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Old 11-08-2019, 04:04 PM
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Thanksgiving Side Dishes & Your Thoughts on Brining and Spatchcocking


Ok Dopers, it's that time of year again and I need your advice:

1. What Thanksgiving side dishes do you recommend? No dietary restrictions whatsoever--just want the meal to rock my guests' world.

2. What are your thoughts on brining? I've never done it before, but others tell me it is a game changer.

3. To spatchcock or not? Like brining, I've never done it, but am kind of intrigued by the idea. Pros and cons?

Thanks for the help, guys, and I welcome any and all tips for a delicious and fun Thanksgiving!
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Old 11-08-2019, 04:07 PM
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[Bad Santa]I've never spatchcocked anybody![/Bad Santa]

Last edited by Gatopescado; 11-08-2019 at 04:09 PM.
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Old 11-08-2019, 04:09 PM
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Greenbeans are a Must!
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Old 11-08-2019, 04:46 PM
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Greenbeans: yes, greenbean casserole (with those horrible curly onion thingies): hell, no!
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Old 11-08-2019, 04:50 PM
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Brining is great. I've been doing it for years. You've got to start with a non-"enhanced" bird. You've also got to make sure you've got a container big enough to submerge a turkey. It takes a larger container than you might think.
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Old 11-08-2019, 05:07 PM
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Agree on the brining. We usually do salt, brown sugar, Apple cider, cinnamon, cloves, garlic, and oranges. A big cooler works well.

Must have potatoes. Mashed with roasted garlic and lots of cream and butter.

And both real and canned cranberry sauce.

Last edited by Paintcharge; 11-08-2019 at 05:08 PM.
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Old 11-08-2019, 05:14 PM
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I have had remarkable success with brining. Takes some forethought and planning, as the bird needs a day or three to swim before cooking. I have used Alton Brown's instructions every time and it's been awesome every time.

The only downside is that I have been unable to make gravy from the drippings. Far too watery and it separates out in a strange way. The bird is yummy enough not to need gravy, but the potatoes just aren't right without it. And I feel like I am committing a mortal sin to use (gasp) gravy from a jar.
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Old 11-08-2019, 05:48 PM
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Greenbeans are a Must!
I have NEVER had any green beans for Thanksgiving, and I don't want to start now!
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Old 11-08-2019, 06:10 PM
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I don't brine because gravy is a beverage in my family. I spatchcocked two smaller turkeys last year and wasn't thrilled with it. This year I'm back to whole roast turkey, stuffing, mash, killer giblet gravy and the wife's homemade cranberry relish with Grand Marnier, orange zest, and walnuts (and sugar, of course). I don't care about vegetables, but she'll probably do yams (none of that brown sugar crap, though).

If you want to make a huge difference in your gravy and stuffing, pick up a couple of turkey drumsticks a few days ahead of time and simmer them in a pot of chicken stock with some vegetables and herbs. Then use the liquid for both of them instead of just water.
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Old 11-08-2019, 06:15 PM
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Spatchcock sounds like a dirty word. What does it mean? (Yeah, I could look it up but the Dope is here to fight ignorance.)

Last edited by NotherYinzer; 11-08-2019 at 06:15 PM. Reason: Autocorrect
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Old 11-08-2019, 06:16 PM
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I like to spatchcock and dry brine (essentially cover with salt and let sit uncovered in the fridge for a couple days).

Last year I tried a sous vide turkey roulade. The meat was amazingly juicy, but I missed on the spices.

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I don't brine because gravy is a beverage in my family.
I'm not sure I get this. What does brining have to do with gravy?
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Old 11-08-2019, 06:17 PM
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Annual plug for Alton Brown turkey, but a twist--no brine, just cooking method--500F for half an hour then 350 until done.

I used to brine per Alton, but it makes the gravy too salty. Supermarket Turkeys have enough water in them to keep them moist if you cook using the above method (I think done is about 160F in the thigh and then rest for 45 minutes gets you some carry over). Do not low and slow unless you're smoking the turkey and then use a pan of water in the smoker.
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Old 11-08-2019, 07:43 PM
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Le suer english peas with pearl onions. Sweet potatoe. Good rolls. One Sister of mine insists on beets. Yuk!
The kids all want mashed taters.
Son-of-a-wrek has been frying Turkeys the last few years. I have to watch him or he puts too much cajun spices in it.

Last edited by Beckdawrek; 11-08-2019 at 07:46 PM.
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Old 11-08-2019, 08:02 PM
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Originally Posted by enalzi View Post
I like to spatchcock and dry brine (essentially cover with salt and let sit uncovered in the fridge for a couple days).

Last year I tried a sous vide turkey roulade. The meat was amazingly juicy, but I missed on the spices.



I'm not sure I get this. What does brining have to do with gravy?
See comment above. Also, salt in the drippings can be a problem with wet brining. But mainly, I don't see the advantage. I've tried it and thought that given the hassle of brining, there was little gain. I buy Mary's free range, and have zero problems with dryness or other issues.

Last edited by Chefguy; 11-08-2019 at 08:02 PM.
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Old 11-08-2019, 08:02 PM
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Brine, of course! You should do that daily with pretty much any meat.

Spatchcocking is likewise good for any occasion other than Thanksgiving. C'mon; the presentation is key!

Sides: cranberry sauce made from actual cranberries (not the canned gel stuff), green bean casserole made with mushrooms and French's onions on top; candied yams (yes, I know they're really sweet potatoes, but I'm a northerner); corn; bread rolls; dressing/stuffing; mashed taters, of course; gravy; lettuce salad; and some mashed squash.
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Old 11-08-2019, 08:05 PM
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The men in my house would be sad without this corn casserole, made with Jiffy corn muffin mix, creamed corn, frozen or canned corn kernels, sour cream, and butter. The blog below mentions some additions. I have never added eggs. I don't think it needs cheese. It doesn't need sugar.

https://www.tastesoflizzyt.com/5-ing...orn-casserole/

I have to have cornbread dressing and sweet potato casserole.
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Old 11-08-2019, 08:09 PM
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Every Thanksgiving I marvel at how easy and delicious homemade cranberry sauce is, and that I'll do it more than once a year. I never do.

Potato pancakes. Somebody requested them a few years back and now I always make them. Applesauce is also silly easy to make, so some of that.

Sweet potato pie, not pumpkin.
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Old 11-08-2019, 08:13 PM
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Homemade stuffing/dressing. Not the store bought stuff.

Pumpkin pie with more whipped cream than you think you'll need. There's never enough whipped cream.
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Old 11-08-2019, 08:17 PM
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A most intriguing thread. This may be my first year bringing the cooked bird as opposed to just supplying it for someone else to cook
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Old 11-08-2019, 08:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Tarataratara View Post
The men in my house would be sad without this corn casserole, made with Jiffy corn muffin mix, creamed corn, frozen or canned corn kernels, sour cream, and butter. The blog below mentions some additions. I have never added eggs. I don't think it needs cheese. It doesn't need sugar.

https://www.tastesoflizzyt.com/5-ing...orn-casserole/
Agree to this but I do like to add jalapeno and chunks of goat cheese to the corn casserole.

There must be plain, baked, skin on sweet potatoes. All I need is butter, salt and pepper for them.

One thing that has been suggested to me but I've never tried - spatchcock the bird and cook it directly on the oven rack, no roasting pan required! Put a pan underneath the rack holding the bird to catch the drippings. When the bird is nearly done, remove the pan and mix the drippings with your dressing fixins (bread cubes, cooked veggies, herbs, spices and whatever else you like), and spread the uncooked dressing back into the drippings pan. Place the drippings/dressing pan back underneath the bird and finish cooking. This may not work and it probably requires some experimentation but I've heard worse ideas, IMHO.
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Old 11-08-2019, 08:52 PM
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Agree to this but I do like to add jalapeno and chunks of goat cheese to the corn casserole.
Jalapeno sounds delicious. I can imagine the goat cheese does cut the sweetness. Do you add eggs?
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Old 11-08-2019, 08:58 PM
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Do you add eggs?
I've done it both ways. Eggs certainly don't hurt and I usually use at least one but I wouldn't call it essential.
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Old 11-08-2019, 09:02 PM
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Make gravy without dripping by simmering the neck, heart, gizzard, wing tips to make a strong broth. Make a brown roux and stir in the chopped cooked giblet meat, and a little minced onion. Thyme, garlic, paprika if you want (thyme strongly advised). Whisk in the broth and simmer until you have gravy.
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Old 11-08-2019, 09:05 PM
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Sweet potato pie, not pumpkin.
Oh, yas. Oh yas yas yas.

You guys DO know enough to start the turkey upside-down, right? Meaning breast down. Get the juices to bleed down from the fatty side to the drier breast meat.
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Old 11-08-2019, 09:19 PM
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Parmesan Roast Brussels Sprouts.

There's never any left over.

https://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/...ssels-sprouts/
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Old 11-08-2019, 09:35 PM
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Annual plug for Alton Brown turkey, but a twist--no brine, just cooking method--500F for half an hour then 350 until done.
THIS!!! Linky here: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/...x-recipe-video

Buttered Rosemary Rolls from Pioneer Woman. I use no knead dough, but any dough will work (she uses frozen dinner rolls). It is a crowd pleasing family favorite. Really easy and provides your bread/roll option for the meal
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Old 11-08-2019, 09:40 PM
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Instead of, or in addition to sweet potatoes, try this:

https://books.google.com/books?id=99...squash&f=false

Regular butternut squash will work if you can’t find African squash. I’ll guarantee people will be fighting for seconds!
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Old 11-08-2019, 10:18 PM
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I have NEVER had any green beans for Thanksgiving, and I don't want to start now!
That's it! I'm gonna Spatchcock you! Assume the position!
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Old 11-08-2019, 11:20 PM
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Oh, yas. Oh yas yas yas.

You guys DO know enough to start the turkey upside-down, right? Meaning breast down. Get the juices to bleed down from the fatty side to the drier breast meat.
Well. . .no. Turkey is very dense, so juices remain trapped in the meat. Fat from the skin will certainly run down, but on the outside, not into the meat. This is not just me saying this. The people at Food Lab have verified that there is no significant benefit to starting the bird breast side down. Basting also has little to no effect, even if you stuff butter under the skin; again, this is because of the dense nature of turkey meat. You're best off just tenting the breast with foil so it won't overcook. I try to buy the best turkey on the market, which, in my opinion, are Mary's. They're not cheap, but the flavor and texture are excellent.
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Old 11-09-2019, 02:05 AM
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That's it! I'm gonna Spatchcock you! Assume the position!
Won't be the first time.
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Old 11-09-2019, 06:41 AM
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Parmesan Roast Brussels Sprouts.

There's never any left over.
I should hope not, your Thanksgiving is almost two months before ours.

I smoke my turkey for Thanksgiving, so it gets brined for a day or two before going in the smoker.
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Old 11-09-2019, 07:46 AM
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I like to spatchcock a chicken on the grill, but cannot imagine doing this to a big turkey.

My deep fried turkey was a huge hit a few years ago. I bought all the equipment for that bird and haven't used it since.
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Old 11-09-2019, 09:14 AM
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Brining is great. I've been doing it for years. You've got to start with a non-"enhanced" bird. You've also got to make sure you've got a container big enough to submerge a turkey. It takes a larger container than you might think.
I was going to say, a lot of birds are already brined (*cough* "enhanced" with a solution), so do read the labels or signs. You can brine these, but it doesn't really make much a difference, as they're already brined.

Spatchcocking works great, IMHO, if you don't mind the presentation. Even simpler is just cooking the turkey in sections so you can pull the parts as they're finished, but most people like to have a whole bird on the table (whether uncut or spatchcocked.)

I've only had deep-fried turkey once, and, maybe we did it wrong, but it didn't come out much different than the roasted turkey. Maybe our expectations were just set too high. Yeah, the skin was crispier, but the rest of it was just okay and not worth the trouble, IMHO.
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Old 11-09-2019, 11:49 AM
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I think the benefits of deep-frying the turkey are that it cooks much quicker and does not take up valuable oven space. You can also dismiss half of the family outside to work on it, thus getting them out from under foot while you are working on the other dishes.
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Old 11-09-2019, 12:23 PM
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I like to spatchcock a chicken on the grill, but cannot imagine doing this to a big turkey.

My deep fried turkey was a huge hit a few years ago. I bought all the equipment for that bird and haven't used it since.
I did spatchcock a turkey once, and like you imaged, results are not impressive. First off, its harder to cut out the backbone of a turkey than it is for a chicken. Breaking the breastbone to flatten the turkey is also harder, and it doesn't really get as flat as a chicken does, what with all the meat in a turkey breast. Anyhoo, it looked similar to the Cook's Illustrated image for spatchcocked turkey, so I grilled it anyway. Results were kinda meh. An improvement, but not worth it.

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Spatchcock sounds like a dirty word. What does it mean? (Yeah, I could look it up but the Dope is here to fight ignorance.)
And that's what it means, in case you haven't given up and Googled already.
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Old 11-09-2019, 12:26 PM
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Spatchcocking works great, IMHO, if you don't mind the presentation. Even simpler is just cooking the turkey in sections so you can pull the parts as they're finished, but most people like to have a whole bird on the table (whether uncut or spatchcocked.)

.
Yep this is where my spratchcock adventures ended up. Once I started spratchcocking I never went back. Then I took it one step further and separate the wings and thighs before it goes in the oven. Then when they're done I just grab them out and keep them warm in a crock pot or the toaster oven while the breast finishes.

Y'all can keep your pretty presentation whole bird. Mine tastes better than yours looks.
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Old 11-09-2019, 12:27 PM
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Oh, thanks for reminding me; I need to spatchcock the windows before winter gets here--drafty. Brrr.
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Old 11-09-2019, 12:30 PM
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Agree on the brining. We usually do salt, brown sugar, Apple cider, cinnamon, cloves, garlic, and oranges. A big cooler works well.
How do you clean/disinfect the cooler afterwards? My cooler won't fit in the dishwasher.
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Old 11-09-2019, 12:41 PM
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re: backbone, I find the perfect tool is actually my cheap serrated bread knife. Zips right through the ribs! I'll give the breast a good push down to try to break the wishbone, but I don't sweat trying to get it too flat. Backbone and giblets go on the pan with everything else for drippins/stock later.

Also, I dry brine. It's the only way to go!

https://www.buzzfeed.com/christineby...-brining-truth
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Old 11-09-2019, 12:46 PM
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As far mashed potatoes go my family always insist on make them with real potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner even though we all eat instant mashed all the time.

Same goes for the stuffing. Homemade with bread and sauteed celery and onion; no instant stuff for Thanksgiving!!!

Last edited by dorvann; 11-09-2019 at 12:46 PM.
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Old 11-09-2019, 12:53 PM
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How do you clean/disinfect the cooler afterwards? My cooler won't fit in the dishwasher.
A friend stopped by last week for a visit. Kjel, our tortoise, was due for his weekly soak. I filled my boat cooler with very hot water, about 5 inches deep, and put him in. I explained that the soak helped with hydration and encouraged defecation.

After about 15 minutes Kjel took a huge tortoise shit. That was when my friend realized this was the same cooler I take pontooning, and he'd had food and beer from it on many occasions. I told him I always rinse the cooler out after Kjel used it.

Moral of the story: cleanliness is over-rated.
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Old 11-09-2019, 01:23 PM
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My SIL brined the turkey once. It was not an improvement; the turkey was tougher.
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Old 11-09-2019, 01:25 PM
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I brined once, didn't think it was worth the bother.

The key, to me, is getting yourself a quality bird.
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Old 11-09-2019, 01:37 PM
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My SIL brined the turkey once. It was not an improvement; the turkey was tougher.
A brined turkey can still be poorly cooked; it's salt, not magic.
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Old 11-09-2019, 01:41 PM
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The key, to me, is getting yourself a quality bird.
This. We order our bird from the turkey farm a month before T-Day. We actually have an appointment for pick-up Thanksgiving Eve Day. The bird is ready for the oven, but often still at room temperature.
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Old 11-09-2019, 02:08 PM
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How do you clean/disinfect the cooler afterwards? My cooler won't fit in the dishwasher.
I’ve always been fine with just soap and water, but if you want to go the extra step, a dilute chlorine solution will sanitize fine.
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Old 11-09-2019, 03:58 PM
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A brined turkey can still be poorly cooked; it's salt, not magic.
Salt is magic, as any cook or chef will tell you. It performs miracles when properly applied. It does a great job of breaking down cells, bringing out flavor, etc. In the case of turkey, though, it seems to be too much of a good thing.

The only deep fried turkey I was exposed to was at an acquaintance's home. What a mess; oil splashing all over the sheet of plywood next to an open propane flame. When it was all over, the turkey was still raw in the middle. Hard pass.
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Old 11-09-2019, 04:25 PM
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Getting back to the OP’s question, creamed butternut squash soup is always a hit.
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Old 11-09-2019, 04:37 PM
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Salt is magic, as any cook or chef will tell you. It performs miracles when properly applied. It does a great job of breaking down cells, bringing out flavor, etc. In the case of turkey, though, it seems to be too much of a good thing.



The only deep fried turkey I was exposed to was at an acquaintance's home. What a mess; oil splashing all over the sheet of plywood next to an open propane flame. When it was all over, the turkey was still raw in the middle. Hard pass.
Well it's still not magic...cooks use it to do exactly what they've learned it will do. It's chemistry, or food science.

My point was that saying something was prepared like "X" and the result was poor, doesn't preclude the possibility that it was poorly cooked otherwise. IME with dry brining, if my turkey came out dry and/or tough, I would assume it was my fault for cooking too long or at the wrong temperature. Blaming the brine doesn't make sense.

ETA had a similar experience with deep fried turkey.. friend didn't realize it had to be covered the whole time. Black on the outside, red on the in. A correctly prepared one is fine, but apart from the skin isn't significantly better than any other good method as far as I'm concerned.

Last edited by Sicks Ate; 11-09-2019 at 04:39 PM.
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Old 11-09-2019, 04:56 PM
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Well it's still not magic...cooks use it to do exactly what they've learned it will do. It's chemistry, or food science.

My point was that saying something was prepared like "X" and the result was poor, doesn't preclude the possibility that it was poorly cooked otherwise. IME with dry brining, if my turkey came out dry and/or tough, I would assume it was my fault for cooking too long or at the wrong temperature. Blaming the brine doesn't make sense.

ETA had a similar experience with deep fried turkey.. friend didn't realize it had to be covered the whole time. Black on the outside, red on the in. A correctly prepared one is fine, but apart from the skin isn't significantly better than any other good method as far as I'm concerned.
Yeah, should have said "like magic" for what it can do.
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