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Essential tips and techniques for making the best Turkey ever

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
To All,

ChefTalk has an opportunity to be included in NewWest Knives upcoming Thanksgiving newsletter and they would like to include some tips from ChefTalk. I thought it would be a unique idea to open it up to the community and then compile all/some of the responses into something they can use.

Please comment only if you feel comfortable having your answer read by thousands of people and being included in the New West Knifeworks newsletter.


The topic is:

1) Essential tips and techniques for making the best Turkey ever.
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Thanks,

Nicko 
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post #2 of 26
Thread Starter 
My technique is to brine the turkey I started doing this a few years back and when done properly it always yields the most tender turkey.
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Thanks,

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post #3 of 26
1) Essential tips and techniques for making the best Turkey ever.
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Nicko
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Make sure if you are thawing the turkey in water, that it is submerged in the water and not half floating out.
After opening the bird in the sink to put in pan ,rinse the sink with a little clorox to prevent any cross contamination to something else that will be put in sink.

Also when cooking, if in a convection oven, that you reduce cooking time 20 to 25 % as convection is a direct constant heat and faster.
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post #4 of 26
Salt and Pepper underneath the skin and inside the cavity.

Lop off the drumstick knuckles so the meat balls up against the thigh while it cooks and remains moist.
post #5 of 26
Forget the oven-slow roast your Turkey in a kettle grill. Soak 2 cups of wood chips in water, light up about 40 charcoal briquettes and let them burn until covered in white ash. Spread them evenly around perimeter of the grill, place a drip pan, with about 1/2 inch of water in it, in the center and sprinkle on about 1/4 cup of wood chips. Place the grill grate over top and place turkey in the center. Cover and cook. Every 30-45 minutes add approximately 25-30 more briquettes (always burnt down until covered with white ash) to maintain a temperature of about 300 degrees in the grill chamber. Each time you add new charcoal toss on another 1/4 cup of wood chips. After the first 2 hours baste the turkey with equal parts butter and chicken or turkey broth each time you add more charcoal. This process usually takes about the same amount of time as traditional roasting. If the breast seems to be cooking too fast, tent it with foil. Before cooking, season the turkey however you normally do. This technique does not require any special pre preparation before cooking.
post #6 of 26
Use an instant read thermometer to KNOW when it's done, not just guess.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #7 of 26
Basting the bird with drippings is like frying it in its own fat. :D
post #8 of 26
Strips of bacon placed under the skin of the breasts keeps them moist and adds a nice smokey flavor.
post #9 of 26
I agree with PHatch about the thermometer - overcooked turkey is probably the most common cause of dry and tough turkey. Pull the bird out of the oven at 155 - 160, let it rest and coast up to final temp.

If not stuffing the cavity, chunks of lemon and orange thrown in there to roast are nice.

mjb.
Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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post #10 of 26

Temperature

I third the thermometer. Remember that salmonella dies at 140. When your turkey is a hair under 150 degrees, it's done; some parts will likely be a bit higher, but you should not end up with dry meat. The size and density of the bird will also continue the cooking after you take it out of the oven.

Lots of people believe you have to bring poultry to a minimum of 160. They roast until they're absolutely sure that every part of the bird is at least 160, overestimating for fear of salmonella. Then they take the bird out with the hottest parts close to 170, let it rest while they make gravy, and end up with breast meat that has come almost to 180. Then they wonder why the meat is so dry, and wonder if they should have basted differently or what. The culprit is almost invariably overcooking, pure and simple.

If you use an electric thermometer, change the batteries just before Thanksgiving. If the batteries are low, the thermometer may read very significantly off.
post #11 of 26

Gravy

An easy, excellent gravy:

Cut off the wingtips and the drumstick nubs of the turkey before roasting. The wingtips are likely to burn if you're not trussing perfectly, and removing the nubs will make the drumstick meat pull into a moist ball. Simmer these bits and all the giblets except the liver in good chicken stock while the turkey roasts, then strain fine and reserve the liquid.

Remove the turkey from the pan, cover it with a foil tent, and then place the pan over high heat, over two burners if it fits better that way. Wait and listen. When the fat stops spitting, you have removed pretty much all the water. Shut off the heat, wait about 2 minutes, and then slowly pour the clear fat into a heatproof dish. What remains in the pan should be deep brown and crusty. Return the pan to high heat, add a cup of the stock, and scrape the bottom with a wooden spoon or scraper until everything comes up. Boil rapidly for a minute, then add another couple cups or more of stock (depending on how much yield you want). Bring back to a boil, let cook a minute, then strain fine.

This gravy needs no thickening, but if you wish it can be thickened by all the usual methods: roux, beurre manie, monter au beurre, cornstarch or arrowroot, etc.
post #12 of 26
CHRIS!
You are not totaly correct in stateing Salmonella dies at 140. Some meats like pork it is suggested 145=150. Poultry however in this day and age should reach an internal temp. of 165..True if you take meat or poultry out of oven in some cases the temp will rise, but not 20% as you are implying, nor will the rising of temp be uniform throughout. Even with a meat thermometer, if it is placed in the bird near a bone you will get a false reading. Also now the outside of the roast or fowl will now be subject to room temps.This 140 practice may be fine for a home cook, but in a food service kitchen it is ,as far as my specs go in every state 165 internal on poultry.
Another note to ponder, a turkey gravy in most FOOD SERVICE FACILITIES is thickened with a roux, because unlike a starch thickener it is not translucent, and wont run off the portion of turkey on the plate. I have worked with many chefs, who would not permit a box of cornstarch in the kitchen, only in the pastry shop.
Again what is done in a home kitchen and in commercial food service differs and there is no one fast, hard rule
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post #13 of 26
Salmonella can be killed at 155 if held for enough time at the right conditions, but the safe salmonella temp is considered 160. The 140 temp is when bacteria generally become inactive, that is not actively feeding and increasing their numbers.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #14 of 26
There are over 1400 different species of Salmonella, some strains are more resistant then others, I still stand by my 160-165 range, at 140 range they normally do not grow but wrather stay dormant. I would sooner be safe then sorry. Some strains can take effect in 2 to 6 hours others can be in the system for 2 weeks before they really start playing havoc, this type is normally from contaminated water or uncooked drinks from that water or ice. Could cause absesses in the system and form pockets that require hospital stay, surgery and the use of different antibiotics thru I V s for a long time.
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post #15 of 26
I will reluctantly bow to superior technical knowledge about the temperature for killing salmonella. I still maintain that a turkey's temperature will rise by about 10%, not 20%. If you remove it at 150, and dome it with foil to rest, the lowest temperature of any part of it should reach 160-165.

I must however say that if some virulent salmonella strains must be taken to a steady 165, the appropriate solution to the problem is to stop eating whole roast turkey, because you're doomed to a dry bird. It's essential, furthermore, to bear in mind that "in this day and age" here means "in this ludicrous food production-distribution system run by ruthless thieves." There is no reason whatever that our poultry supply should be consistently tainted. Japanese chicken places commonly serve raw chicken sashimi in the cooler months, and there is almost no incidence of salmonella. Eggs off the grocery store shelves here are regularly used raw, especially for children and elderly people who are feeling under the weather and need a little pick-me-up. What's more, the eggs are cheaper here than in the US. If salmonella is such a serious problem as you say (and I believe you), the appropriate solution is to demand change from the food production-distribution systems, and the way to do that is to stop eating their poultry until they fix things. Just raising the temperatures ever higher and suggesting that that's the safe thing to do implies that there is something inevitable about this situation, which gives license to poultry ranchers to continue unsafe and unhygienic practices.
Here I must disagree, on three counts.

1. A roux thickener works fine, but it takes a modicum of skill to make a roux-based gravy rapidly and not have it come out gluey or lumpy, especially if you must first remove the fat from the juices with a separator. Without decent technique, the only way to ensure that this works properly is either to use the juices as-is or just strained or to let the turkey sit for quite a long time. The reason, of course, is that to get your roux-based gravy to be perfectly free of any floury taste it is necessary to cook it at a simmer for half an hour or more. The result for many home cooks is dreadful: the liquid isn't separated, making the gravy greasy, and the roux isn't fully cooked, either before or after the addition of liquid, so it is also gluey and often lumpy.

2. A gravy made as I suggested, even without the thickeners, should nap adequately because of the gelatin and caramel thrown off by the roast. Adding thickeners such as butter, beurre manie, and roux primarily adds fat and (in the latter two cases) makes the gravy non-translucent. But given that you are serving things like stuffing, adding a bunch of fat to gravy isn't necessarily desirable, and to my mind a transparent or translucent gravy looks much superior to an opaque one.

3. Cornstarch, potato starch, and arrowroot as thickeners work extremely well, add no fat or flavor, and unless greatly overused are not prone to gummy or gluey results. They are also very quick: stir 1 Tb starch into 1/4 cup cold stock until smooth, then pour into the simmering liquid and stir continuously for 30 seconds to a minute, and you're done.
post #16 of 26
When I roast my turkey, upside down, I sit it on a bed of large cut mirepoix. I also add about 1 cup or so of weak chicken stock. When the turkey is done I remove it, tent it and then scrape the bottom of the pan. I then take a small immersion blender and puree the mirepoix. I correct the seasonings as necessary and add a small amount of cream, 1/2 n 1/2 or milk to taste and add stock as necessary for consistency or quantity as desired. I do not strain it but will sift out chunks of celery if necessary.
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My latest musical venture!
http://myspace.com/nikandtheniceguys
 
Also
http://www.myspace.com/popshowband "I'm at the age when food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." Rodney Dangerfield RIP
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post #17 of 26
If salmonella is such a serious problem as you say (and I believe you), the appropriate solution is to demand change from the food production-distribution systems, and the way to do that is to stop eating their poultry until they fix things. Just raising the temperatures ever higher and suggesting that that's the safe thing to do implies that there is something inevitable about this situation, which gives license to poultry ranchers to continue unsafe and unhygienic practices. CHRIS

I have never been in Japan but may get there one day. Right now China is having big problems and has had a recall on most of its dairy products and all of its eggs. The culprit being melimine introduced through feed into the poultry and animal population.This is in all our headlines today.
Here in the US the big problem is not to much the way poultry is processed, but what happens after it is processed
Be it the home or food service facility. In some cases the inproper storage or handleing, or contamination from workers, or even housewives cause the problem. Improper washing of equipment or hands cause most of the problem.
Example I walk into a fast food place and see a worker with 1 glove on putting a fried chicken cutlet on a bun and wrapping it. a Glove on chicken hand, nothing on other hand that touches the bun or lettuce. I ask her why she does this? she tells me ""They told her always to wear a glove when handling chicken""????? You figure it. Or the 5 second rule which over and over again has been proven wrong but is still adheared to (Re. dropping on floor)?
I simply tell myself "Ignorance is Bliss"
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post #18 of 26
Let's put this whole temperature thing to rest by using the USDA recommendations. We don't want anyone getting sick because they cooked their bird to 140F and had a poorly calibrated thermometer.

Here is the USDA recommendation:
The whole article: Food Safety of Turkey...from Farm to Table
post #19 of 26
Thread Starter 
Stay on topic please this is about tips for cooking turkey not salmonella. Start a new thread.
Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
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Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Reply
post #20 of 26
Yes! I cook my chicken and turkey upside down too!! I also never baste, as cooking it this way allows for all of fat to drain down and through the whole bird making it self-basting. This makes for the BEST bird and the breast meat never dries out. I also brine mine first, but sometimes is makes for gravy that it too salty. Only drawback about cooking it breast down is that you don't get that picture perfect looking bird, but I'd rather a tasty moist bird than a good picture.
post #21 of 26
Do you turn it over to finish cooking to crisp up the breast?
post #22 of 26
Essential steps to best turkey ever?

1. Brine. Dry very thoroughly before applying rub.

2. Citrus and herbs in cavity. Not "stuffing."

3. Force butter between skin and breast. The three surest ways towards culinary success are butter, butter and butter.

4. Use an appropriate dry rub, calculated to enhance the glaze (if used).

5. Truss correctly. This includes tying the thighs to the body.

6. If smoking (you should smoke), smoke at a fairly high temperature (275F - 300F); preferred woods are oak, maple, pecan and fruitwoods. Mesquite and hickory, are delicious, but less so.

7. Turn the bird three times during cooking -- finish with breast up (no more than 15% of cooking time total).

8. Do NOT baste for moisture; you actually want dry, crisp skin. Do glaze for flavor, but hold off until the last 30 minutes or so.

9. Allow an extensive rest.

10. Carve and platter in the kitchen, do not carve at table.

If you need details, ask.

BDL
post #23 of 26
As an ancillary element to making the best turkey ever, I would recommend having one other person in the kitchen to act as "helper", so that the primary cook can maintain focus on the bird.

Someone to wash pots, pans, and knives as they are used, so that the entire compliment of cooking apparatus/tools are available through out the preparation of the meal.

It can become frustrating when your sink(s) are cluttered with crap, and you find that you need "something" that's not only dirty, but buried under other stuff.

Or to do some last minute prep work that needs to be done in concert with other pieces of a dish. Like chopping and sauteing the onions for the dressing, so you can concentrate on the "rhythm" of the meal, and not suddenly find yourself uttering those famous words, "Aw shirt!!!"

Someone who has the grace to help, and not constantly remind you that you're "doing it wrong"...

And who also knows how to open a bottle of wine... :)
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I might be suffering from CDO.
It is just like OCD, except the letters are in alphabetical order.
Just as they should be...
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post #24 of 26
The first Thanksgiving Day after our oldest two kids had graduated from college and set up their own establishments, our phone began to ring about 9:30AM. One after the other, they asked questions about the T-giving turkey, side dishes, and preparation.

After the first five or six calls, I began answering "Hello, Turkey Hotline!"

That worked for the rest of the day. :D

Mike
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post #25 of 26
Well, maybe it's my age talking here...but however you choose to season a turkey, sage was made to go with turkey and your modified "bouquet garni" or basting butter should always include sage, especially at Thanksgiving.
post #26 of 26
My Thanksgiving turkey tip is to flatten out a stick of butter like a pancake, and place it between the breast, and the skin. If the skin is loose, secure it with a toothpick.
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