for faux fried chicken.

    I have to try this with tzatziki some day.
  30. Japanfan

    Japanfan Well-Known Member

    I stuff it. Apparently it's best to use less rather than more salt if you're going to stuff a bird. We used 1 1/2 cups salt for a 14 pound bird, I think I'll increase to 1 3/4 cups next time - Mr. Japanfan didn't realize I'd already adjusted the salt amount to the weight when he cut the amount - past birds have been just a touch more tender.