Let's talk turkey.
November 14, 2018 9:53 AM   Subscribe

It's that time of year when a young person's fancy turns to thoughts of turkey. It's important to note, then, that brining turkeys is out. Low on oven space? Maybe cook that turkey outdoors. Or skip roasting it entirely. Or a bunch of other ways. Should you buy a fancy new gadget to fry your bird? Just be careful, there's a salmonella scare going around right now.
posted by backseatpilot (79 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Why editor in chief Adam Rapoport would rather make braised turkey legs.

Too bad, Rapoport. This is Thanksgiving, and the people want to see a whole turkey on the table.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:55 AM on November 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


Brine poultry forever, asshole media foodie.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:03 AM on November 14, 2018 [11 favorites]


Here was my turkey strategy from last year.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:06 AM on November 14, 2018


I tried wet brining about twice, and decided it wasn't worth the effort.

I've had lots of luck dry-brining/flavoring chickens and turkeys by spreading salt plus whatever else I want* under the skin of the bird, so it can actually get to the meat and flavor it.

*My usual concoction (this is for a roast chicken, double it for a turkey-sized bird):
2 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp dried thyme
1 Tbsp granulated garlic or garlic powder (no salt)
1 Tbsp mustard powder
1 tsp dried tarragon
1 tsp black pepper

posted by Greg_Ace at 10:07 AM on November 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


I'm pleased to learn that the brining trend is perhaps finally fading. I've never understood the hype. I've never found it necessary or even necessarily pleasant, given what it can do to the texture, and it makes the gravy over-salty. I'm not generally a white-meat-fan myself, because why would you eat it when there is dark meat, but I've never understood the anxiety over dried-out white meat when roasting a turkey. Just make sure you don't overcook it and you'll probably be okay. And if you're not okay, well, you'll have some nice non-saline gravy to pour on top, or you can sensibly stick to the dark meat, saving the white meat for tetrazzini and the obligatory sandwiches.

Rapoport can do as Rapoport pleases, but that recipe strikes me as more an average-to-nice weekend/intimate dinner party meal than something for a celebratory feast.

Is this the thread where we fight over where the stuffing goes, though? Because I am ready to die on Inside-The-Bird Hill.
posted by halation at 10:08 AM on November 14, 2018 [7 favorites]


Oh - and alternatively, you can mix the dry seasonings into soft butter, roll the butter into a log using wax paper, freeze the log, then slice it into little medallions to slide under the turkey's skin before cooking. This bastes the bird automatically while it roasts. Yummmm....
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:10 AM on November 14, 2018 [15 favorites]


Worst/most interesting brining experience was a few years back when our hosting relative decided to use a Maneschewitz based brine bc thanksgiving and hannukah overlapped - did some weird things to the color but was overall pretty conclusive proof that whatever advantages brining brings on the moisture front, they are more than lost on the flavor side of the equation.

We do an annual friendsgiving that was almost derailed when the hosts oven went down - they bought a stand-up "air fryer" driven by a propane tank that makes the best turkey ever. we kept using it even after they got the oven working again.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 10:12 AM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


Step 1: Buy a smoked turkey from the butcher.
Step 2: Warm it, don't cook it. It's already been cooked.

Is this the thread where we fight over where the stuffing goes, though? Because I am ready to die on Inside-The-Bird Hill.

Oh, it's on. First: you're screwing with cooking times. How dare you. Second: Unless we're cooking a Thanksgiving Ostrich, the bird's cavity lacks the volume for the amount of stuffing that should be made for a proper meal.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:12 AM on November 14, 2018 [11 favorites]


decided to use a Maneschewitz based brine
....oh. oh my. oh no.

whatever advantages brining brings on the moisture front, they are more than lost on the flavor side of the equation.
...are you sure that wasn't due more to the influence of the Manischewitz?
posted by halation at 10:13 AM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


A turkey that was walking around a farm day before yesterday tastes good pretty much no matter what you do to it. Of course, it costs a month's rent.
posted by wellred at 10:14 AM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


People, all the various vegetable/other side dishes is where the action really is anyway.

Search your feelings. You know it to be true.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:14 AM on November 14, 2018 [17 favorites]


the bird's cavity lacks the volume for the amount of stuffing that should be made for a proper meal.

well i mean obviously there is *more* in a corningware dish baking alongside the turkey. but i only have so much corningware and so much oven space, and there is GOING to be sweet potato casserole (pecan-topped ONLY, marshmallow = monstrosity), so if it's not going in the bird, it's not getting cooked.

besides, the stuffing that gets roasted in the neck cavity is the best stuffing and if i don't have it available for nibbling while i carve, literally no one is getting any of the skin, it simply won't make it to the table.
posted by halation at 10:16 AM on November 14, 2018


Placing an inch or so of stuffing under the breast skin shields the breast meat and adds flavour. Placing an inch or so of stuffing under the breast skin shields the breast meat and adds flavour. Placing an inch or so of stuffing under the breast skin shields the breast meat and adds flavour. Placing an inch or so of stuffing under the breast skin shields the breast meat and adds flavour.

(I've been banging this drum on MeFi for years, I know. But hot damn, is this ever easy and effective.)
posted by maudlin at 10:16 AM on November 14, 2018 [7 favorites]


First time I tried a spatchcock turkey I was blown away by how good the dark meat was. And the backbone contributed to the Best Gravy Every. My wife wasn't thrilled with the turkey flavor though (likely due to veggie/herb mix) so we began a seesaw between Flat Turkey and Round Turkey each year since. It is a Flat Turkey year and I intend to use a different herb mix to find the best combination of traditional round turkey flavor + flat turkey crispness and not-overcooked dark meat.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:16 AM on November 14, 2018 [7 favorites]


I thought this year's fad was the Instant Pot?

Mr E and I recently tried it. We got an 8 lb turkey breast, because a whole big turkey won't fit in our Instant Pot - we have the 6 qt version.

It turned out great and was fast enough we could even do it on a weeknight if we wanted. We will add this to our regular meal rotation. We have only six to feed for Thanksgiving this year so we plan to do it again. Lots less trouble and it frees the oven to cook other dishes.
posted by elizilla at 10:18 AM on November 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


Is this the thread where we fight over where the stuffing goes, though?

Inside the bird but not too deep a layer, leaving plenty of room for air to circulate. Do another lot in a tray or in balls, for people who like it that way.

It feels like Thanksgiving dinner has the same issue as the British Christmas dinner, with foodies eternally proclaiming the death of the bird, in favour of some far more delicious alternative, because they imagine that festive food is mainly about cuisine, when it's actually almost entirely about tradition, ritual and symbolism. It's like suggesting that Liverpool fans quit singing You'll Never Walk Alone and pick something less maudlin; you may have have a point in a musical sense, but in every other sense you've missed the point entirely.
posted by howfar at 10:19 AM on November 14, 2018 [6 favorites]


Last year my turkey was porchetta with orange slices and rosemary between the loin and the belly, and I have no regrets.
posted by gauche at 10:23 AM on November 14, 2018 [11 favorites]


eternally proclaiming the death of the bird
I think eating a live turkey is probably more than most people are ready to accept.
posted by asterix at 10:26 AM on November 14, 2018 [12 favorites]


The year I brined and then spatchcocked the turkey was the one and only year that my dad said, "This is the best turkey I've ever had." It wasn't pretty , but it was delicious and cooked in half the time.
posted by corvikate at 10:28 AM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


speaking from personal experience, it is unquestionably true that porchetta is the best turkey option.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 10:29 AM on November 14, 2018 [7 favorites]


We get a free turkey every year from the roomie's workplace, so we're going to find the biggest one the HEB has and then I think my partner intends to smoke it. No crispy skin off that bird (my personal favorite part of turkey time) and no carcass for soup, but I can't deny that the meat comes out amazing.

And then we'll get a little one later to do the traditional shit with because I will have my traditional soup, dammit!
posted by sciatrix at 10:31 AM on November 14, 2018


No crispy skin off that bird (my personal favorite part of turkey time) and no carcass for soup

Sorry, what? I smoke my birds and get perfectly crispy skin and stock. Salt the skin a couple days in advance and leave it uncovered in the fridge to drive off moisture and you'll get excellent skin. And if you don't like a slightly smoky turkey stock, then I don't know what to tell you.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:34 AM on November 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


First: you're screwing with cooking times. How dare you. Second: Unless we're cooking a Thanksgiving Ostrich, the bird's cavity lacks the volume for the amount of stuffing that should be made for a proper meal.

This is where you put the rest of the stuffing in a separate casserole pan and douse it with the drippings from the pan. Then you mix the stuffing from inside the bird with the other stuffing.

I'm hosting my 2nd-smallest Thanksgiving ever, with only 3 of us, but E. insists on a turkey. I am insisting on stuffing inside the bird.
posted by suelac at 10:36 AM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


No crispy skin off that bird (my personal favorite part of turkey time)

We did Thanksgiving last year at a restaurant (and again this year because we're going out of the country for that weekend), and each plate a came topped with a single square of perfectly crispy turkey skin. They bring the plates out, set them down, and our not quite 16 month old daughter immediately grabbed my wife's piece of skin, shoved the whole thing in her mouth, and ate all of it. It was such an incredible move. I'm not even sure if she ate anything else, but she made sure she got as much skin as she could handle.

(I shared my skin with my wife, because I am nice)
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:38 AM on November 14, 2018 [7 favorites]


All's I know is that brining has worked brilliantly for me for the past, oh, FOREVER, and I'm not gonna stop doing it. I've never, ever had issues with texture and if you're using the correct ratio of salt to water, the drippings are not too salty. At all.

So basically: brine 4 evah, fight me.
posted by cooker girl at 10:41 AM on November 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


We instapotted a whole chicken for the first time a few weeks ago. Got three meals out of it, including soup for less time cooking than doing something on the stovetop. It won't be the last time we do that, I can tell you.

For turkey, making a rub, sorry, dry-brining, has been my MO for more than a decade. It's very low fuss. Tried wet-brining a few times; hated it, mostly because the drippings were terrible for gravy making. Spatchcocking is awesome. We've smoked a few times too. That's fantastic, but a bit more prep, which we don't always have time for.
posted by bonehead at 10:41 AM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Not needing a whole bird, my go-to is Oven-roasted Turkey Breasts with Cornbread Stuffing
posted by mikelieman at 10:42 AM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


I am ready to die on Inside-The-Bird Hill.

First: you're screwing with cooking times


A remote-probe thermometer is absolutely a worthwhile investment, and not just for Thanksgiving. "Cooking times" are fine for approximating/planning, but it is SO much more reliable and consistent to cook to temp (165°F for poultry, but I usually go to 170° which results in tender-but-still-moist meat).
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:46 AM on November 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


There are only 3 of us this year, so I am going to sous vide a boneless turkey breast half and crisp the skin separately, as per Kenji's method at Serious Eats. I'm the only one who likes the skin anyway.
posted by briank at 10:49 AM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


A turkey that was walking around a farm day before yesterday tastes good pretty much no matter what you do to it. Of course, it costs a month's rent.

My in-laws usually do Thanksgiving, but they're renovating their house this year, and so they've handed us (mostly me) the baton. But when my father-in-law offered to buy the turkey, as he has been for a few years, from a local farm, I happily accepted. Because it's an amazing bird, but I suspect it costs about a week's worth of groceries.

I will probably dry-brine and spatchcock it, because we never deliver a whole bird to the table anyhow, and if I can get the thing done in an hour and a half, that's an extra hour and a half I can spend on baking rolls or sweet potato souffle or whatever.
posted by uncleozzy at 10:54 AM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


A turkey that was walking around a farm day before yesterday tastes good pretty much no matter what you do to it.

Don't forget hanging time, which should be about a week for a turkey.
posted by howfar at 11:03 AM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


A turkey that was walking around a farm day before yesterday tastes good pretty much no matter what you do to it. Of course, it costs a month's rent.

Northern New England has its advantages here. Fresh turkey is only in the "a week's worth of groceries" range, and if I really wanted to go all out and learn how to use a shot gun or a bow and arrow, hunting licenses are only $16. Trapping is not allowed; otherwise, it'd be even easier, as there's a flock around here that occasionally strolls through the yard.
posted by damayanti at 11:09 AM on November 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


Step 1: Buy a smoked turkey from the butcher.

Trader Joe's sold pre-cooked smoked half turkeys one year and yeah, those were great. Not perfect maybe, but in terms of quality vs effort? Off the charts.
posted by GuyZero at 11:10 AM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


We're hosting 15 people, including ourselves. I have deep fried in the past but we'll be roasting this year, a 20-22 pound bird. Found the perfect roasting pan for it, very psyched. Might brine, might not. The big deal will be the logistics around timing and making sure everything is the right temperature. Has anyone used convection microwave ovens to heat stuff up?
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:20 AM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


I've had good luck smoking a turkey too. Maybe I'll do that this year in memory of rtha, who was so impressed with the output from my little electric smoker at a meetup that she bought one herself shortly thereafter.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:25 AM on November 14, 2018 [10 favorites]


I'm calling uncle this year. Sides are from Whole Foods and we'll make drumsticks and thighs in the oven. There is just 3 of us.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 11:52 AM on November 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


I share this every year: "Just put the fucking turkey in the oven. And drink some pinot noir."
posted by dnash at 12:01 PM on November 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


every year i am historically disappointed anew that the founding fathers did not go with benjamin franklin's suggestion of having the turkey as the country's national bird bc of hilarity inherent in the ritualized devouring of it as annual celebration
posted by poffin boffin at 12:14 PM on November 14, 2018 [9 favorites]


I will volunteer to foster any turkey someone isn't happy with.
posted by Samizdata at 12:20 PM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


We're crowning our bird this year and tossing the legs and crown in the sous vide. Then, "I'ma call a coupla hard, wine-hittin' mofos, who'll go to work on the homes there with a pair of tongs and a blow torch" Super moist meat? Check. Crispest skin this side of a tanning booth convention? Check. All the room in the oven for the real Turkey Day stars? Double check.
Then, I'll see about having my annual pleasant drunk nap by 5pm, thanksverymuch.
posted by Chrischris at 12:24 PM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


dnash, that is the best video, ever.
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:24 PM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


People with Instant Pots, what model/size do you recommend? I want to request one for Christmas but the choices are really confusing. I'd like to get the smallest size that will handle normal recipes -- I have a 4-quart oval slow cooker that does well in terms of fitting most recipes including a small chicken so I'm using that as a starting point.
posted by tavella at 12:33 PM on November 14, 2018


Last year I spatchcocked a turkey. Just recently I watch an episode of Good Eats where Alton essentially said he would never attempt to spatchcock a turkey because you would need a surgical bonesaw to do it. So I attempted something that even Alton Brown would not. And he was right.

This year it will be a whole turkey breast and a couple of drumsticks for the hardcore. I'll let my butcher do the bone sawing.
posted by Splunge at 12:52 PM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


Alton essentially said he would never attempt to spatchcock a turkey because you would need a surgical bonesaw to do it.

It is tough but not impossible to cut the pelvis of a chicken for spatchcocking using a good 8" chef's knife. I've spatchcocked a turkey but don't remember whether I needed a saw to do it.
posted by gauche at 12:55 PM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Curious, since I haven't tried it: Has anyone here spatchcocked a turkey with a sturdy pair of kitchen/poultry shears?
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:03 PM on November 14, 2018


"I want a deep fried Turkey..."
posted by Windopaene at 1:04 PM on November 14, 2018


On today's episode of Things That Cannot Be Unseen, we have a special body horror/sex crime Thanksgiving treat!
posted by drlith at 1:04 PM on November 14, 2018


Has anyone here spatchcocked a turkey with a sturdy pair of kitchen/poultry shears?

That's how I did it. I strongly recommend against it. I ended up with skinned knuckles through rubber gloves. Which I thoroughly disinfected. If you want a flat bird, have your butcher do it for you.
posted by Splunge at 1:08 PM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Alton essentially said he would never attempt to spatchcock a turkey because you would need a surgical bonesaw to do it..

Hmm, that's some weak-ass shit. Does Alton not have tin snips in his garage? Or a reciprocating saw with a nice fine tooth blade? This is more a matter of over-dainty won't rather than can't, I think.
posted by Chrischris at 1:12 PM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Is there something incredibly different about a surgical bone saw compared to a hacksaw? I mean, it's got the word "hack" right in there, I would think it would be adequate for hacking up a turkey.
posted by drlith at 1:20 PM on November 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


Curious, since I haven't tried it: Has anyone here spatchcocked a turkey with a sturdy pair of kitchen/poultry shears?

Yes. OXO Good Grips Spring-Loaded Poultry Shears, Black

Met expectations.
posted by mikelieman at 1:22 PM on November 14, 2018 [7 favorites]


Step 1: Buy a smoked turkey from the butcher.

Ooo thank you for that reminder! A local barbecue place does turkeys, I'd totally forgot, so if you're looking for a locally smoked one that's also a place to check.

In regards to spatchcocking, I can relate that yes using a pair of cleaned and good pruning shears/branch loppers works pretty well, at least for chickens. Much better even then the admittedly poorer quality kitchen shears I have.
posted by Rufous-headed Towhee heehee at 1:23 PM on November 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


I spatchcock mine and like the reduced cooking time and having it more even overall but it prevents stuffing the bird itself which makes me sad.

Anyway, the secret to making a good turkey is to stop trying some new damned thing every year and just do one thing over and over until you get it right. My grandparents really couldn't cook for shit but I imagine the secret to getting turkey just like grandma used to make, if such a thing is desirable, is practice. Go back in time to her first couple thanksgivings and they were probably pretty rough. 60 years of practice makes a good turkey.
posted by mikesch at 1:36 PM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


Met expectations.

Which were...?
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:50 PM on November 14, 2018


Surely there's a Dremel attachment for spatchcocking?
posted by Burhanistan at 1:50 PM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Does Alton not have tin snips in his garage? Or a reciprocating saw with a nice fine tooth blade?

Heh. I actually have both. But they're not... food safe. Nor do I think I could make them so.
posted by Splunge at 1:57 PM on November 14, 2018


This is another data point in the "Alton doesn't know what the hell he's talking about" tracking chart. He's the anti-Kenji.

You can use cheap shitty dollar store poultry shears to spatchcock a 20-pound bird as long as, and this is where everyone that hates the technique garners their hate from, DO NOT INADVERTENTLY TRY TO SEVER THE SPINE. As long as you stick to the ribs, you are fine.

I'm kinda convinced Alton neither likes food nor cooking.
posted by Keith Talent at 2:06 PM on November 14, 2018 [7 favorites]


I mean the article is kind of a contradiction because the article says that the whole actual factor that this caught on was because Chez Panisse did it many years ago. If they served wet-brined turkey, did they have watery turkey or oversalted gravy? I doubt it. So an alternative explanation is that all these cooking people since have been trying to replicate that magical dinner, but not getting the details right.

Wet-brining or more correctly "equilibrium brining" is a special method for fine control of salt % and to some extent the extra water % in your meat to be cooked. There's a saying, wet-brining as a technique is analogous to sous vide. If you do it wrong, you miss the advantages. For example in Kenji Lopez-Alt's 2012 article, he wet-brines for only a day without a recommended 24 hours of additional resting. Then he cooks it conventionally: if you cooking that breast that you so carefully and precisely brined to an internal temperature of 145 ºF using a 350 ºF oven, of course you'll get watery turkey breast.

(One of the tips for wet/equilibrium brining is to not overdo it by over-brining.)

Like, I'll admit I'm not super experienced with turkey, I'm still learning from it and recently attempted it for our Canadian Thanksgiving, but purely information wise, the nytimes piece can be challenged on a few grounds.
posted by polymodus at 2:06 PM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Greg_Ace: "Has anyone here spatchcocked a turkey with a sturdy pair of kitchen/poultry shears?"

Oh yeah totally. And a big knife.

It helps if you know anatomy. Separating ribs from the spinal column is easier than cutting the bone, just as popping the femur out of the socket is easier than cutting the femur when pulling the thigh off the bird. Use knife point to find and separate the rib articulation points, cut through whatever isn't easily popping out.

(Taught comparative vertebrate anatomy for quite a few years. May be at some minor advantage here as a result.)
posted by caution live frogs at 2:45 PM on November 14, 2018 [11 favorites]


I roast a turkey every year at Thanksgiving, and sometimes Christmas too. This year I tried the dry brine recommended by Serious Eats and spatchcocked it. I don't remember if I used a knife or scissors to spatchcock the bird because Thanksgiving was a whole month ago and I have the memory of a goldfish but either way it wasn't too bad. I was freaked out by how quickly it cooked though. I didn't trust the timings in the recipe so gave a bunch of extra time "just in case" which I didn't need at all. I don't actually eat Turkey (vegetarian) so never know how it turns out but my wife said it was really good. I'll probably stick with this method going forward because wet brining takes up too much fridge space and I really like how quick the bird roasts when spatchcocked. The one downside to spatchcocking was that I found it harder to carve the turkey afterwards. I'm hoping it's just something that takes getting used to and then is OK.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:56 PM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Do you use melted butter? Does that butter grace the flesh and skin of your poultry? Here is the secret: use a touch of light soy sauce into your melted butter. Soy sauce pairs beautifully with butter adding a flavor dimension that does not overwhelm. Be sure to drizzle the butter soy sauce into the bird cavity with its the halved garlic bulbs, shallots, herbs including bay leaves, shallots and cut lemons. If you slather butter on the outside be sure to squeeze a lemon on the outside before shoving the used lemon into the turkey. Didn't brine? Well put the turkey on top of onions, carrots and several glugs of wine and some fat of choice like bacon. The steam from the wine makes a fall apart bird and a lovely gravy. This works a treat for chicken.

I have brined, roasted and smoked turkey through the years. But super lazy me if all I got is anything less than a 15 lb bird and no cooler space then a plain roast it is. But what about breasts meat? If your oven is cruel to breast meat then draping it in bacon, or some shielding will do.
posted by jadepearl at 3:14 PM on November 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


Which were...?

I cut out the backbone, then rotated the shears so the came apart and put them in the dishwasher.
posted by mikelieman at 3:29 PM on November 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


This is where you put the rest of the stuffing in a separate casserole pan and douse it with the drippings from the pan.

But then what are you making your gravy from?
posted by Tentacle of Trust at 6:19 PM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


My vote: Order your bird from the butcher and ask that they spatchcock it and give you the backbone. Pick up the turkey on Monday. Dry brine and let hang out in the fridge until Weds. Meanwhile, roast the backbone and make stock. Weds night, unwrap the bird, lay on a cooling rack skin side up and let air dry in the fridge for crispy skin. On Tday, put the stuffing on a rimmed cookie sheet, place the cooling rack and turkey over the top of it. Roast until done. Stuffing is laced with turkey drippings and you have stock ready for gravy.
posted by jenquat at 6:50 PM on November 14, 2018 [6 favorites]


I can't believe they're talking about dumping the turkey. I'm a vegetarian and I can't dump the turkey. I make it every year (for everyone else). It's been 11 years since I bece a vegetarian and turkey is the only meat that tempts me. Every year I say "maybe this will be the year" but so far I haven't cracked.

Maybe this will be the year.
posted by rednikki at 12:27 AM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Has anyone here spatchcocked a turkey with a sturdy pair of kitchen/poultry shears?

I do it with my Wusthof heavy duty shears and it was fine. I was probably a little too generous with the removal of the spine, but it was easy enough to cut through the ribs. I think I also cut out the pelvis and just popped out the legs and cut them out without having to cut through the bone. It was some effort, but nothing that would dissuade me from doing it again. (In fact I've done it twice) I haven't tried to spatchcock a goose though, I think that would be quite difficult and they seemed more bony than a turkey.
posted by koolkat at 12:48 AM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Re Turkey chopping: We are doing this this year.
posted by Chrischris at 6:07 AM on November 15, 2018


caution live frogs: (Taught comparative vertebrate anatomy for quite a few years. May be at some minor advantage here as a result.)

Me too, and I am now the official turkey carcass processor for my and my in-laws T-day dinner. Dissecting a turkey means lots of large meat pieces, little waste, and I get to snack on the best little parts and miss the rest of cleanup!
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 7:25 AM on November 15, 2018


My mom is passing me the Thanksgiving torch to me this year, and because I hadn't roasted anything as big as a turkey in 20 years, I did a small 10-pounder as a practice bird a couple weeks ago.

After this experience, I am 100% on team spatchcock. I used J. Kenjji Lopez-Alt's recipe, but for Thanksgiving Day I will be using Alton Brown's method of 425F for the first 30 mins and then 350F thereafter -- the stuffing burned too easily at Lopez-Alt's prescribed 450.

The dry-brine / baking powder combination works. I only dry-brined for about 24 hours and still got the crispiest skin of any roasted thing I've ever roasted.
posted by rocket at 8:37 AM on November 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


Of the two best turkeys I have ever had, one was smoked and the other was deep-fried. I don't have the equipment for smoking or the reckless disregard for my family and property for deep-frying, so this thread has convinced me to try spatchcocking. I need to buy poultry shears though, any recommendations, or will they pretty much all get the job done?
posted by skewed at 9:48 AM on November 15, 2018


I need to buy poultry shears though, any recommendations, or will they pretty much all get the job done?

I think these are probably the best shears out there right now, and they are pretty cheap, too. Lifetime warranty, as well. They also trod the fine line of coming apart when you want them too, but staying together for the actual cutting tasks. Not all shears can manage that.

No matter what, for kitchen shears you definitely want a set that will come apart for cleaning-- you shouldn't cut the spine out of a raw turkey one day and then snip parsley on to your salad the next day without some serious disassembly and disinfection going on in between tasks.
posted by seasparrow at 6:02 PM on November 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


One can buy cheap game saws (hacksaws meant for animals) for less than $20 with a stainless blade if lack one one is the only thing stopping one from cutting up a bird.
posted by Mitheral at 7:15 AM on November 16, 2018


I've got the Kuhn Rikon shears recommended here, and although they don't come apart, they are insanely sharp and provide a shocking amount of leverage. I am like 75% sure you could sever a finger without trying very hard.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:27 AM on November 16, 2018


Rotisserie! Allow me to beat the drum for this method again. Think of the dramatic transformation that creates delicious rotisserie chicken out of wan, barely mobile commercial chickens. Now apply that to a turkey. Imagine the crisp skin, self-basted. (I do special order the Diestel Heirloom Organic turkey from Whole Foods at $8 a pound, but the magic of the rotisserie doesn't depend on that, your generic Butterball is fine.) If you don't have a double oven, it's almost impossible to get everything heated without doing the bird outside on the grill. I do brine (the Serious Eats dry brine is fine, but Alton's wet brine works just as well, and allows you to free up the space in the fridge occupied by the turkey if you stick it in a big pot or cooler with ice. The only real disadvantages of the rotisserie method are: 1. Requires a sturdy rotisserie like the Weber, and the ability to really tightly truss and center that bird on the spit, because even the Weber motor is not really made to spin a 15-pound turkey. 2. You get less drippings for gravy, but all the flavor is in the bird! 3. Since the turkey is outside, if there is a problem, like running out of propane, or the rotisserie going wonky, you might not notice.
posted by wnissen at 11:04 AM on November 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


Hey spatchcocking people: my wife is convinced that I'm going to make a giant mess / start a fire by cooking a spatchcocked turkey on a regular, rimmed half-sheet pan. Fact or fiction?
posted by uncleozzy at 8:21 AM on November 20, 2018


> I've had good luck smoking a turkey too. Maybe I'll do that this year in memory of rtha, who was so impressed with the output from my little electric smoker at a meetup that she bought one herself shortly thereafter.

Amongst my many sadnesses -- not having her smoked turkey for thanksgiving. She loved that smoker and made so much great food in it, especially for thanksgiving, which usually included smoked nuts and the turkey of course, and smoked onions and smoked tofu and a few other things.

She was so happy the day she came home with the smoker squeezed into the back seat of our little car. And she really used it a lot, at least whenever we didn't have Spare the Air days here. I need to decide what to do with it -- keep it and learn how to smoke food myself, or give it to someone who will use it a lot. Thank you for inspiring her!
posted by gingerbeer at 12:40 PM on November 20, 2018 [6 favorites]



Hey spatchcocking people: my wife is convinced that I'm going to make a giant mess / start a fire by cooking a spatchcocked turkey on a regular, rimmed half-sheet pan. Fact or fiction?


For a datapoint of 2 (as in I did it twice) nope. That is exactly how I cooked it. I did a dry brine using Alton's recipe rinsed off the excess salt and roasted in a pan (about that size it looks the same when I google to get an image) for 1.5 to 2 hours. (can't really recall the exact times now check your thermometer to know when it is done) The main worry would be the juices and rendered fat overflowing the pan, but as it is more spread out evaporation will occur faster also meaning you get more concentrated pan juices. If you go the dry brine route I recommend making your own stock with the remnants of the carcass a day or two before without using ANY salt as the pan drippings are salty enough to make gravy and it won't come out too salty.
posted by koolkat at 11:21 PM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


uncleozzy, you won't start a fire. If you have a cooling rack that fits the sheetpan, put the turkey on the rack, then on the sheetpan. If you don't have a cooling rack, build a raft of veggies: stalks of celery, carrots split lengthwise, etc - basically, you just want some airflow under the bird.

If it happens that the turkey legs extend beyond the side of the sheetpan, then you can build a little sling of aluminum foil that extends from the edge of the sheetpan to underneath the drumsticks. This will keep the skin on the drumsticks from dripping into the oven. Just anchor the foil under the rack or bird, and secure by wrapping it around the ends of the drumsticks.
posted by jenquat at 5:26 PM on November 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


Ah, thanks for the foil sling tip. This bird is about 18 and a half pounds; the legs definitely extend beyond the edge of the pan a bit. I was trying decide whether I should tuck them in or improvise something to lay under them.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:53 PM on November 21, 2018


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