Totally OT: Turkey day turkey question…
Since literally everybody I’ve asked has responded by asking why I didn’t just buy a butterball, and The Internets provided ONE (fake?) glimmer of hope, I figured I’d try for confirmation or additional confusion from a totally unrelated subset of people – you guys
I bought a heritage turkey from EEFC. It’s 13# and some change. I have my grandmother’s butterball recipe, and a vague understanding that it may be inappropriate. I have a roasting pan, a meat thermometer, I even have parchment paper if needed.
My plan is: take it out of fridge morning of, let it come to room temp(ish). Rub w/butter, salt, pepper. Toss halved lemon, garlic, crushed thyme inside. Roast upside down and uncovered at 425-450 until leg temp is 145 (~1.5 hours? this I have no idea). Pull out, let rest, carve. Eat, sleep, repeat.
Does anybody experienced with heritage turkeys see an inedible flaw in my plan? I’ve found slow&low roasting recipes that give time periods for butterballs, I’ve found fast&high roasting recipes that just say not to open the oven door a lot and “done much faster than butterballs”. Not so helpful.
Thank you in advance for any info you can share.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled, cycling related bboard.
I haven’t roasted a pastured/heritage turkey, but I’ve roasted my fair share of big pastured broilers, and the general guideline is about 30 minutes per pound at 350 degrees.
I would think that even at higher temps (+400 degree F.), you would need more than 1.5 hours. Even the 6+ pound broilers I’ve done need about that much time at 400 or 425.
Let’s first take a moment of silence to remember the turkeys that used to be in Panther Hollow.
not necessary to roast upside down. cover the breasts with foil after the first phase of browning, then remove, Alton Brown style.
Poultry should be cooked to 165 (you can take it out at 160, carryover cooking will take care of the rest). It’s usually recommended that the legs are cooked to 180.
not sure how this will apply to your turkey, but it shouldn’t be too different – just make sure you regulate the temperature, and it’s worth it to buy one of these:
Also, whip some butter with a splash lemon juice, chopped fresh thyme, and a pinch of salt, and put it under the skin of the breasts for delicious.
As a data point, my birds are usually in the 18 pound range, and go in for 8-9 hours.
I wrap the extremities (wings and drums) in tin foil, in a vain effort to avoid charring them too badly; shove a bunch of halved apples inside; and baste in own juices every 30-45 minutes or so. Quality varies, but haven’t created an inedible one yet…
Wow, this sounds like a lot of work. I just show up at my sisters house with beer and the turkey just appears… I think you guys are doing it the hard way…
A couple of random notes:
– You want to preheat the oven to a higher temperature, then turn it down as soon as you put the turkey in. Preheating: get the oven up to the target temperature, then leave it there for at least 10-15 minutes. The oven thermostat is measuring air temperature, but you want to wait for the oven walls to heat up. The reason to preheat to the higher temperature is to seal the meat more quickly, so it gets less dried-out by the longer cooking time.
– If you are using a convection oven, use a much shorter cooking time. I have a convection oven, but I don’t use the convection when roasting turkeys. I’m never quite as satisfied with the results.
– For a 13# turkey, I think you’ll be looking somewhere north of 3 hrs 15 minutes. Start checking earlier than that, both to hedge against me being wrong and against your oven running hot.
– Opening the oven door every so often isn’t the worst thing in the world, but don’t overdo it.
– 145 leg temp is too low. Double-check me on this, but I usually aim for closer to 180.
– Beyond the use of a quick-read meat thermometer, the eyeball test is the juices. Pull on a leg or wing and examine the juices that run out. If the juices are red/pink, it’s not done. If clear, it’s done.
– Unstuffed birds cook faster than stuffed birds.
– If you like gravy, you’ll find that you get better gravy if you include onions.
– For reference stuff like this, I find that _The Joy of Cooking_ is still the best cookbook option. Older editions are actually better; the newer editions have updated the recipies to save labor, but they produce less optimal results. 1970s is a good era for JoC. Any editions published after Rombauer (Bombeck) passed away are suspect.
– The reason to cook upside-down is to make the breast juicier. It works quite well, and I recommend it, even though it sacrifices some of the best skin to the gravy.
– Lazy tip: besides doing all of the work with melted butter, you can take the dry or mostly-dry turkey, sprinkle on your dry seasonings, then spray it all over with a thin coat of canola oil. You can get spray cans of canola oil pretty much anywhere. For example, the regular “Pam” is plain canola oil. The oil helps seal the turkey and keep it more moist.
Jeez you guys are fast
RF – that thermometer looks amazing; I am on the hunt (little late now, but I see one in my very very near future – a shame, I was just at IKEA this weekend). I’ve heard the 160/180 temperatures, but everything I’ve read indicates that heritage turkies turn to jerky at this temp and by default are not as prone to diseases/disease inducing organisms as standards, so should be slightly cooler (this is where it varies, 140 was the lowest I’d found, 145-150 average, 155 highest). Then again, I eat sushi and kibbe and rare burgers too. Living on the edge!!
dback – this is more a political self defence and “I need a reason to finish the kitchen rehab” than about effort. My sisters’ was on October 11th, anyway… unless we should just bring beer to your sister instead?
JZ – I’ll rely more heavily than I planned on color of juices. I’m pretty sure that’s true of all animals for food (unless it’s sushi or kibbe)
Thank you guys!
The turkey should get to 151F in the oven. It will continue to cook once removed from the oven, particularly if you cover it with foil.
Im pretty sure if you (and just about everyone on here showed up we would still have enough.) I think we are going to have something like 15 pies (and that is just the pies.) and three sisters are all cooking turkeys.
yeah thanksgiving around my place is a bit scary at times.
I don’t know anything about this but it seems like a heritage turkey would be cooked rather like a wild turkey, maybe try this
Speaking of which, whatever happened to all of the turkeys in Panther Hollow? I miss seeing them- and have not for a year or so. I did find a little snapping turtle on Boundary in late summer- did a quick detour to put it in the lake.
You should roast the turkey upside-down for only about an hour at 400. Then take it out and rotate the turkey breast side up till it registers 165
This is a great herb roasted turkey recipe:
Maybe not related to the Panther Hollow turkeys, but I wonder how they made it thru the snow of last winter, like their was more than a foot of snow on the ground for two weeks or whatever, so how were they finding food ? I would see about 40 of them roosting in the trees up in a gully above Sharpsburg on my way into work and then in the evening on my way home they were still up there. I don’t know where they would fly to during the day with the ground all snow covered, so were they just sitting up there all the time?
dback – three turkeys, oh my. And I’m sure they aren’t those little 6# broilers that bjanaszek mentioned, either.
Now 15 pies is not unreasonable. You can never have too many pies.
Hmm… plan is slightly revised: I’ll put it in like it will take the originally intended 4 hours, but I’ll check it at 1.5, and every hour after, pending results (memory indicates holiday turkey is always cold anyway at our house, so apparently I’m not the first in my line to have issues). Adding onions and an apple to the cavity (good call! giblet gravy is all important). Pull at 150 or thereabouts and monitor (icemanbb – what brought you to 151? math? 1 degree for safety? just curious).
ejwme; I read it in a cook book somewhere. The 151F was for a 14lb (?) turkey. Reoving it from the oven at 151 would allow the internal temperature to reach 160 without drying out the outer part of the bird. I’m an analtical chemist so I tend to be a bit anal about some things. I usually over cook the turkey because I want to make sure the stuffing (my favorite part) is fully cooked and I use most of the meat in soups and meat pot pies.
ah, thank you icemanbb, that helps… I don’t stuff. I have a vegetarian who has enough trouble with the meal, besides that’s what gravy is for… Between the vegetarian, the gluten free, the diabetic, and the salt free (and me a lapsing locavore), I’ve got about three versions of almost every dish, and four stuffings (but I like to make lots of different stuffings anyway). The turkey – everybody gets one choice, it was supposed to be the easy part of the meal!
I agree with JZ’s description, with two extra suggestions:
1) get a roasting rack to put in the pan. More even roasting, less skin ripped off
2) near the end, flip the bird so that the breast gets a nice browning (use oven mitts to do this).
initial experiments with chickens convinced me to get a rack/pan combination (yay Ikea!) – check!
The upside down thing is more… there’s a story there totally unrelated to taste or appearance of food. The first time I roasted a chicken, there was a huge ordeal (it was for company, dinner served promptly at 6). The store only had kosher. The pinfeathers wouldn’t come out and wouldn’t burn off (picture me, sobbing frustrated snotty tears two hours before guests arrive, clutching tweasers and a lighter in greasy hands, alternately stabbing and trying to set on fire a raw, wet, feathery chicken while cursing an entire religion for their maddening defeathering laws). Add insult to injury and I couldn’t tell top from bottom and put it in the oven (and served it) upside down. Didn’t notice until the guests asked if it was on purpose (they politely provided me with reasons why this is superior upon realizing that it was a mistake). Hubby said afterwards, with so much love and admiration in his eyes it almost hurt, “best chicken ever in the history of food, cook them all this way please”.
So now we don’t speak of the Kosher Chicken Incident and I roast all birds (never kosher) upside down. To foil or flip… just wouldn’t be the same.
I’ve always done my wild birds in an oven bag. They have less fat on them then domestic birds, and this prevents them from drying out. It also helps to add a few beers – not to the bird, to the cook! This helps to mellow things out.
This USDA page says the color of the meat isn’t a reliable indicator of doneness (sometimes it’s done even if it’s still pink). Not sure if the juice color is reliable as a safety indicator. They say 165, period.
Letting the bird come to room temperature first seems risky to me. You’re giving the bacteria a longer time to grow and produce toxins at their favorite temperature. I think it’s better to move it as quickly as possible through the range they prefer, from too cold to too hot. (The USDA page doesn’t explicitly say not to let the turkey sit out before cooking — but they do say to bring the turkey home from the store immediately and get it back in refrigeration.)
Pin feathers: use (angled) needle-nosed pliers. I have a pair just for the kitchen. Deals with the kosher fowl problem just fine.
Beer can be an invaluable ingredient in turkey roasting. Personally, I’ve found that a bottle of decent zinfandel works just as well. If you’re careful not to add too much to the cook, you should have enough to deglaze the pan, for a tastier gravy. But be sure to boil off the alcohol.
i’m going to try brineing our bird this year. turkey is far too lean of a meat, hoping the salt will juice up the bird. anyone ever try this?
Oven bags, yes. I love those things. Brining, yes. Brine in the bag, even. One gallon water, one cup kosher salt, one cup sugar, assorted other flavorings as desired. Soak 12-24 hours.
Never brine kosher birds. Most brand-name turkeys have already had this done.
That’s an astounding number of responses to a post about turkey. Remember this the next time someone claims that all cyclists do is complain that they don’t get respect on the road. We are people, we have rights, and we’re into turkey. (sticker?)
exactly my suspicion, edmonds
Lyle – I’d never wished more that I had a blow torch. Unfortunately hubby will not accept that answer for an excuse to get one, and he’s right, we’re safer without one in the house. Now a plasma cutter, that’s a different story. What an awesome way to carve.
On the temperature – I did take another look at grandma’s butterball recipe, and she says pull it at 180 (then it’ll reach a nice safe 185 on the counter). She’s also convinced all sushi is deadly (she once went fishing, and when they gutted and prepared the fish, there were WORMS in the flesh, so therefore all raw fish is lethal. I hear this story at least once a month, and every time I go to Japan). This apple didn’t land anywhere near that tree, much to the tree’s nervous dismay.
oh – I may be letting a major cat out of the bag on this one, but I have a solid source of Neuveau Beaujoulais (try any state store with a depressingly small wine section, and they’ll have cases left over even in the first week of December; I go to PH, but you’ll never find it in Richland Twp or that big one in East End, for example. Something about their distribution system and providing set quantities to every store… at least it worked up to last year).
Since the dinner’s at my house, I dont’ have to drive or stay particularly upright once the turkey is out of the oven.
A gas stove works if you don’t have a torch. Though I have three little ones. Let me know if you need something burned down.
I’ll pass on the B’jlais, preferring a good sparkling brut noir with turkey. Or without.
Actually, I think I’ll walk over to the state store now. Champagne, the only wine you can drink for breakfast.
not true lyle. i had a roommate who drank at least 3 glasses of carlo rossi for breakfast daily…
@ejwme: Plasma cutter + turkey feathers = Very Interesting Photograph
*taps foot* We’re waiting…
If she is going to the trouble to bring out the plasma cutter she might as well do a creme brulee as well.
alas, no plasma cutter. it’s on the christmas list. I think he’ll pick the new yoga matt instead
I stuck the poor bird in the oven at 350, somewhere near 10:30 or so. I checked it at 11:30, it was at 120. I checked it at noon, 140. I checked it at 12:15, it was over 170. This cooking magic is tricky. Very tricky turkey. Fam said it was tastey, carcass is making soup as I type.
Nothing says it’s the day after thanksgiving like turkey soup. And turkey sandwiches. And turkey stew. And turkey chili. And turkey pot pie. And turkey gravy to slather over all of it.
Thank you guys for all your help. Never underestimate the helpfulness of stress relief
Someone was talking about plasma cutters and nobody told me?
In other news, boy oh boy do most people overcook their turkeys. I had a 14 pound bird, done in 3.5 hours flat. That whole x minutes per pound bit is a leftover from the days when every bird you bought was full of the black plague. Basting is a bit of a myth too, depending how you go about it.
rob – yeah, I overdid the bird. But since every bird my fam’s ever had was overdone, they were very pleased. It will still make good soup We never baste, either. butter the skin, put liquid under the bird, cook upside down, but never baste – too much work
A bit late for this year, but we do baste (when we happen to remember, which is several times, though not on the clock). The goal is to keep the skin crisp but still edible, as opposed to totally dried out. We shmear the turkey with shortening which, as near as I can figure, sticks to the bird longer than other fats (thus less work basting). The (infuriatingly picky) relatives haven’t noticed it, for years; so I feel confident in recommending this technique.
But the real issue for me is the stuffing; we do a pretty tasty one, so I was a bit non-plussed when my wife informed me tonight that “oh, we finished that off last night” (when I wasn’t around). Grr.
Nominal biking content:
Had a really nice ride today; much less windy than Friday, though just as cold. Blue sky, low traffic: nice.
I did a big loop around town midafternoon on Thursday- through Bloomfield, the strip, town, crossed Ft Pitt on the sidewalk and upstream on the south side trail back to
Squirrel Hill. It was cool to ride the near empty streets nearer town- reminded me of during the G-20.
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