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Janeway

How do you prep your turkey?

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I am considering changing things up after having read some ideas in some magazines over the last week or two. Just would love to hear what everyone does, including brining and sitting in the fridge with no cover and such. We have always not brined and not sat uncovered in the fridge. Rachael Ray has a brine and sits it in the open in the fridge for 12 hrs up to 2 days. Found out my oldest sister does not brine but does sit the turkey in the fridge like that. She says if you brine, you cannot really make a gravy from the juices. Please tell me what you all do. Thanks!

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To me the size of the turkey determines how I prep and cook. If it’s 14lbs or under I just salt and pepper it in and out and then high heat roast it. Like 475 degrees. No basting. 

If it’s bigger then I mess with the brining. Big turkeys don’t do well with high heat, so those get cooked at normal temp. 

In The Food Lab, Kenji is big on spatchcocking and cooking them that way. You can probably find that on Serious Eats. I haven’t cooked a turkey that way yet. 

This year we are cooking a turkey breast sous vide and finishing it on the smoker. If it’s good,  next year I’ll break a whole turkey down and do it that way. 

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We do a turkey breast because we don't like leftovers.  It will be brined tonight in the fridge, and smoked over applewood chips all day tomorrow.

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I dry brine it (herb/salt mixture rubbed onto the bird, wrapped and refrigerated for at least 24 hours). roast hot at 475 for about 20-30 Minutes (get a nice crust), and then turn down to 300 to slow roast the rest of the way. I’ve never tried letting it dry in the fridge first. I think roasting it hot at first probably accomplishes the same thing?

I make gravy from my drippings, it’s salty, but I add broth anyway because drippings alone never give enough gravy. Mmmm. 

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I dont really like Turkey that much. When we have hosted we usually just order from either Rudy's or a local BBQ place for smoked turkey. Everyone loves it. 

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Ive spatchcocked chickens before, but doing a turkey seem borderline insane to me. How on earth would you safely cut the backbone out of a big turkey?? Thier bones are harder. 

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I saw someone do it (spatchcock the turkey) on Food Network just the other day lol .. it was kind of amazing!

Edited by theelfqueen
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Dh is the turkey man.  I think he puts butter and some seasoning salts on it and then keeps "juicing" it by putting the drippings over it every 30 min. or so while it is cooking.   We use a large plug in roaster to cook it.

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DH does our turkey.  He brines it for several days.  He spent years looking for the right recipe.  This year, I made the vegetable broth that was part of the brine.  In addition to the broth, theres some water, some thyme, sage, rosemary, and of course salt.  He has a special large food grade bucket that he uses and he stores the bucket in the garage where it stays nice and cold.  

Then he smokes it in the pit barrel smoker.   This year we have a larger than normal turkey because of the sizes they had available at the store so he's getting up extra early.

We have turkey year round though.  I buy 6 turkeys each November.  One is for Thanksgiving.  Then I freeze all the leftovers in 6-8 meal sized portions and we have some sort of turkey meal usually once a week (like next week's menu includes turkey manhattans  🙂 )  By the time we are done with the leftovers, it's usually time for another turkey.  

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28 minutes ago, SamanthaCarter said:

wire cutters? Lol! 

Kenji makes it look super easy with poultry shears in this video, but I almost threw my poultry shears into the trash in frustration the last time I did a chicken this way, so clearly mine are not as quality as his! 

https://www.seriouseats.com/2012/11/how-to-spatchcock-cook-turkey-thanksgiving-fast-easy-way-spatchcocked.html

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No brining here.  I don't open it until I'm ready to cook it, but I do two things that make all the difference, especially to keep the breast meat from drying out.

I separate the breast skin from the meat, and smear butter all in there (feels gross, but SO worth it).

I cook the bird breast-side-down.  It's not beautiful when I pull it out, but I carve it before serving anyway, so it doesn't matter.  This also serves to cook the thighs thoroughly -- they're sticking up, so they tend to flop open as they cook.  When they start to separate from the bird, I know it's done.

Another tip: I cook the turkey in an electric roaster.  It's super easy to open for basting, and (most important) it frees up my oven for all the other good stuff.

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I brine ours outside in the cooler as the outside keeps it nice and cold.  Then I pay it dry and rub it down with herbes de provence, avocado oil and stuff it with an apple, sage, thyme, and rosemary.  Slow cook it in the oven. 

My brine has apple cider, sage and other seasonings.

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I thaw and brine simultaneously. 24 hrs in a large, rectangular cooler. Then stuff the cavity with butter, carrot, celery, garlic, fresh sage, and onion. Evoo on the skin. Bird breast down on the roaster rack. Oven at 450, turned down to 275 as the turkey goes in. Cook til instant read thermometer in the breast reads 160. 

We get a pastured turkey which cooks a bit faster than a conventionally raised one. 

Edited by ScoutTN

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I'm not fond of the brining technique.

My favorite way is smoked, but we don't have access to a smoker anymore.

I massage the turkey with butter and herbs, roast at a high heat, and then turn down to a low slow cook temp. I will bathe it in its juices from time to time.

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8 hours ago, HomeAgain said:

We do a turkey breast because we don't like leftovers.  It will be brined tonight in the fridge, and smoked over applewood chips all day tomorrow.

 

If I did a turkey this year and wasn't going to relatives, I'd soak it in buttermilk and herbs overnight. Makes a tender bird.

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For years I would brine my turkey and then cook it in one of those cooker bags.  

2 years ago I tried Spatchcocking and I'm a convert.  The.best.turkey.ever... and so easier too, IMHO.

Here's the method I use... the video was very helpful.  I don't have the fancy scissors, so I used my best big sharp knife and that worked fine,

https://www.seriouseats.com/2012/11/how-to-spatchcock-cook-turkey-thanksgiving-fast-easy-way-spatchcocked.html?utm_source=yt&utm_campaign=nov16

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I spatchcocked a turkey once.  Well, ok, my husband cut out the backbone and I did the rest.  It was fantastic. I don't know why we've never done it again.

This year we are following Ina Garten's method for dry brining. The bird is sitting in the fridge, exposed to the air, as we speak. We'll see tomorrow!

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10 hours ago, HomeAgain said:

We do a turkey breast because we don't like leftovers.  It will be brined tonight in the fridge, and smoked over applewood chips all day tomorrow.

I've bought and prepared whole turkeys for years.  This year we're doing the breast only.  I've never done just the breast before.  Do you have time to talk me through this?

I just decided the other day and bought the breast today so the brine will be short.  I'll make it tomorrow (Thursday) and let it sit for a few hours b/c I decided last minute to go this route.  

What do you use to brine?  After researching, I guess it's salt and water?  But, you can add other spices as well?  What do you use?

 

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Just now, sheryl said:

I've bought and prepared whole turkeys for years.  This year we're doing the breast only.  I've never done just the breast before.  Do you have time to talk me through this?

I just decided the other day and bought the breast today so the brine will be short.  I'll make it tomorrow (Thursday) and let it sit for a few hours b/c I decided last minute to go this route.  

What do you use to brine?  After researching, I guess it's salt and water?  But, you can add other spices as well?  What do you use?

 

This is the recipe dh is using this year: Applewood smoked turkey breast with cider bourbon gravy.  The brine is......well, it's fragrant. 😄  I think it will either turn out well, or terrible.  Usually we brine with a bit of salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, sage and whatever else dh throws in, but the recipe is pretty basic each year.  

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My turkey is in the brine right now--6-8 hours in Alton Brown's recipe (water, salt, veg broth, honey). I will take it out before bed tonight and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Tomorrow dh will smoke it on the bbq for several hours using applewood and/or hickory chips. He might rub it with oil first. It is truly delicious. I'm not a huge turkey fan but this stuff is good.

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2 hours ago, HomeAgain said:

This is the recipe dh is using this year: Applewood smoked turkey breast with cider bourbon gravy.  The brine is......well, it's fragrant. 😄  I think it will either turn out well, or terrible.  Usually we brine with a bit of salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, sage and whatever else dh throws in, but the recipe is pretty basic each year.  

OK, thanks for that.  You add these herbs, spices in a bag with water and turkey, right?  I figured of doing something like this as well so you're idea above confirms that!  We do NOT have a smoker however.  I also restrict my salt intake so I won't be using a lot of salt.  How much salt do you use?  Pepper?  I appreciate your help!  THANKS so very much!  

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Thaw in fridge several days.  Take out of bag when ready to cook. Pull out stuff stuck in cavity. Plop bird in pan.  Rub a little oil all over bird. Pour beer in cavity. Cover with foil & bake at 325 for however long suppose to.

Yep I go all fancy. LOL   But seriously it comes out moist and everyone likes it.

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8 hours ago, sheryl said:

OK, thanks for that.  You add these herbs, spices in a bag with water and turkey, right?  I figured of doing something like this as well so you're idea above confirms that!  We do NOT have a smoker however.  I also restrict my salt intake so I won't be using a lot of salt.  How much salt do you use?  Pepper?  I appreciate your help!  THANKS so very much!  

Maybe the buttermilk bath mentioned above would be better, then?  Brining takes a lot of salt.  I think dh uses 1/2-1c for what he does.  We use a few (1-2)teaspoons of barely crushed peppercorns also.

I really don't think you can go wrong doing a brine unless you overload it with the salt. 

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4 hours ago, HomeAgain said:

Maybe the buttermilk bath mentioned above would be better, then?  Brining takes a lot of salt.  I think dh uses 1/2-1c for what he does.  We use a few (1-2)teaspoons of barely crushed peppercorns also.

I really don't think you can go wrong doing a brine unless you overload it with the salt. 

Thanks so much!  I've started and hope it turns out.  This is a first so who knows but it's a starting point.   🙂  

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Well, my turkey was butchered yesterday, so I can’t do anything with it until Wednesday/Thursday anyways.  I butter the outsides with salt, pepper and herbs right before cooking.  Cook breast-side down at 325? I need to look that up.  I have a 14 lb Turkey this year so it will probably be done in 2hrs 45 min.  Which is enough time to make all the sides and rolls which will go in as soon as the turkey comes out.

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Mmmm. 

I just thaw it, stick gobs of butter under the skin, shake some salt/pepper/sage over the top, plonk it in a pan with ~1 inch of apple cider on the bottom, and baste whenever the thought occurs to me throughout the day until it's done.  Plenty of drippings/liquid for gravy.

Stuffing is separate because several in the family are vegetarian, so I make it stovetop, finish in the oven for crispy, and then split into two dishes, one of which gets lots of drippings/liquid.

Intrigued by those who do the smoking.  How do you keep the top part moist?  Do you turn it as it cooks?  (Not a lot of smoking in my area!)

 

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I just stick it in a roasting pan. Stick a bunch of onion and celery into the cavity, put butter under the skin, salt and pepper it, put foil on the br3ast and roast at moderate heat, basting every 45 minutes. I’ve tried brining (too messy and too much trouble) and different ways of roasting, but.... IMHO, if anything is different, it’s too subtle for me to tell.

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1 hour ago, PrincessMommy said:

It's that time of year again and I thought I'd resurrect this thread.  There's a lot of helpful ideas and methods for cooking a great turkey. 

Lol. I didn’t even look at the year!

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1 hour ago, KrissiK said:

Lol. I didn’t even look at the year!

That's fine.. I figured resurrecting an old thread was easier than trying to remember how I cooked last year's turkey   😉

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 Just listened to an interview with Carla Hall and wondering if anyone uses her technique of cutting the raw turkey into 8 pieces. 

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On 11/21/2018 at 9:02 AM, Janeway said:

I am considering changing things up after having read some ideas in some magazines over the last week or two. Just would love to hear what everyone does, including brining and sitting in the fridge with no cover and such. We have always not brined and not sat uncovered in the fridge. Rachael Ray has a brine and sits it in the open in the fridge for 12 hrs up to 2 days. Found out my oldest sister does not brine but does sit the turkey in the fridge like that. She says if you brine, you cannot really make a gravy from the juices. Please tell me what you all do. Thanks!

Not a prep thing, but I spatchcock my turkey.  It cooks much faster this way so drying out is less of a factor and you don't need to go to so much effort beforehand.  I do a salt rub on the meat, but there is really no need to get buckets of water involved.  

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On 11/21/2018 at 9:57 AM, Æthelthryth the Texan said:

To me the size of the turkey determines how I prep and cook. If it’s 14lbs or under I just salt and pepper it in and out and then high heat roast it. Like 475 degrees. No basting. 

If it’s bigger then I mess with the brining. Big turkeys don’t do well with high heat, so those get cooked at normal temp. 

In The Food Lab, Kenji is big on spatchcocking and cooking them that way. You can probably find that on Serious Eats. I haven’t cooked a turkey that way yet. 

This year we are cooking a turkey breast sous vide and finishing it on the smoker. If it’s good,  next year I’ll break a whole turkey down and do it that way. 

 

For what it's worth.  I LOVE the sous vide for beef and venison, but I don't appreciate the texture of poultry in the sous vide.  I've only tried it with chicken, but we didn't care for it.

On 11/21/2018 at 10:14 AM, SamanthaCarter said:

Ive spatchcocked chickens before, but doing a turkey seem borderline insane to me. How on earth would you safely cut the backbone out of a big turkey?? Thier bones are harder. 

 

I use kitchen shears.

On 11/21/2018 at 8:33 PM, sheryl said:

I've bought and prepared whole turkeys for years.  This year we're doing the breast only.  I've never done just the breast before.  Do you have time to talk me through this?

I just decided the other day and bought the breast today so the brine will be short.  I'll make it tomorrow (Thursday) and let it sit for a few hours b/c I decided last minute to go this route.  

What do you use to brine?  After researching, I guess it's salt and water?  But, you can add other spices as well?  What do you use?

 

 

I've done this recipe more than once.  It's fairly easy, and it's scale-able if you want to do an odd number of breasts.

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/herb-roasted-turkey-breast-with-pan-gravy-recipe-2268617

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25 minutes ago, KungFuPanda said:

 

For what it's worth.  I LOVE the sous vide for beef and venison, but I don't appreciate the texture of poultry in the sous vide.  I've only tried it with chicken, but we didn't care for it.

 

I know this was last year, but just for the record we ended up not doing turkey at all, so no sou vide trial.  I had bought a turkey breast and when I unwrapped it, it smelled off. So we had a turkey-less Thanksgiving in 2018. 

Edited by Æthelthryth the Texan
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58 minutes ago, Æthelthryth the Texan said:

I know this was last year, but just for the record we ended up not doing turkey at all, so no sou vide trial.  I had bought a turkey breast and when I unwrapped it, it smelled off. So we had a turkey-less Thanksgiving in 2018. 

And that's what I get for skimming.  I read all of page one, but apparently posted before reading page two.  I never even noticed it was old.  I rarely do.

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