High Heat Wood Fired Roast Turkey
We did our thanksgiving turkey in the oven last week. I have followed the high heat method for years, so it was quite adaptable to a wood fired oven.
My steps starting the day before :
0. Butterfly the bird. I list this as 0 since it's totally optional, but makes it easier to organize the bird so that all the skin is up (no flipping required) and the breast and thighs get done at about the same time.
1. Brine the bird for 4 hours in 2 gallons of water, 1 cup normal salt, 1 cup sugar. My understanding of the high heat method is that this step is really optional, but I always end up doing it.
2. Rinse bird thoroughly, pat dry, and leave uncovered on a plate with paper towells in the fridge overnight to thoroughly dry out the bird. This step is VERY important for the high heat method.
3. On the day of... start the fire. I actually pre-heated the oven the night before and started a new fire the day of... when the soot burned off the roof and the IR thermometer I borrowed was zeroed out (it only goes to 600 degrees) the oven was about ready. This took about 1 hour to 90 minutes.
I spread the coals to each side and the hearth was about about 570 with the ceiling totally maxed out. Then I piled extra bricks in the mouth of the oven and went to prep the bird.
4. Oil the bird everywhere with your favorite fat (olive oil or butter in our house) and season it with salt, pepper, and any dry rub you might like to use (we used finely chopped fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme).
5. Arrange bird for the oven.
Notes on this step.
Do NOT stuff (not for this high heat method). We arranged the insides of the bird to lay on a rack over a roasting pan full of our stuffing (made up of cubed sourdough bread, hot italian turkey sausage, sage, thyme, onions, celery, some egg and half n half. The drippings all fall into the stuffing.
The skin is up with the thighs floating over the lower breast.
This is the other reason we butterflied the bird. I roasted the backbone and giblets to make drippings, then stock, and gravy.
I've also done this without butterflying, but you don't get the benefit of drippings in the stuffing and have to use the stock for that instead. If you don't butterfly the bird, start it the first half of the cooking time upside down, and then flip it to finish.
The important thing about this fast, high heat method is to avoid stuffing the bird. That is only for slow roasted methods. I like this approach because I always want/need more stuffing than could fit inside ANY sized bird anyway.
6. Cover loosely with foil and place in center back of the oven.
We cooked an 18 pound bird, which in the high heat method at 500 degrees should take 3 hours, 15 minutes.
Since our oven was hotter, I used the foil (normally you don't) and left it on for 90 minutes. Then I removed the foil and returned the bird to the oven. I added a couple very small logs to the red coals on each side at this stage to keep the oven over 500 degrees.
Cook uncovered until the thigh registers somewhere above 150. From experience I recommend between 155 and 160. For our 18 pounder, this was done at 3 hours (a little early due to the even higher heat).
Remove the bird and tent with foil for at least 20 minutes. It will coast on up to the recommended finishing temperatures. This is the time to finish all your other dishes.
I put the stuffing back in the oven to crisp up the top; reheat the gravy; mash the taters (or reheat them if you made them earlier). We also roasted root veggies and squash in the oven with the turkey for the last hour and I left them to finish while the turkey was resting.
Then carve the turkey (carving a butterflied bird is awkward the first time or two because it's basically upside down) and serve!
My 90+ year old step-grandmother-in-law (how's that for a mouthful) told me that she's had a LOT of turkeys in her life and while last years (1 BBQ'ed and 1 rotisseried), this years was the BEST she'd ever had in her life.
I have to admit, I was pretty amazed myself. I can't wait to try lamb.
High heat cooking time table
Guidelines... obviously my 18 pound turkey was done at a different time (between 2.5-3 hours).
Unstuffed bird; conventional oven at 500 degrees
8-12 pounds 1 hour 45 minutes
12-14 pounds 2 hours 20 minutes
14-18 pounds 2 hours 45 minutes
18-20 pounds 3 hours 15 minutes
20-24 pounds 3 hours 45 minutes
Unstuffed bird; convection oven at 400 degrees
8-12 pounds 1 hour
12-14 pounds 1 hour 30 minutes
14-18 pounds 2 hours
18-20 pounds 2 hours 15 minutes
20-24 pounds 2 hours 40 minutes
You really need to just check with a cooking thermometer for 155 degrees to 165 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh. Also, remember, residual cooking continues for a minimum of half an hour after you remove the turkey from the oven (because the bones retain the heat) and the temp just coasts up.
Always allow the turkey to rest before cutting for at least 30 minutes. Longer is actually really good too, which takes a lot of stress out of getting dinner ready. That turkey is still hot enough to serve 1 hour later!
One last note!!!
We need photos
Did you take any pictures? It sounds great.
We were in So Cal seeing family (and going to Disneyland), so this is the first time in years we didn't do our turkey in a brick oven. Our daughters said that they missed our own Thanksgiving at home, so I think we are going to do a re-run this weekend. I'll use your recipe (and take photos). :-)
I got a bit distracted because... in all the excitement of thanksgiving and trying to finish the oven, and a heavy work schedule, and my black belt exam... we also just found out that we've got our first bun in the oven after over 2 years of trying! :D
This recipe is adapted (since I simply can't follow a recipe) from technique and stuff I've learned over the years from my aunt, Chef Marc (www.chefmarc.com) and Cook's Illustrated aka America's Test Kitchen.
Pics are here :p
Re: High Heat Wood Fired Roast Turkey
[QUOTE] we also just found out that we've got our first bun in the oven after over 2 years of trying! :D
Congratulations, How did your sweet little bun turn out ?? Boy or Girl ??
Re: High Heat Wood Fired Roast Turkey
When you cook a turkey in the oven, and the oven gets to cooking temperature, do you leave the coals in or remove them?
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