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Why no turkey drippings?

  • d

So I had a 8.6lb organic free-range turkey (it was just me and my mom), brined it overnight (just salt & watter), left it in the fridge for ~3 hrs to dry, rub it with butter, sprinkled with sage/pepper, stuffed some some herbs and popped it in a 500degree oven for 30 min, then in a 350 degree oven, with foil over the breast (and, at my mother's request, cooked stuffing placed in the bird). It was supposed to be in the 350 oven for 1 hr +, but after 20 minutes (i think) it was 160 in the breast, 175 in the leg. I left it in for anoter 15 minutes, let it sit for 30, then carved. It was incredibly tasty. But two problems
1- there were almost no turkey drippings. I mean there wasn't even a teaspoon worth. My plans for gravy went out the window. Was this because of the high-heat method? Or cause it was organic? Or because it didn't cook on the low-heat enough?
2- the turkey wasnt really cooked, at the bone it was still pink. Was my thermometer broken? Can I just pop in sections to cook before eating them now as leftovers?

thanks for any tips for the future!
D-NY

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  1. might have been the cooking method or the fact that it wasn't quite cooked, but it almost certainly had nothing to do with the fact that it was organic. My organic turkey had more drippings than I needed, by far.

    1. Yes, you can cook the pieces that don't seem done to you.

      The main reason for little drippings is that the stuffing would have absorbed some of them. I'm curious whether the stuffing seemed salty. The drippings of brined meat are often too salty to use, incidentally.

      Here's how I make turkey gravy, for future reference: I remove all the loose skin, chop it coarsely, add a little water to it, then render the fat from it and set it aside. I cook the heart, neck and gizzard with an onion, a carrot, a couple stalks of celery and herbs till done. I strain this stock. I chop up the giblets and neck meat and set it aside.

      When ready to make the gravy, I make a roux from the rendered fat and flour. When the roux is cooked I add the stock, pan drippings (I don't brine my birds), and chopped gibblets, et voila!

      Some chopped mushrooms sauteed in a bit of the rendered fat make a great addition to this gravy.

      11 Replies
      1. re: Dorothy

        Yes, my drippings were too salty to use for gravy. What a disappointment! I think cooking the turkey breast side down keeps the meat moist and tasty without having to go through the hassle of brining.

        1. re: Steve

          That's what I did with my heritage bird this year. Did 90 minutes breast down, then flipped it. No brining. Was superbly moist.

          I do that with chickens too. It's the Zuni Cafe method.

          1. re: Nina W.

            Does breast side down for 90 min. cause the final appearance of the turkey to look "deformed" or compromised in any way? I use a V-rack that has about 8 or so cross bars.

            1. re: Carb Lover

              I have used the same method in the past. The wires on the V-rack always left some indentations on the turkey breast.

              1. re: Carb Lover

                Not at all. My v-rack is non-stick. Bird flipped easily, and the breast ended up golden brown and perfectly shaped.

                1. re: Carb Lover
                  c
                  Caitlin McGrath

                  I don't have a non-stick V-rack, but I follow a Cook's Illustrated tip and cover the V-rack with foil. Cut slits in the foil between the crossbars and tighten the foil around them. The turkey doesn't stick, the drippings drip through, and the rack is easy to clean. No rack marks, either.

                2. re: Nina W.
                  e
                  Elaine(Snutteplutten)

                  Nina, this may sound dumb, but does the turkey balance on its back? I'd love to try this method next year (no brine!) but I'm having a hard time visualizing it. Do you prop it up with something?

                  1. re: Elaine(Snutteplutten)

                    I prop mine up with large balls of aluminum foil. The bird looks a bit flattened when you flip it over, but it should spring back up and brown nicely in the last 30 mins or so.

                    I once heard of a device for cooking turkeys breast side down, but I 've never seen it for sale.

                      1. re: Elaine(Snutteplutten)

                        One comment - I didn't brine a *heritage* turkey. An enhanced turkey...might benefit from a brine.

                    1. re: Steve

                      It's just not true that you can't use the drippings from a brined bird to make gravy. I've been doing it for years and years and my gravy is terrific.

                      You just need to use unsalted turkey broth to make it.

                  2. If I understand you correctly, your bird cooked for a total of 65 min?? That sounds incredibly fast--that's about how long it takes for me to make a 3.5 lb. chicken at 375. If so, then I don't believe it's enough time to extract much drippings, esp. since you had it on such high heat first, which kind of seals in the juices before they start to render on lower heat. For instance, my 18-lb. bird didn't really start to exude drippings until after about 1.5 hrs. of cooking. If I had had a small bird such as yours, I might have just cooked it at 350-375 the entire time. In terms of the pink portions, cover w/ plastic wrap and finish cooking in microwave.

                    1. We had two birds and noticed a huge difference in the cover lid. One was cooked in a light color metal roaster with a proper lid [as a set] and the other was the darker annondized steel Calphalon roaster pan with the turkey covered with tin foil. The tin foil approach in a dark pan allowed more moisture to evaporate and the drippings were quite concentratated. The roaster with the lid provided almost five times as much liquid drippings.

                      1. My household has done tests with two birds in the past. Organic Free range and your standard store bought brand name. What we found is that free range organic poultry produces little to no drippings weather brined or not. Alternatively the store bought brand name produced considerable drippings. If you are looking to cook with organic free range poultry and make gravy, my advice is to purchase or make a separate broth or stock ready to use for gravy and to make a roux instead of browning the poultry fat. This method can lead to a healthier thanksgiving meal that is equally delicious. Another point is that slower cooking at lower heat will create less drippings as the liquid stays in the meat and adds to a tender moist bird with lots of flavor.