G.W.’s Good Grub, Lesson 48 – The Perfect Turkey


With Thanksgiving coming up, I thought I’d take the time to give you everything I know about making the perfect turkey. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Turkey is dry. That’s just the way turkey is, especially the white meat”.
Wrong!

Turkey, when prepared and cooked properly, is tender, ridiculously juicy, and full flavored. Lt me repeat that;
Turkey, when prepared and cooked properly, is tender, ridiculously juicy, and full flavored.

What’s that Sharon? You say that to get a good turkey, you have to pay like $7 per pound, for a free range, original stock, organic bird? Naw. I get raves from my store brand, lost-leader, 49 cents a pound birds that they use to get you into the store to buy the rest of your meal ingredients. Really. I’m not even kidding. Whana see a picture? Here, let me show you.

Now I just think those tell the story.

So how do you get perfect turkey? Let me tell you. First, select the size bird you will need for your crew. a twenty to twenty-four pound bird will feed six adults, with a few children. A twelve pound bird will feed four adults.

Once the bird is selected, it will have to be thawed. Figure about three days in your fridge, or overnight in a cold water bath. When the bird is completely thawed, it’s time to get started. You will need a three-quart pot, a suitable roasting pan, with a rack, a turkey injector, salt, granulated garlic powder, sage, real butter, and black pepper (You can use olive oil instead of butter if you want). Your first step will be to remove the neck, liver, and giblets from the turkey cavity. They are usually packed in a paper pouch. Open the pouch and place the neck, and remaining items into your pot. Cover with water and place the pot over medium heat. Cover and let it come to a boil. Turn the heat to simmer and cook for forty minutes or so.

While the turkey innards are simmering, wash the turkey inside and out under cold, running water. Dry it inside and out with paper towels. Place the bird onto the rack, inside the roasting pan. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Rub the entire outside of the bird with butter. Sprinkle all sides with salt, sage, and black pepper. Add 2 cups of water to the roasting pan.

Remove the innards from the hot broth, and place into a bowl. Season the broth with salt, time, onion and garlic powder, and pepper. Add a little of each to the broth, and stir in. Let it simmer for a minute or so, then taste. Add more seasoning if required. Remove the pot from the heat and let cool for five minutes.

After washing the turkey injector with hot, soapy water, then rinsing it clean. place the pointed tip into the broth and draw the broth into the syringe by pulling the plunger most of the way out. The needle holes have to be submerged for this to work. Now, inject the broth into the turkey, all over. Just push the needle in, and inject in one spot, then another. Continue drawing broth into the syringe, and injecting into the turkey. Make sure to get the thighs, drumsticks, breasts, and wings. There shouldn’t be much broth left. Let the bird rest for five minutes or so.

Now, here’s the part we’ve been waiting for. Carefully lift the roasting pan, and place it and the bird into the oven. Close the door and just walk away. Let the turkey cook for about 13 minutes per pound. Don’t bast it. Don’t open the oven to look at it. Just let it cook.

What’s that Bill? You say your Grandma always basted her turkeys? Well that may be true. But think about this. You have skin all over your body, right. What’s that skin do for you? Think about it for just a moment.

Yes Rebecca, I know that your skin makes you just gorgeous. But that’s just a fringe benefit. It’s primary purpose is to keep anything outside your body from getting inside your body. I mean, think of all those nasty little microbes that are trying to get in you. And those sticks that poke you when you run through the woods, they’d make quite a mess if the skin didn’t protect you, now wouldn’t they. Well. turkey skin is no different. Basting liquids just run off. They don’t get through to flavor the meat. That’s why we injected the bird. All basting does is take some of the flavor particles from the developing turkey broth and deposit them on the skin surface, and cool down the oven when we open the oven door. We already flavored the skin with butter and seasonings. So leave the oven door closed. It will help the turkey cook faster, and help it retain more of its moisture.

Ok, times up. Open the oven door and insert an instant-read meat thermometer through the thickest part of the breast, until the tip is right next to, but not touching the thigh joint. It won’t have reached the 160 degree mark yet, but it should be getting close. Close the oven and check it again in ten to fifteen minutes. When the thermometer reads that magical 160′. remove the bird from the oven Now, again I say to you, walk away. Work on the rest of the meal. Don’t touch that bird for at least fifteen minutes, longer if it’s a large turkey.

So why don’t we want to carve it up yet? While it’s cooking, the juices ten to migrate toward the outside of the bird. Also, the outside meat is much hotter than is the inner meat. While it rests, the inner meat will continue to absorb that heat from the outer meat, until all of it is the same temperature. At the same time, those juices will distribute evenly through the whole bird.

Ok, the last secret to a perfect turkey, don’t carve it at the dining room table. Carve it up in the kitchen and place the meat elegantly onto a platter, with pretty garnish. This allows you to better portion the meat, so everyone gets tender, and juicy turkey.

Start by running a smooth edged, sharp knife along the side of the turkey back, to the thigh joint. Next, starting between the wing and thigh, slice between the thigh and the body, through the skin, and again to the joint. Bend the entire leg downward until you feel the thigh bone dislocate from the body. Use your knife to cut through the joint and remove the whole leg from the bird. Remove the wind in the same fashion. Now cut from the top middle of the breast, along the breast bone, downward, and along the ribs, until you remove the whole breast from the bird. And be careful. That meat is still hot. Now, lay the breast onto your cutting board, and slice sideways, making thin slices until the whole breast is cut up. Slide your knife under the length of the sliced breast, and lift it to the platter. Arrange the thigh and wings to the side of it. Repeat with the other side of the bird. Garnish with pretty green and orange veggies as you wish. It’s now ready to be served.

Now, before you present this show-stopping bird to your family and guests, go to the back of the bird. You will find little medallions of meat on either side of the back bone. Remove them and share them with your someone special, be it a favorite child, or your spouse, or whomever. Those two chunks of turkey meat are the choice pieces on the entire bird. But they’re only bite sized, and their are only two of them. They are your reward for the hard work and time you’ve put into this meal.

And there you have it. the perfect turkey. If you want to go a step further, do the same thing on the barbecue. Simply set the charcoal into two beds on either side of your rig, and place a disposable aluminum loaf pan in the middle. Fill the pan with 2 cups of water, and after the charcoal is hot, and covered with some good apple, maple, hickory, or mesquite wood, place the bird over the drip pan. Put the lid on, with all vents half closed, and cook for 12 minutes per pound. Again, remove the bird when the thermometer reads 160 degrees. I’m telling you right now, the smokey flavor, and juicy, tender meat, will absolutely make you a culinary hero. Those who partake of that bird will put you in the local hall of fame.

Now, everyone, go cook the best turkey you’ve ever eaten. And remember to give thanks for what you have. Until next time, eat well, eat healthy. And remember, “There is now success outside the home that can compensate for failure inside the home.

G.W.North

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