Oct 31, 2014 05:00AM ● Published by Jason Huddle
By: Kimberly Cassell
In 2012, 254 million turkeys were raised in the U.S. One-sixth of them – 45 million – were consumed on Thanksgiving.
And while tradition once dictated that the turkey be roasted in the oven, there are now many innovative ways to prepare and serve turkey to our Thanksgiving guests.
Before the actual cooking commences, webmd.com offers some health tips on readying the bird: “There are three safe ways to defrost a turkey: in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave. The refrigerator takes the longest – a day for every four to five pounds – but it gets my vote for being the safest.
“Covering a turkey with cold water takes 30 minutes per pound, but you have to change the water every half-hour. The microwave is the quickest, but it can do an uneven job, and you have to cook the turkey immediately after defrosting. With the refrigerator method, you don’t have to do anything other than put a reminder on your calendar so you don’t forget to start defrosting a few days before Thanksgiving.”
Since our Cabarrus County weather often bestows us with mild conditions – even in November – cooking a turkey isn’t limited to the kitchen. Recipes have come out for the grill, smoker and deep-fryer. And the sky’s the limit when it comes to individual tastes in herbs and spices.
Following are five tasty ways to cook the Thanksgiving turkey. Enjoy!
18- to 20-pound turkey
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium white onions, peeled and halved
3 medium celery stalks, halved crosswise
10 medium garlic cloves, peeled
6 medium ripe pears (Anjou, Bosc, etc.)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken broth (room temperature)
8 medium fresh sage leaves
5 sprigs fresh thyme
1 medium dried bay leaf
1 1/2 cups hard pear cider (Ace Perry, Wyder’s, etc.)
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Remove the giblets and neck, reserving the neck. Rinse the turkey under cold water and pat it dry with paper towels. Make a three-inch-long cut through the skin where the turkey legs meet the breast. Rub the entire turkey with most of the vegetable oil, then sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Also season the cavity with salt and pepper and place one onion half, one celery piece and two garlic cloves inside.
Place the turkey in a large roasting pan, arranging the neck and remaining onions, celery pieces and garlic cloves in the pan. Roast the turkey for 30 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350°F. Baste the bird every 45 minutes with the pan drippings.
When a meat thermometer inserted into the meatiest part of the thigh reads 145°F. – about 45 minutes before the turkey is done – cut the pears in half, removing the cores and stems. Brush each half with the remaining vegetable oil and season well with salt and pepper. Remove the turkey from the oven and overlap bacon strips across the breast and around the legs. You can also tack down the bacon strips with toothpicks, about one inch from the bacon edges. Arrange the pear halves in the roasting pan and return the turkey to the oven.
Roast the turkey until your meat thermometer reads 155°F. Let the turkey sit for a minimum of 30 minutes before carving. Take the pears from the roasting pan and reserve the onions, but discard any remaining solids in the pan.
To make the gravy, purée the pear halves and reserved onion half in a food processor until smooth, about two minutes; set aside. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, adding the flour when it foams. Whisk continuously until the two are well blended and cook for about two minutes, until the flour starts to release a toasty aroma. Whisk in the chicken broth until smooth, add the herbs and reserved pear purée, and bring to a simmer.
Take your roasting pan and pour off as much grease as you can without removing any of the pan juices and set the pan over two burners over medium heat. When the juices begin to sizzle, slowly pour in the pear cider and cook, scraping up any browned bits with a flat spatula. Add your cider mixture to the gravy and stir to combine. Simmer until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then strain through a fine mesh strainer. Carve the turkey and serve with the gravy.
Recipe courtesy of Aida Mollenkamp and Kate Ramos
9- to 10-pound turkey
One 12- to 24-ounce can of beer
2 teaspoons spicy dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon paprika
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4-cup canola oil
Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium (about 350 degrees F.) on one side. Open the beer can and pour out a few tablespoons before inserting it into the cavity of the turkey. You can also pour the beer into a turkey sitter or sit the can of beer in a beer-can turkey stand before sitting the turkey on top of it. In any case, your turkey will be sitting upright.
Mix together the mustard powder, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cumin, and salt and pepper. Once you’ve removed the neck and giblets, rinse the turkey under cold water and pat it dry with paper towels. Rub the cavity with two to three teaspoons of the spice mixture, then brush the outside of the turkey with the canola oil. Rub the rest of your spice mixture over the outside of the turkey.
Place the turkey on the cooler side of the grill and close the grill’s lid. You want the meat thermometer to read 185˚F. when inserted into the meatiest part of the thigh and 170˚F. when inserted into the breast – usually two to three hours is required for doneness. The turkey juices will be clear.
Use caution when taking the turkey off the grill, as well as the sitter or stand. Throw away any remaining beer. Let the turkey sit for a minimum of 20 minutes before carving.
Recipe courtesy of Cat Cora
15- to 18-pound turkey
Peanut oil for frying (about 4 gallons; see note*)
1/2-cup packed dark brown sugar
6 tablespoons dry mustard
6 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons filé powder
(Filé is powdered sassafras leaves, in the dried spices section of grocery stores.)
2 teaspoons hot paprika
1/2-teaspoon ground black pepper
Mix the rub ingredients together and set aside. Remove the neck and giblets, rinse the turkey under cold water and pat it dry with paper towels. Make a three-inch-long cut through the skin where the turkey legs meet the breast. The oil will be able to drain away and the thigh meat to cook completely.
Coat the turkey evenly with the rub, both inside and out. Place it in a plastic bag and then into the refrigerator overnight.
On Thanksgiving Day, heat the oil in your turkey fryer to 350°F. While the oil is heating, take the turkey from the refrigerator and allow it sit inside the bag at room temperature for 30 minutes. Then take it from the bag and lightly blot it with paper towels to remove any excess moisture.
Place the turkey on the frying rack neck first. Using the grab hook, slowly lower the turkey into the heated oil; this will take at least 90 seconds and the oil will boil rapidly. To ensure your safety from oil spatter, you can wear heatproof gloves and safety goggles.
Unfasten the hook from the frying rack once the bird is in the oil and fry it approximately three minutes per pound. When ready, a meat thermometer inserted into the inner part of the thigh should read 155°F. Slowly remove the turkey with the grab hook, allowing the hot oil to drain off. Then allow it to sit on a baking sheet an additional few minutes to let even more oil drain. Take the turkey inside and let it sit for a minimum of 15 minutes before removing it from the rack and carving.
*Note: Take your wrapped, uncooked turkey, place it in your deep-fryer and add enough water to cover the bird completely. Take it out of the pot and measure the water. That’s how much peanut oil you will need on cooking day.
Recipe courtesy of Regan Burns
Olive oil (for brushing)
12- to 14-pound turkey
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup maple syrup
3/4-cup coarse salt
3 whole heads garlic, cloves separated (but not peeled) and bruised
6 large bay leaves
1 1/2 cups fresh ginger, coarsely chopped and unpeeled
2 teaspoons dried chili flakes
1 1/2 cups soy sauce
3 quarts water
Handful fresh thyme sprigs
Give yourself about four hours to start the fire, actually cook the turkey and then let it sit. Keep extra charcoal on hand to re-stoke the fire as the turkey cooks.
For the brine, mix all the ingredients in a pot big enough to hold the brine and the turkey. Bring to a simmer and remove from the heat. Remove the neck and giblets, rinse the turkey under cold water and pat it dry with paper towels. Immerse it in the completely cooled brine; add water if the brine doesn’t cover the bird entirely. Refrigerate for two to four days, turning the turkey over twice daily.
On Thanksgiving Day, take the turkey out of the pot of brine, pat it dry and brush it lightly with the olive oil. Light approximately 30 charcoal briquettes or small pieces of hardwood charcoal in your grill. When the coals are hot (spotted gray), push half the coals to one side of the grill and half to the other. Place an aluminum-foil drip pan that’s at least one inch deep in the center of the grill, between the briquettes. Put about 1/4-cup of wood chips onto a double layer of aluminum foil and set one on each of the two piles of hot coals.
With the upper rack of the grill in place, center the turkey on it, breast side up, over the drip pan. Cover the grill and partially close the air vents, regulating the vents to keep the wood chips smoking and the coals burning slowly. Check the grill about every 25 minutes, and add charcoal and wood chips as needed. This recipe calls for the cooking temperature in the grill to stay between 275° and 325°F.
Smoke the bird for 1 1/2 to two hours, remove the wood chips and continue cooking until the turkey is done. It should take three to 3 1/2 hours to cook a 12- to 14-pounder. You want the meat thermometer to read 165˚F. when inserted into the meatiest part of the thigh or breast. The juices will run clear. Let the turkey sit for a minimum of 20 minutes before carving.
Recipe courtesy of John Ash
12- to 14-pound turkey
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2-bunch fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, plus more for garnish as desired
Salt and ground black pepper
2 cups pomegranate juice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and gently smashed
3/4-cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2-cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 fresh pomegranates, seeds for garnish (optional)
Pre-heat oven to 350˚F. Blend the butter and chopped rosemary in a food processor, using a fork or spoon to make sure the rosemary is well mixed. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Remove the neck and giblets, rinse the turkey under cold water and pat it dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the cavity and skin liberally with salt and pepper. Gently lift the skin from the turkey breast with your fingers and massage 3/4 of the seasoned butter onto the breast meat. Take the remaining butter and rub it evenly all over the outside of the bird. Place it in the oven in a large roasting pan with a rack.
While the turkey is roasting, mix the pomegranate juice and sugar in a small saucepan, gently simmering until the sugar dissolves. Add the garlic, honey, orange juice, olive oil and rosemary sprigs, and gently simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until the pomegranate glaze is thick and syrupy.
Roast the turkey for two hours, brushing/basting it entirely with the glaze every 30 minutes. Cook until your meat thermometer reads 170˚ F. when inserted into the meatiest part of the thigh – about three hours or 15 minutes per pound. If the legs or breast brown too quickly, cover them with foil.
Remove the turkey from the oven when done and set it aside until it’s cool enough to touch before carving.
Recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence