On turkey

For as far back as I can remember I’ve always picked up a Butterball turkey for Thanksgiving. Simple, cheap, and frankly turkey roasting is hard to screw up. For the past 10 years or so I’ve brined said turkey. I think it’s been a bit superfluous, as Butterball’s come infused with a “sodium solution” or some such adulterant. However, today I was at Costco and scored a Foster Farms fresh turkey. Almost 25 lbs, and less than $20!

So this year the brining will be of utmost importance. I’ve heard good things about Alton Brown’s recipe, but the first recipe I ever came across (I was channel surfing one day and came across someone on the Food network pontificating about brining) used apple juice, not vegetable stock. They also added a bottle of white wine, but I forget what particular type. So this year I think I’ll use Alton’s recipe but with apple cider or juice instead instead of veggie stock and water. Using molasses instead of brown sugar might be good also. I don’t want to experiment too much though, this is going to feed a bunch of people who wouldn’t know good food if Michelin sent them a free guide yet, for some inane reason, still feel obligated to criticize other people’s cooking.

Roasting is easy, I’ll just do it in the oven. I’ve always wanted to try smoking a turkey, but since I lack a smoker, well… guess I’ll have to wait. I’ve also heard good things about turkey cooked on a grill, and though I have one big enough I think I’ll wait until a non-holiday to try that one out. So oven roasting it is

I’ll use the pan drippings to make up a nice gravy. I always start with a roux and my gravy comes out thin. My wife likes it that way, I prefer thick gravy. Maybe I’ll try the corn starch method this year instead.

I’ve cooked cranberry sauce in the past, using sugar, water, and cranberries with a bit of citrus zest and some cinnamon. Good, but I know I can do better. Again, maybe using apple cider (or a high-pulp orange juice?) as the liquid is a good way to start.

So, what are you cooking this year? And is smoked turkey really all that? Should I invest in a Weber Smokey Mountain for next year?

Why is brining “of utmost importance”? I’ve never seen the so-called benefit of doing this, as there are better, less salty methods that yield a good bird. Brining is way overrated IMO.

For the cranberries, add some fresh orange juice and orange zest, and a bit of Grand Marnier. Perks things up nicely. You could also add either walnut or pecan pieces.

I like a bourbon-soysauce base for my brine/marinade with brown sugar, apples and garlic. It helps the bird be moister and more flavorful. When I bbq my turkey i always cut it into pieces first that way each gets pulled off when its done and that is much easier that doing it whole. By the way deep fried really is the best way to do thanksgiving turkey, crispy brown skin and moist tender meat plus it leaves the oven free for other dishes.

A roux can make gravy so thick you can stand a fork up it it. A couple of rules are generally a tablespoon of butter or drippings to each tablespoon of flour. Then you get a 4x thickening so 1 table spoon of flour will thicken about a 1/4 cup of broth or cream. If you like thicker gravy just decrease the amount of liquid you’re thickening. For instance i used a 1/2 cup of flour in my roux two weeks ago to thicken 1 cup of milk and my gravy could stand up in piles when it was poured. In general I prefer the texture of roux gravies to cornstarch gravies. Another possible tip is the darker the color on your roux the more flavor but the less thickening power. Generally, my cajun grandmother talked about 1 beer and 2 beer roux. I only use 1 beer roux when I’m making gravy and two beer roux is for making full dishes. Basically you should stir your flour/butter mixture for the time it takes you to drink one beer for about 15-20 minutes

I will also be roasting a turkey in the oven. No brine. I don’t like it. I found it made the skin rubbery, rather than crisp. And the bird was a bit saltier than I like. (I usually add no salt to fowl.)

I’m with your wife – I prefer a thin gravy. But you can always start with more roux if you want a thicker gravy.

My family likes cranberry jelly out of the can (Ocean Spray is surprisingly better than store brand, though.) I will also be making butternut squash with apple, and mashed potatoes. My sister will bring salad and another veggie.

Oh – and the pies. Pumpkin, apple, and cranberry apple is our usual.

Alton Brown has another recipe for a dry cured, butterflied roast turkey that I’m going to try this year. It seems promising to me. If it’s not important to you to deliver the Norman Rockwell-esque perfectly roasted centerpiece to the table for carving in front of your guests, it might be worth investigating.

I’m not a huge fan of smoked turkey but maybe I’ve never had a really good one.

My cranberry sauce is dead simple - bag of frozen cranberries, 8 once jar of good orange marmalade, handful of finely chopped walnuts for texture and just a bit of rhubarb to up the twang slightly. Cook over medium heat and hit it with a potato masher until you like the texture.

I’ve heard that brining is going the way of the dodo–in a recent thread someone called it a “fad.” That baffles me. When my mom used to cook a turkey she’d just thaw the bird and throw it in a 325° oven until it was done. The result was a damn dry bird. I’ve played around with different methods of cooking a bird while trying to keep it moist, and frankly none of them work as well as brining.

I’m extremely sensitiveto salt, to the point that a lot of store-bought processed foods like salsa I can’t eat because it just tastes like salt to me. I’ve never noticed my turkey to have even the slightest hint of salt taste, and I’m positive I’d be the first to notice. Maybe it’s just my recipie.

I’m definitely going to try the cranberry sauce suggestion, thanks!

I may have to play around with different roux cook times. Do you mean that you stir / cook the roux for 15-20 minutes before adding the liquid?

I made Serious Eats turkey porchetta a couple years ago. Best turkey I’ve ever eaten. It’s just the breast butterflied, stuffed with seasonings like sage and garlic, then wrapped with the skin.

I’ll be able to do it again this year after being a non-cooking guest the last few thanksgivings.

Super-simple cranberry relish:

Bag of frozen cranberries, 1 seedless orange, sugar to taste.

Chunk the orange, peel and all, and drop it into food processor with the cranberries. Process to your desired consistency. Throw in a bowl, sprinkle with sugar (half cup or so), cover, let rest in the fridge overnight.

Stir it up the next day, taste, add more sugar if necessary, chill until food-time.

If you think brining is a “fad”, I recommend you take a pork chop that’s been brined for 30 minutes in Alton Brown’s brine and one that has not, bake or fry, your choice, and then tell me brining is just a fad.

Alton Brown has a turkey brine with orange juice that we’ve been using for years. The turkey then goes on the rotisserie on the grill and comes out remarkably delicious. Also, we only brine for about 4 to 6 hours. All the talk about brining for days is scary to me; the meat gets mushy!

And back to the OP, we use a fresh bird and it is better.


Yup. My turkey brine will have to be pried from my cold dead hands.

Gotta remember this.

I let the bird warm up a little the night before (usually in the garage, about 50f), use a thermometer and cook to an interior temp of about 165f, and let it rest at least an hour. No brine, not dry.

Most people over cook fowl, in my experience, and that’s what dries it out. It’s true that brined birds can better withstand being overcooked. But they are still over done.

You’re also far better off roasting two 10 pound turkeys than one 20 pounder, simply because the shorter cooking time prevents drying out the meat.

As for brining, there is a good article in the NYT today about it that is very informative. Most all chefs, including the one who initially popularized brining, have ditched the method. The thing with brine is this: the protein molecules in most of the ingredients are unable to penetrate the dense texture of the meat, which means most all the flavor stays in the brine, other than salt. That being the case, you are better served by doing a dry brine rub (one tablespoon of salt per five pounds) in the fridge for a couple of days, which will achieve the same thing.

Chefguy, I agree that brining does not add a lot of flavor. However, it does add moisture, and the main trouble with turkeys (and pork chops, as I referenced above) is that they tend to dry out. Brined briefly, they don’t. Note: briefly. These multiple-day brines are just unnecessary and sometimes makes the meat mushy. Honestly, 30 minutes in the brine changes a pork chop totally. We do around 4 hours on the turkey but it probably doesn’t even need that much.

I think I am done hijacking this thread now!

I’m going to have to give that a try. Thanks for the heads-up.

Yesterday I bought a pre-brined turkey from Trader Joe’s. I used to do Butterball, but Trader Joe’s turkeys are good, and more importantly, smaller. (Well, they have big ones, but I look for the smallest I can find.) This one is under 11 pounds.

No worries for me! And I made a mistake: I should have written “skin” instead of “meat” in my previous post. Now, brining a pork chop is a different story. In that case it acts as a marinade and can penetrate the chop, since it has no skin to deal with.

And lastly, why does spellcheck have a problem with the various forms of ‘brine’? I suppose it would be more correct to substitute an unwieldy phrase for “brining”?

Yes, but the giant bird is fun and showy. Honestly, one 10 pound bird would be adequate for the meal, but the 20 pound bird makes a better center piece. And i seem to have mastered the art of roasting fowl. The convection oven helps.

I salute your ongoing efforts. I’ve said my piece about no-brine, tasty turkey cooking in two or three threads now, so I’m going to leave the brinewashed masses to your ministrations for now. :smiley:

(I’ll rejoin you on the battlements next Thanksgiving.)

And if you want a tasty bird, you are better off roasting a chicken or a duck or some pigeons or a pheasant. But it’s Thanksgiving, so I’ll be roasting a big showy turkey