Talk Turkey To Me – The Hunt Is On
Sexagenarians have had 6 decades of life to become masters at this trade of standing in the kitchen, or by the pit, and know just what is needed to make a special holiday meal out of these birds.
With both Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner, it’s time to get our game on and show younger generations that we know how to do it right. Slow cooking turkey is not something that can be rushed and as with many foods in life, the more time taken to prepare them, the better the flavors.
So off to the store or butcher shop you go. Some of you will be heading out with some good friends to do an annual hunt so that you can get the best the wild has to offer.
As any mother or father can tell you, we are always asked what is the best way to cook that perfect bird. And we always take pride in giving out at least one little secret to making it a better meal. What’s your secret?
Fresh, Frozen Or Wild – You Have The Right To Choose
No matter what you decision will be, there is still plenty of prep time involved to make this into a fabulous meal and hope to more rave reviews this year again.
* If using frozen, please be sure to thaw it out well in advance. Never cook a frozen turkey for health safety.
Time to get our hands dirty so to speak and put on your aprons. First off, let’s get that bird cleaned up. Wash your turkey very well as you want to make sure that you eliminate any bacteria trying to hitch a ride. Pat the skin dry before seasoning.
You will want to pull out your rack and a drip pan for this bird to sit on after you do your seasonings. Generally a good idea is to start with salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, sage and garlic powder. Don’t forget to season the cavity as well. Set in the refrigerator uncovered for a good 24 hours to allow the seasonings to begin absorbing into the skin as well as allowing it to dry. This will give it better chance for a better, crispier skin when cooking.
When you are ready to start your cooking marathon, set your oven to 450 degrees. Place that bird with the rack and drip pan into the oven and cook for 45 minutes to an hour. This will help insure that those little critters mentioned earlier get cooked out of existence.
Now the fun begins. If you are like me, pour a nice glass of wine to enjoy while being the master of your kitchen. Bring the bird out of the oven and re-set your oven to 170 degrees as this will be the perfect temperature for a long cooking time. Finish seasoning if needed and add any stuffing (optional). Some cooks like to pour apple cider over the bird and drizzle it with oil. Myself, I have been known to pour bourbon over the turkey to give it a rather pleasing and different flavor.
Time Is On Your Side – Into The Oven
In you go Mr. Bird. See ya later. Slow cooking turkey at 170 degrees, you will need to figure on 1 hour for every pound. Now the decision is to whether you cook it all day or, would you prefer doing it overnight. Once you know how many hours it will take it then is an easy decision. What else need to be prepped?
Be sure that you cook your turkey thoroughly and use a good cooking thermometer. You want to be sure that the meat is at least 165 degrees at it’s thickest part(breast) and if you stuffed the bird, you will want that to be at least 165 degrees as well. The thighs should be at about 170 to 180 degrees.
This is a no sweat way to cook the bird since you are using a low temperature, you cannot overcook the turkey. As well, a resting period will not be needed when it is done and can be carved right away.
Good food, good wine or other beverage of choice, and a great family get together. Enjoy the compliments and don’t forget to give out at least one little secret. After all, one of the in-laws wants to be your friend.
Do You Smoke – Wood Or Electric
This year, the wife and I have decided to use the smoker for the turkey and although it takes a bit more preparation time, it is well worth it
Step 1. Thaw that bird!
Step 2. Brine your bird. There are many ways to brine and at the very basic, it starts with salt, sugar (optional), and water. You can look online for many brining solution recipes and it is just a matter of choice. It is a wise decision to soak in the brine for 24 hours prior to cooking.
Step 3. Prep your smoker per your manufacturers instructions.
Step 4. Rinse your bird after the brining and pat dry.
Step 5. Get your seasonings on and don’t forget to truss up those legs and wings. Now you are ready.
At this point it will be a matter of which temperature you will use as different manufacturers and cooks each have their versions on what is best. The idea here is slow cooking turkey so let that be your clue. It is also very easy to over-smoke your bird so, please take it easy on the poor fellow. Using pecan or apple and even cherry woods will give your bird a wonderful flavor to go along with the color. Most of the smoked flavoring will happen in the first several hours.
Use a cooking thermometer and insert it into the breast. You are looking for 165 degrees and be sure to check the thighs for a temperature of 175 to 180 degrees.
A Real Sit Down Dinner – Putting Left Overs To Work
Dinner is Served! A quick thanksgiving prayer or remembrance and you are ready. Time to carve at table side and pass around all the goodies for everyone to get some of their favorites.
At this point it’s job well done and time to relax. Enjoy that time with family. And then will come dessert. What specialty did you create this year? Traditional or something completely different. One of my favorites is a pumpkin-apple pie and if your household is anything like mine, there are more than enough varieties of desserts to choose from.
Of course after such a meal, everyone wants to rest due to possible overindulgence or is it just the tryptophan taking hold of you. In any case, there will be a clean up time and also dealing with the left overs.
A simple method of what to do with all those turkey bones is to take a large stock pot, add vegetables and aromatics, put in the left-over carcass and add water to cover. Let this simmer low and slow for several hours and when finished, you can strain it and save the broth you have just created to make turkey and rice soup or any of a thousand different things you can dream up. The alternative is to just throw anything with bones and be done with it. Your choice.
Have a great Thanksgiving and enjoy your time with family and friends.
As for myself, the thought of a nice salmon is starting to sound good for Christmas for a change. Some like goose and others prefer a nicely baked ham. I love choices. What’s your favorite(s)?
Do you have any secrets to cooking your turkey that you would love to share? Be sure to leave you comments and thank you for sharing with us.
That’s my show!