One of the challenges in cooking a turkey is that the dark meat needs more time to cook than the breast or wings. Basting helps, but each time you open the oven you lose heat and time as the oven has to adjust the temperature. Here are a few tips for cooking turkey so you get perfect white and dark meat.
I thought it was pretty disgusting when I heard my neighbor’s tip for perfect turkey – placing a whole pound’s worth of bacon – on top of the turkey. As the bacon cooked the fat kept the white meat moist without really changing the taste of the turkey. At the appropriate time, they removed (and ate) the cooked bacon to let the skin brown.
Placing a foil tent or using a roaster with a top basically steams the turkey keeping anything from drying out. About a half hour before it’s done, remove the tent or top, baste with oil and turn the heat up to 400 – 450 degrees to brown and crisp the skin.
Speaking of high heat, some advocate high cooking times instead of the normal 325 degrees. The secret is to generously butter or oil the top and under the breast skin to keep things from drying out. My grandmother used to do this – much to the initial disgust of others who thought they’d be eating shoe leather – but her turkeys were great…and very brown!
Cut the breast, legs and wings from the turkey and stagger the cooking time. Start with the dark meat then add the breast and wings about 30 – 45 minutes later. I like to place stuffing in part of the bottom of the pan in a foil or glass dish (need the other side for drippings!) to give my stuffing that “inside the bird” taste. Place a rack over the dish with the turkey parts on top so they cook on all sides.
Have the butcher butterfly your turkey. They’ll remove the back bone so you can flatten it out. The advantage of this method is that the dark meat cooks faster though you’ll still want to baste the breast. Place on a flat rack in the roaster – over your stuffing as described above if you want some drippings in your dressing. Or grill the turkey at high, direct heat (breast side up) for an hour/until the top browns then switch to indirect heat and flip it over cooking until it reaches the proper internal temperature.
I’ve heard lots of stories about how moist turkeys are cooked in electric roasters so I got one for a recent Thanksgiving when I had a huge crowd and only one oven. I followed this recipe
which ensured browned skin and though I didn’t have much luck with that (I ended up finishing it off in a regular oven) the white meat was the best ever!
This kind of scares me, but deep frying is not only quick but all that oil keeps everything moist. You’ll need special equipment (a deep fryer) plus a safe place to run it outdoors (concrete/brick pad – and in covered area if you’ve got rain or snow – avoid using the garage, though). And you’ll need a way to dispose of all that oil. But for all the work you’ll be rewarded with juicy – not greasy – turkey.
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