Another turkey post

Every year I run into the usual turkey problem: the breast is cooked at 155-160F and is dry by 170. The thighs are bloody until 170F. You either have juicy breast and slightly bloody thighs, or dry breast and fully cooked thighs. My solution is to cut off the dark meat and allow each section to cook to its optimal temp: (1) Cook entire turkey for 7.5-8 hours at 200F, (2) Remove main body/breast, (3) Cook dark meat for 20-30 min longer at 400F. Read more here: http://www.dishgracepoint.com/2015/11/a-juicer-turkey.html 

We just had a Thanksgiving lunch for Interhigh last week and I'm going to write my notes for how I did my turkey.

Friday afternoon 5pm:
I injected my turkey. 18lb turkey = 12 tsp kosher salt (1/4 cup), 12 tsp sugar (1/4 cup), 1.5 cup hot water. I injected into the breast, thigh, drumstick and then transferred to a small clear trash bag, tied it and put it in the fridge. I like to inject but you can dry brine/dry rub or traditional brine your turkey.
 
Friday just before midnight: I cut up the turkey. I wrote about this in my last post. I cut off the leg quarters and wings from the main body. It was a little tricky to cut the joints but do your best.


  I put the oven at 200F. Then I arranged the turkey pieces. The thighs flat on the bottom, the wings tucked against the body. It was the best way to tetris it into the tray. I suppose any arrangement would work.

 I wanted to slow cook the turkey while I sleep and have it ready to go in the morning. I was afraid of overcooking it. I put my meat thermometer straight into the middle of the breast and stuck it into the oven. Use one of these thermometers: http://www.amazon.com/Taylor-Digital-Cooking-Thermometer-Timer/dp/B00004XSC5/ 

Here are my notes:
*This is for an 18lb turkey. At 200F, most turkeys should cook at the same rate whether 12lbs or 22lbs. That and oven variance can lead to different cooking times. Use the info below as a guideline.

12:30am- in the oven at 200F. Turkey was in the low 40Fs
4:40 am- turkey was 124F
6:30 am- turkey was 145F
7:30 am- turkey was 152F
8:10 am- turkey was 156F



I took out the main body and put into my cooler and put the lid on.
 
 The dark meat now has to get to 175F. I put the thermometer in the thigh near the bone. I broiled it for about 2-3 minutes or so until it got that nice color. Then I put it on high at 400F for about 20-30 minutes
 At around 8:45am I took it out of the oven and rearranged the legs with the body to make it fit in the cooler. Start to finish about 8 hours 15 mins. Depending on when your event is, you can back track it and figure out start time. Give yourself an extra 15 minutes to be safe.
 Results: The white meat was one of the juiciest turkeys I ever made. I pulled it out at 156F. It's the border of just being cooked. It will be white with some pink tint (look at Costco rotisserie chicken if you are wondering what white w/pink tint looks like). The juice that pools on the bottom will be clear with a slight pink tint but no blood. 6 years ago I made one that I pulled at 152 and that one was juicier (though a little more pink). The thighs were nice and fully cooked with no blood or redness.


That joint that I cut off was very bloody and looked like it had some major blood vessels there (probably the femoral artery). That area is tucked inside between the body and the thigh. It's insulated by all that meat and hard to fully cook. It's normally the bloodiest part of the turkey, affecting some of the meat near that area. This method exposes that area to heat




you can that area on the sides are fully cooked and roasted here.

A Juicier Turkey

There are many ways to do a tasty and juicy turkey and it all comes down to preference. Here are some quick tips:

1. brine, inject, or dry rub your turkey. Whatever way you want to salt (and sugar) the meat. Use whatever herbs you want.

2. Don't over cook the meat. That means mid 150Fs for the breast. The thigh should reach at least 175F-180F. Low heat or high oven temp - do whichever you want.

3. I highly recommend using a meat thermometer like this: http://www.amazon.com/Taylor-Digital-Cooking-Thermometer-Timer/dp/B00004XSC5/ you can get something like this at walmart or any local store. Stick it in the middle of the turkey breast, put it in the oven, check the temperature dial. Take turkey out when it reaches temp. There is an alarm that goes off when it reaches the temp

4. Cut the turkey legs and wings off BEFORE it goes in the oven.

If you talk to anyone about how to make a juicy turkey, they will all agree on #1-3. Most people will cook until 175F when the plastic popup timer goes off in the turkey. By then the thighs are done but the breast is now dry and horrible. Others will pull it out around 160F and serve bloody thighs, embarrassment, and excuses. Why is it so hard to do this right?

Norm Rockwell. Most people attribute the iconic thanksgiving dinner to this painting:


 Years of tradition and childhood memories tell us that we need to have a nice centerpiece turkey that looks beautiful on the dining table before it's carved. We sacrifice so much to have that beautiful (whole) turkey. What happens at my house and at sometimes at TC is that we slice up the turkey on the kitchen counter and bring to the table a plate of sliced meat:
If we aren't bringing out a whole turkey, why not cut it up before cooking it?
That way you take out the main part (the breast) when it's 155F-160F and it's just barely cooked, white with a slight pink shade. Then you put the legs and wings back in the oven until it's 180F.
Take your cooked pieces and reassemble the turkey nicely and serve. You have the entire turkey fully cooked but not overcooked while remaining juicy. It's just 1 extra step but makes a big difference.