It’s Thanksgiving time again! However, although a lot of people love Thanksgiving itself, they DON’T like Turkey.
Turkey can be difficult to cook correctly. It takes just a few minutes too long to turn what should have been a succulent, moist bird into old leather boot!
Now we know you don’t have to have turkey on Thanksgiving. But let’s face it, Thanksgiving without turkey is like the 4th of July without fireworks.
So we’ve decided to round up some of the best ways to cook your turkey this Thanksgiving that are guaranteed to tantalise your tastebuds.
Any of these 5 different cooking methods will give you turkey that tastes as far from old leather boot as you could expect. Which is best? Read on and see which fits you:
Braising – the ultimate for moisture.
If you are expecting guests who you know dislike turkey because of its natural dryness, then braising is the one cooking method that will change their mind.
However, braising does involve hacking apart the bird. If you dream of having this amazing centrepiece gracing your dinner table, this is not the cooking method for you.
Grilling – the best space saver
If you have a small kitchen, or you’re expecting to feed a small army, grilling means the turkey can go outside, freeing up your kitchen for chopping vegetables, making casseroles etc.
Downsides of this method is the weather, which you can’t control!
Deep frying –the quickest method
Most advocates say this is the most delicious way to prepare turkey, and it’s the ideal cooking method for anyone who wants a super-fast Thanksgiving meal.
Keep in mind, this is also the unhealthiest cooking method and is laden with calories. If you are watching your weight, or know your guests are, you may want to give this a miss.
Smoking – for the creative chefs amongst you
Using different types of wood can create different flavours. This is the ideal cooking method for anyone who loves getting compliments for creating deliciously different turkey.
As with grilling, this is an outdoor cooking method, so keep an eye on the weather. Also, this is the longest cooking method, taking anywhere from 6-10 hours depending on the size of bird.
Roasting – for the traditionalist at heart.
We know that there will always be people who can’t bear the thought of not having roast turkey on Thanksgiving.
If you want a golden roast turkey centrepiece adorning your dinner table, follow our tips for creating succulent turkey that melts in the mouth (instead of so dry it needs forcing down with a big glug of wine)!
Braising TipsIf you have a whole turkey, separate it into pieces. This allows the moisture to seep into all parts of the turkey.
Sear the turkey pieces on all sides using oil before you start braising. This adds colour and a more concentrated flavour.
If you want to use vegetables, sauté the vegetables in oil for a minute or two. We love using onions, garlic, celery, carrots……anything that is aromatic.
For the liquid, you can use meat or vegetable stock, juice, wine, beer or just water – it’s up to you!
Make sure the liquid you use comes to halfway up the sides of the meat in your pot. When you submerge the turkey completely, you are stewing, not braising.
Cover the pot with a lid. This breaks down the meat fibres even further while ensuring moisture stays in the pot.
You can choose to braise your turkey by keeping the pot on your stovetop, or by using your oven. If using the oven, the cooking temperature should be between 325°F to 350°F.Cook until your turkey is fork tender.
Once the turkey is done, remove it from your pot with tongs, and then reduce the liquid on the stovetop by bringing it to a boil. You can add a dash of flour or cornstarch if you feel the liquid has not thickened enough to your liking. Skim off any fat from the turkey that floats to the top.
We can’t get enough of this Lodge EC3CC33 Enameled Cast Iron Covered Casserole when braising.Made from hardwearing cast iron, it has the best heat distribution creating uniform temperature – no overly hot areas that can dry out your turkey! It has a tight fitting lid, so no moisture escapes when braising. We also found that it reduces liquids really well. What’s more, you can use it on any stovetop (electric, gas, ceramic etc) as well as in the oven.
Grilling TipsBefore you start heating, apply a thin coating of vegetable oil to the grill rack. This stops the bird from sticking to the grill.
Use the grill cover as this will reduce the amount of fuel you require and stop flare ups.
Use spatulas or tongs to turn your turkey. Don’t pierce the turkey using knives or forks as this causes the natural juices to escape, causing the dreaded dried out turkey!
When the turkey is about two thirds done, cut the string used to hold the legs together so this part of the turkey is cooked through.
If you are using a sauce or glaze with sugar in it, apply it to the turkey about 10-15 minutes before it’s done. Any earlier, and the sugar will caramelize and burn.
Don’t depend on grill times you find in recipes! The time it takes depends on the size of bird, outside air temperature, wind and altitude of where you live. Grilling can also cause the surface to brown quickly, which makes you assume the bird is done. Buy a good quality meat thermometer to make sure your turkey has reached a safe temperature internally.
Catch the turkey drippings in a foil drip pan. These drippings make the most gorgeous gravy!
We love using our Weber 741001 Original Kettle 22-Inch Charcoal Grill.The bowl and lid are formed perfectly ensuring heat circulates inside the grill evenly (no hot spots drying out your turkey).You can also control the heating inside the unit without actually lifting the lid, keeping heat and moisture in.The heavy-duty plated steel grates can hold enough heat to create beautiful sear marks. What’s more, this is one of the easiest grills to set up from scratch!
Deep Frying TipsOpt for a small to medium sized turkey (maximum 15 pounds). Apart from the obvious safety concerns with lifting and lowering large birds into boiling oil, the larger the bird, the longer the cooking time. The extra time can mean the skin is over exposed to the oil becoming overcooked.
To reduce accidents with splattering oil, thoroughly dry the interior and exterior of the turkey.
Puree the marinade ingredients so the marinade can pass through the needle easily.
Inject 60% of the marinade deep into the breast muscles, 30% into the thigh and leg muscles, and 10% into the wings. Make sure you inject the marinade deep, and not just under the skin, to stop the hot oil splattering and popping.
Allow the turkey to sit for around 30-45 minutes before frying. This allows the marinade to permeate the turkey, while also raising the internal temperature of the turkey, which creates less splattering.
Use oils that have a high smoke point, such as refined canola, corn, rice, peanut or sunflower oil.
Check the internal temperature of the turkey (use a good quality meat thermometer). It should be around 170°F in the breast and around 180°F in the thigh.
We love the Bayou Classic Propane Turkey Fryer Kit – Burner and 32qt Stainless Steel Pot.It’s a complete kit with fryer, basket, skewers, marinade injector and thermometer – everything you could possibly need.It’s made from stainless steel, so does not retain odour (unlike aluminium). There is also a pre-marked line that takes out all the guesswork when it comes to how much oil to use.
Smoking TipsSeparate the skin from the breast area. The breast will brine more thoroughly, and you can use dry rubs directly onto the meat. After seasoning, you can re-position the skin and use toothpicks to secure it.
When making brine, boil the salt and sugar with the water so it dissolves completely (instead of dissolving in cold water).
Allow at least 12 hours for brining, if using a small turkey, and preferably up to 24 hours. Larger birds may take up to 48 hours.
Put the turkey uncovered into a fridge overnight after brining. The salt can absorb deeper into the flesh.
Seasoning is where you can get really creative! How about a Creole rub (Creole seasoning,bay leaves, thyme and oregano), a tropical rub (ginger, sugar, orange zest, nutmeg and cloves) or Jerk rub (sugar, onion, garlic and smoke flavouring)?
Use different types of wood to create unique flavours. We love using apple, cherry or oak.
We advise smoking at 275°F which keeps the turkey moist and creates crispy skin. Cooking at lower temperatures can dry the turkey out.
Use a good meat thermometer to check when the turkey is done. The breast meat must be at least 160°F, and the thigh at least 170°F.
Allow the turkey to rest for half an hour after smoking. Position the turkey breast side down so the liquid migrates downwards and moisture distributes itself through the fibres.
Our favourite smoker is the Masterbuilt 20070910 30-Inch Black Electric Digital Smoker, Top Controller.It’s thermostatically controlled to ensure perfect cooking temperatures, and has a digital timer with auto shut-off. It also has 4 smoking racks, which give you plenty of room for vegetables, sausages etc, and a super convenient side-loading wood tray. We also love how it does away with the window. Windowed units tends to lose heat.
Roasting TipsUse fresh turkey instead of frozen. Ice crystals can form when turkey is frozen, which damage the muscle cells. This fluid leaks out when thawing which dries the meat out.
Make sure you take the turkey out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before it goes in the oven. This reduces shrinkage in a hot oven.
Preheat your oven for at least 20 minutes so the temperature is even.
Tying up the legs tightly against the sides can mean the legs take longer to cook, which means you may overcook the breast portion.Tie the legs loosely (or simply don’t bother at all)!
Rub soft butter under the skin to keep the bird moist. You can add herbs and seasoning to the butter if you want even more flavor.
Roasting the bird upside down for the first hour allows the bird to baste itself.
Covering the turkey with foil retains the moisture in the meat. Remove the foil about 45 minutes before the end so your turkey is nicely browned.
Roast your turkey until the juices run clear from the thigh when you pierce it with a skewer or knife.
Use a cooking thermometer to check the internal temperature in the thickest part of the thigh. It should be around 170°F.
The heat from the oven forces all the juices to move to the center of the bird. Allow the turkey to rest for at least 20 minutes before carving so the juice redistributes and you get moister turkey.
We love using the Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Stainless 16-Inch Rectangular Roaster with Rack for roasting. Its stainless steel design makes cleaning a cinch, and the riveted handles make taking the roaster in and out of the oven very safe. The solid stainless steel rack is slightly curved, which helps keep the bird together, as well as allowing heat to circulate. And it comes with a lifetime warranty – this will be used for many years!
Simply pick the method above that fits your particular needs best. You really don’t have to endure dry, ‘old leather boot’ turkey this Thanksgiving!