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kebwi 08-17-2010 03:37 PM

Turkey mistakes?
I've read lots of rave reports of successful turkeys. What I would like to know is what I shouldn't do. What should I be careful about? For example, I am stunned that people cook turkeys at 600F without charring them to a crisp...but I trust you -- if I put a turkey in at that temp, I assume it will actually work.

What shouldn't I do? What would ruin it? What would be a mistake?

splatgirl 08-17-2010 08:22 PM

Re: Turkey mistakes?
Don't overcook it.
Don't brine or rub it with anything you don't like the flavor of. For instance, once years ago I used a brine recipe that had citrus, lots of herbs AND juniper berries and cloves something. I didn't love the idea of all of those flavors together and it turned out you could taste all that in the finished product. Not horrible, just not loveable.
But really, other than overcooking, it's pretty hard to mess up. If it makes you feel better, my first WFO turkey was a free-range organic, $90+ experiment. Turned out fabulously, but if you're worried, don't practice on a $90 bird ON Thanksgiving. Chickens for dinner make good practice.

kebwi 08-18-2010 08:49 AM

Re: Turkey mistakes?
I was thinking of just brining in salt water. By overcooking, do you mean time or temperature? I would be careful about the time of course, especially in light of the observation that these WFO birds cook faster than usual, but what about temperature?

egalecki 08-18-2010 10:59 AM

Re: Turkey mistakes?
No stuffing. Just use some carrots, celery and lemon in the cavity.

I didn't put mine in at 600- it was more like 500, and I left the door ajar. You will have to check on it to be sure you aren't incinerating it, but it will work.

I did a nearly 24 pounder not long ago (cleaning out the freezer yielded some things I had to use or lose) and it turned out great. The skin was nice and crispy and the meat was nice and moist.

I suspect that if you could get your oven down to about 350 at the time you need to put the bird in, you could just slap the door on and come back in an hour and check it, and keep checking like that- I just didn't have time to get the oven down to that temp before I put it in, so it went in higher.

The worst mistake I can think of would be to stuff it, which would make the timing/cooking a horrible mess. If you want stuffing, put it in a bowl on the side and squirt some of the juices from the bird on it while it cooks.

kebwi 08-18-2010 11:13 AM

Re: Turkey mistakes?
Hmmm, I'm pretty serious about stuffing. I'm not fond of the idea of not stuffing a bird. I'll think about it.

splatgirl 08-18-2010 12:00 PM

Re: Turkey mistakes?
I'm firmly in the no stuffing camp. IMO, it's the #1 way to overcook, but I have not done a stuffed bird in the WFO so can't comment on that specifically. I never stuff other than tossing in a few hunks of veg and citrus.

The brine itself doesn't matter, but I will ALWAYS brine.

As far as overcooking, time AND temp. Check my thread on WFO turkey cookery from last fall...IIRC I put it in when the oven was ~700 or something and it came out gorgeous and perfect. I can't remember if I butterflied it, but that would make a difference for temp. A whole-carcasss, stuffed turkey would need to go longer at lower temp vs. hot and fast, IME.
As I said, I had done many chickens so I had a pretty good idea it would be fine going in that hot.
Also keep in mind that a turkey in a roasting pan is A LOT of mass that will be sucking heat. Let it warm up from fridge temp before you put it in, and give yourself a hotter starting temp than you would normally think to go with.

Stan 09-25-2010 07:02 PM

Re: Turkey mistakes?
-Don't ignore it (ie, have a thermometer in it and have foil ready in case anything gets too brown).
-Don't put it in cold.
-Don't forget to brine it.
-Don't be afraid of the high heat in the oven. Put a 70 degree (F) bird in a 500 degree oven and the oven temp will drop. You'll have enough heat to cook the bird, so just keep an eye on it.

Something I WILL do this year is have foil ready for the wing tips and drumstick tips. They got a little burned last year.

As long as you keep an eye on it and pull it as soon as it gets done, it's kind of hard to go wrong in a WFO. The cooking environment is a lot more forgiving for poultry.

In bocca al lupo,

Derkp 09-25-2010 09:16 PM

Re: Turkey mistakes?
About 3 weeks ago on a sunday we did a family pizza trial run. On Tuesday morning the oven was still 240 ish and I put in a bird right from the fridge. I put it in a 14 inch, deep lodge dutch oven and covered with foil. Stuffed with carrots, onions.

My mistake, (this was my first bird, abt 14 lbs) was that I left it in for about 10 1/2 hours. The breast was a litle dry, dark meat was very juicy. All of the meat fell off of the bones.

I think that mabey 8- 9 hours at that temp would be great. I have a new bbq thermometer that I can thread through my door so I can keep better track of the temps.


splatgirl 09-25-2010 09:40 PM

Re: Turkey mistakes?
+1 on having foil handy for covering the browning too much bits.

dmun 09-26-2010 01:29 PM

Re: Turkey mistakes?
Old cookbooks, of my grandmother's generation, said to put any roast in at a high temperature, and then to turn the heat down. They said that this was to sear the meat to keep the juices in, but I think part of it is that generations of cooks worked on declining temperature curves, just as in our brick ovens.

A few suggestions. Forget the pop-up timer. They are calibrated by food industry liability lawyers. If you cook a turkey until the timer pops up, you might as well just throw it right out. Get yourself a meat thermometer, and learn how to use it.

Make sure the turkey is thoroughly thawed, if you buy a frozen one. The number one cause of turkey sashimi is frozen-in-the-middle turkeys.

Brining is a pain. It's been shown that you can get almost the same results from dry salting and wrapping in plastic overnight.

If you can skip the traditional presentation, you get better, faster results by cutting up the bird, or at least cutting out the backbone and butterflying it. The food nannies say we shouldn't be roasting stuffing inside the bird anyway.

But really, the main thing is not to overcook it. You can buy the best hand fed, free range, 4H pet turkey that money can buy, and still turn it into cardboard, if you aren't paying attention.

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