Nov 21 2010

What’s Cooking: Turkey Technology

(1 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

I never went to cooking school or took home economics in high school, I was too busy blowing up the attic with my chemistry set. I did like to eat and eat stuff that tasted good and looked pretty, plus my mother couldn’t cook to save her life let alone mine and Pop’s, that was her mother’s venue. So I watched learned and innovated. I also read cook books and found that cooking and baking where like chemistry and physics. I know, this is Translator’s territory, but I do have a degree in biochemistry.

Cooking a turkey is not as easy as the directions on the Butterball wrapping looks. My daughter, who is the other cook in the house (makes the greatest breads, soups and stews) is in charge of the Turkey for the big day. Since we have a house full of family and friends, there are four, yeah that many, 13 to 15 pound gobblers that get cooked in the one of the two ovens of the Viking in the kitchen and outside on the covered grill that doubles as an oven on these occasions. Her guru is Alton Brown, he of Good Eats on the Food Network. This is the method she has used with rave reviews. Alton’s Roast Turkey recipe follows below the fold. You don’t have to brine, the daughter doesn’t and you can vary the herbs, the results are the same, perfection. My daughter rubs very soft butter under the skin and places whole sage leaves under the skin in a decorative pattern, wraps the other herbs in cheese cloth and tucks it in the cavity. If you prefer, or are kosher, canola oil works, too.

Bon Appetite and Happy Thanksgiving

Good Eats Roast Turkey


   * 1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey

For the brine:

   * 1 cup kosher salt

   * 1/2 cup light brown sugar

   * 1 gallon vegetable stock

   * 1 tablespoon black peppercorns

   * 1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries

   * 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger

   * 1 gallon heavily iced water


For the aromatics:

   * 1 red apple, sliced

   * 1/2 onion, sliced

   * 1 cinnamon stick

   * 1 cup water

   * 4 sprigs rosemary

   * 6 leaves sage

   * Canola oil


Click here to see how it’s done.

2 to 3 days before roasting:

Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F.

Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.

Early on the day or the night before you’d like to eat:

Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.

Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.

Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey’s cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.

Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.

For you really geekie cooks here is a great article about the “Turkey Physics” involved in getting it all done to a juicy turn.


  1. TMC
  2. Eddie C

    They kept adding more and more guest to the show before Thanksgiving and it became obvious that the one turkey I worked so hard over was not going to be enough.

    So I ordered another turkey and with no time to make another stuffing, I just stuck a pound of butter in the cavity and covered the skin with the standard spices.

    When the turkey came out everyone screamed with joy. The staff was so health conscious that I was forced to claim “secret recipe” and for the rest of the run of the show everyone wanted to know how I made that turkey.

    The only reason I didn’t tell them was they would have beat me up.    

  3. Cold Blue Steel

    to the turkey, although I may put it on the smoker for an hour just to give it touch of hickory seasoning. Typically, I use an electric roaster oven that produces an incredibly moist turkey.

    Thanks for the info.

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