Showing posts with label kosher turkey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kosher turkey. Show all posts

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Talking Turkey Part II

First, let me say that I have bought a turkey, plopped it into the oven to roast, ignored it entirely until it was done -- and it turned out great. I don't know if that was a fluke or not. These days, I put more effort into roasting the turkey, but there are a few popular steps that I skip.

The procedure and times below are for a turkey that is not stuffed. The official stance on stuffing birds is that the stuffing should be cooked separately. I find it easier to do it separately, because I can make the stuffing (officially called dressing if not inside the turkey, I suppose) the day before. One less thing to worry about. I pop it into the oven to bake an hour before we eat and it's always great.

For years and years I basted turkeys and chickens. Last year, I think it was Martha whom I watched insert butter under the skin of the bird, which I thought clever. My mother is a big believer in basting and we've spent many Thanksgivings treacherously tilting the pan to suck up the juices with the baster and squirt them on the bird. Not anymore. I side entirely with Alton Brown who experimented on one of his shows and declared basting unnecessary. In fact, he suggested that basting simply lowers the temperature of the oven because one opens it continually.

I know what you're thinking -- but the crispy skin is the best part! Quite by accident (and laziness) I discovered that leaving a duck uncovered in the refrigerator for 24 hours before roasting yields a fabulous skin. That's what Chinese restaurants do. They hang ducks to dry before transforming them into crispy-skinned Peking Duck. Turns out the same thing works great for turkey. It goes against our grain to leave the foil or plastic wrap off something in the refrigerator, but that's exactly what I do. The day before you plan to roast the turkey, set it on a rack in the roasting pan and slide the whole thing, uncovered, into the refrigerator until it's time to cook.

The other step that I love to skip is trussing the turkey. In The Diva Runs out of Thyme, Sophie trusses the killer, but I think tying the turkey is over-rated. On most turkeys, there is a flap of skin that crosses the bottom end. I do try to wedge the ends of the legs under that flap. It holds them tight and saves me from wrestling with the bird to tie it.

So, here are the basics that I'll be following:

1. SUNDAY Move the turkey from the freezer to the refrigerator. Most guides suggest giving a frozen turkey three to five days to thaw in the refrigerator. If you've ever tried to yank the giblets or neck out of a partially frozen turkey, you understand the need for plenty of thawing time.

2. TUESDAY NIGHT Brine the turkey. As discussed last week, if you bought an enhanced turkey (with a solution injected) or a Kosher turkey, you should not brine it. So what's the fuss about brining? At its most basic, the salt molecules penetrate the turkey meat and work magic on the turkey meat molecules, leaving the meat softer and moister. It also leaves some saltiness in the meat, so use a light hand if you salt the skin of a brined turkey.

Brine the turkey in any food-safe container (like a five gallon bucket) large enough to hold the entire turkey. It must remain refrigerated during the brining. I usually remove a shelf from my refrigerator to accommodate it. I've read that some people brine their turkeys in large coolers, but I've never tried that.

To brine:
Remove the giblets and neck, if possible.
Dissolve 3/4 cup Kosher salt in a gallon of water and pour over the bird. Repeat until the bird is covered. Add 1/4 cup sugar to the brine. Refrigerate 6-8 hours.

3. WEDNESDAY MORNING Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse inside and out with water. Place the turkey on a roasting rack, breast side up, and store UNCOVERED in the refrigerator until ready to roast, preferably 24 hours.

4. THURSDAY Dice carrots, onions, and celery and spread in the bottom of the roaster. Don't forget to add a cup of water so they'll cook instead of burning. They taste delicious plain, but I like to puree them and add them to the gravy -- yum!

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Tuck the ends of the legs under the flap of skin as described above. Rub the skin of the turkey with salt (very little or none if brined) or your favorite herbs (optional). Turn the turkey breast down on the roasting rack and roast for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, turn the bird breast side up. SKIP THE BIG DANGEROUS TURKEY FORKS. People keep giving them to me as gifts for some reason. While they look like terrific weapons for use in a mystery, I find them extremely cumbersome. I get a much better grip on the turkey if I grab it with a clean kitchen towel on each end. But watch out! There may be HOT turkey juices inside the cavity of the bird. Be sure you don't tilt it so that the juices penetrate the towel.

5. WHEN IS IT DONE? Brined meat cooks faster, so take that into consideration if you brine your turkey. Last year I made a note that my 13 pound turkey was done in 1 hour and 45 minutes. A larger turkey might take a little longer. Do NOT rely on those little pop-up timers! I've had many of them get stuck -- they wouldn't have popped up if the turkey charred.

The best method of checking for doneness is a thermometer. I'm partial to my Thermapen, but there are less expensive thermometers that work well, too -- never mind how many of them I've killed . . .

But how done is done?

The USDA says a turkey is done at 165 degrees.
Serious Eats -- The Food Lab says your turkey is overdone if it exceeds 150 degrees.
Most of the websites I checked go with the USDA recommendation of 165, but I wouldn't let it cook any longer than that!
(Note: I tried cooking a turkey breast to 150. Definitely undercooked! Shoot for 165!)

If you're only roasting a turkey breast, you might want to read my old blog post where I side with Rachel Ray about the temperature of the oven for roasting a breast. It goes against most of the turkey breast recipes I found on the net.

It sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn't -- and the rewards are scrumptious.

I wish you all a moist turkey, wonderful friends, loving families and the time to enjoy them.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Talking Turkey

We've had such fun with our Iron Chef Pumpkin week. Next month we'll be featuring another secret ingredient, suggested by our winner Molly Ebert. But don't despair. We're taking suggestions for a secret ingredient to cook with in January. It's not too early to send in your suggestions. And just for the holidays, this time the prize is a Junior's Cheesecake, delivered right to your door!

Today we're kicking off a week of Thanksgiving recipes here at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. Most of us are heading to the grocery store to buy a turkey this week, so I thought I'd start with some information to help us all understand what we're buying.

Next Saturday, I'll post about the basics of brining and roasting a turkey. If you're picking up a turkey and you plan to brine it, don't forget to buy a box of Kosher salt.

Heritage turkeys are probably the most expensive turkeys you'll find. Considered by many to be the cream of the crop, they supposedly have a richer flavor, are moister, and have a preferred texture. Most turkeys you'll find in the grocery store are broad-breasted white turkeys. Heritage turkeys include breeds like Narragansett, Bourbon Red, and Jersey Buff. These birds are often organic and free-range as well. You'll note that I said "supposedly" above. These birds come with a hefty price tag ranging from $95 to $225. I have not eaten one so I can't claim to know if they actually are better. Most heritage turkey farmers take orders very early in the fall, so you may have trouble finding one now, although some specialty stores may have ordered extras. One of my favorite sources of local foods is and you might still find one there.

Apparently, the label "organic" is evolving, at least where turkeys are concerned. A bit of research indicates that the label means, at the very least, that the turkeys have been fed organic feed, have had access to outdoors, and no antibiotics have been administered. Hormone use is prohibited in all poultry, so that shouldn't be an issue in any turkey. Organic turkeys are generally available between $30 and $80 depending on the size.

These turkeys have had access to the outdoors. Not only is it kinder and more humane to raise turkeys with room to roam, their diet is more varied, which many claim produces superior meat.

Kosher turkeys are slaughtered in a method designed to rid the bird of blood. They are prepared under Rabbinical supervision and salted. Because of the salting, these birds should not be brined, but are often considered superior in flavor.

These birds have been injected with a solution to make them moister and more flavorful. The solution can be a variety of ingredients, including water, butter, fats, broth, and spices. The ingredients are generally listed on the front of the turkey. Since they have already been injected with a solution, these birds should not be brined.

Fresh food is always better than frozen (well, except for ice cream!). But frozen turkeys are perfectly good. You simply have to remember to thaw them well in advance. Don't worry, you'll get a reminder from me next Saturday when I tackle the basics of roasting.

~ Krista

Is it turkey yet?

Not yet, Queenie. Soon. Very soon!