Thanksgiving fast approaches, and for most of us that means cooking a turkey. When I was a girl, I loved Thanksgiving second only to Christmas. There were many reasons, but mainly because it was a whole day of being in the kitchen cooking with my mom. The turkey was the centerpiece, the magical part of the whole meal that had to be cooked to perfection. My mother was a phenomenal cook, and our turkey was always perfect. She cooked it the same way, year after year, in the oven using a Reynolds baking-bag, and seasoned with minimal variation. Because the turkey was always moist and delicious, it never entered my mind, or my mom’s, to consider cooking it differently.
As an adult cooking my own turkey and Thanksgiving dinner, I followed the same recipes and procedures familiar to me. Even after all these many years, I still make the same stuffing recipe and prepare my gravy with the giblets. Most of the time I do bake the turkey as she did, those Reynolds baking bags still the best.
Every once in a while we have gone a different route. We bought a deep fryer years ago, and have used that method several times. A couple years we cooked it on the BBQ, smoking slowing over hours. My husband is a wizard at concocting marinades and brining, trying different flavors used to enhance the taste of the meat. Every time the turkey is fabulous, and it is fun to try something new. This year we will celebrate Thanksgiving with my daughter and son-in-law so the cooking method will be up to her.
Below are a few unique ways to cook a turkey. What about you? Have you tried any of these cooking methods? Was it successful? Better than other processes? What about recipes for seasonings or fancy garnishes for the platter appeal? Or are you a traditionalist who stays with the same procedure each year? Let’s talk about the bird!
Beer Can Turkey
You literally stick the entire can of beer inside the bird. Why this works so well is that first of all you are adding a source of moisture to the turkey that keeps it from drying out. Second you are adding beer. Now, more than the fact that beer is good, the yeast and malt in beer react with the turkey, particularly the skin, making it thin and crispy while the meat remains juicy. One recipe is here: Food Network Beer-Can Turkey
Soaking a turkey overnight in a solution of salt and water ensures moist results. When you add aromatics to the brine, the resulting roast is also infused with a subtle character all its own. Salt causes the meat tissues to absorb water and flavorings. It also breaks down the proteins, resulting in a tender-seeming turkey. This means that–despite the moisture loss during roasting and the long cooking time–you end up with a juicy bird. The trick with brining is to find a container large enough to completely immerse the bird, and to plan way ahead because the best brining comes after 10-12 hours. Recipes galore are on the web with everything imaginable added to the salt water. The Food Network page has 29 recipes! THIS LINK HERE
Whether you brine or not, you still have to cook the turkey! Outdoor barbecuing is a very easy and efficient way to cook your Thanksgiving turkey. No mess in your oven or the kitchen, for one thing, and the smoky taste is awesome! Any type of cooker will do: pellet smoker, charcoal, gas, or whatever. Options vary in how you cook too: rotisserie, directly on the grill, in a pan on the grill, etc. There are some special considerations, however. For one, since the cooking takes place outside, weather can be a problem. Winds that snuff out the flame, or the cold that can affect the heat inside the cooker, and so on. A big warning is that the prep is very important. Smoked turkey will dry out faster due to the lengthy cook times and the heated air in constant circulation. Brining helps with this. It is vital to do your research, but the end result is worth it! The best place for info on BBQ’ing birds that I found was at AmazingRibs.com. THIS PAGE HERE tells you everything you need to know and more.
A portmanteau of turkey, duck, and chicken, the turducken consists of a deboned chicken stuffed inside a deboned duck, which is stuffed inside a deboned turkey. A meatlover’s dream! Each slice contains portions of chicken, duck, and turkey with stuffing in between the layers. This one is so bizarre that I had to look up the origins–
In 1984, Junior and Sammy Hebert invented turducken at their butcher shop in Maurice, Louisiana, five miles south of Lafayette. A farmer came in with a freshly killed turkey, duck, and chicken. He wanted them stuffed, and the Heberts obliged, smearing pork stuffing all over the duck before shoehorning it into the turkey, then working the floppy boneless chicken into that. They filled it with cornbread dressing and sewed it up. They called it a “turducken” and for the most part considered it a joke and local amusement. Until, that is, sportscaster John Madden discovered turducken, and began giving one away to the winning team at the Thanksgiving Bowl in the late 1980s. Around that same time, haute-Cajun chef Paul Prudhomme began making it for his New Orleans restaurant, K-Paul, and included a six-page recipe for it in his Prudhomme Family Cookbook. His flamboyant version has three different stuffings (including oyster) and a gravy that contains eggplant, sweet potato, and Grand Marnier. The turducken became a delicacy, of sorts, and the rest is history!
If you are ready to tackle making a turducken, here is a YouTube video by award-winning butcher Armande Ferrante on how to do it: http://youtu.be/mRT1WQXqdCw
Recipes for glazes, spices, rubs, marinades, injections, and more are plentiful. Perhaps too much so! How can one decide? Maybe cook turkey more than once a year, perhaps. LOL! Here are some great links–