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Nov 19, 2005 03:51 PM

Turkey Anxiety

  • p

With crab and duck already on our Thanksgiving menu, ordering the heritage turkey was really not necessary. And, after obsessing about whether or not to wet-brine, dry-brine, no-brine, high-heat roast, low-heat roast, steam, poach, butterfly, cook in the Weber, smoke in the bullet. . .I began suspecting my masochistic streak had finally gotten out of control.

So I googled "roasting heritage turkey" and found this blog by William Rubel. Sounds sensible: no brine, some seasoning, high heat to a cooked temperature of 140F. What do you, my fellow Hounds (my reference of best resort) think?


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  1. LOL! You forgot butter massage, oil massage, no massage...breast side up, breast side down, foiled breasts...blah blah blah. Consensus for best way to roast a turkey is about as high as it is for how to roast a chicken.

    I quickly read through your linked article, and it sounds sensible enough, except for the 140F target temp. That's nervously low to me. I usually aim for 160F w/ no post-tenting, and may even risk 155F this year w/ loose post-tenting, but 140F sounds too low. I agree about not brining a Heritage turkey, but I might pre-season 24 hrs. in advance.

    Did you check the Heritage Foods website? There's a recipe for roasting turkey that recommends an initial high heat blast and then roasting at 350F til thigh reaches 150F. Good tip about leaving the turkey at room temp. for at least 40 min. before roasting. See link for more info.


    7 Replies
    1. re: Carb Lover

      Lol, Carb Lover.. but I haven't actually seen a recipe calling for turning the turkey over halfway through as Judy Rodgers does her chicken.

      List of ingredients should then include: Rent one crane.

      1. re: oakjoan

        I worry about the 140 degrees. A little low for safety. I usually start my turkey off at 425 degrees for a half hour and turn temperature down to 350 and roast the turkey until thigh registers 155 degrees. I then remove turkey from pan and cover with foil and large towel where it can sit for at least 1hr. Never had a problem with an overcooked turkey. I don't know what "Heritage" means (I am Canadian) but I buy organic grain fed turkeys.

        1. re: deborah

          This is the technique I'm planning on using, but here's something i can't find (i'm not very good at online searches):
          If I roast in this manner, appx how long should it take (e.g. 15min/lb, 20?). Trying to figure out when i need to put the turkey in the oven.
          Last year i did the high heat method and the turkey tasted great, but the pan drippings were pretty much useless for gravy.

          1. re: deborah

            Heritage means it's an older breed, without the huge breast. Probably raised by pink-cheeked turkey maids, on a diet of hand-hulled wheat.

            Considering the LA Times piece was written by the dreaded Regina S., I'm not so sure about steaming. Other sites call for covering the breast in oiled parchment paper.

            At least I don't need to brine our "heirloom" and at $4.99 a pound, I don't want to. For that price, it should tap dance, whistle Dixie and recite the Gettysburg address..


        2. re: Carb Lover

          Yes, it's getting hysterical, isn't it? But if, with all this stress, I can't get a massage myself, I'll be darned if my turkey, heritage or not, is going to have one!

          But now you've got me pondering: should I have 2 meat thermometers in my turkey? One for white, one for dark? (Is this a sign of OCD?) And since you brought up tenting, and I presume you mean post-roast tenting, would it be useful if I loosely tented just the legs after removing the bird when the leg temp hits 150F? How much more should the temperature rise after the turkey is out of the oven?

          This is probably a good time to make sure the fire extinguisher in the kitchen hasn't expired.

          1. re: Pia

            Uh oh, I think I'm adding fuel to the OCD fire...thus, I feel obliged to respond to your questions.

            Two thermometers are unnecessary; no need to torture the bird or yourself further. I'm in the camp that checks temp. at the thigh. Never have measured breast temp. before, but others on this board (and Alton Brown) apparently do. If you feel inclined to check both, then one thermometer should still suffice, no?

            I think I'll go w/ my tried and true of 160F at the thigh and no post-tenting. IIRC, carryover heat should raise temp. by about 10 degrees, but it might be higher if you roast at high heat. I'd consult McGee if I had that book since I don't retain such details.

            If I were to take my bird out at 150F, then I'd loosely tent the whole thing (not just the legs) for at least 45 min. and check temp. again. I believe that Heritage birds have LESS likelihood of drying out than the Butterball variety, so I wouldn't worry too much. One year, the legs were a little underdone after resting, so we carved off the white meat and stuck the legs back in the oven to finish. My husband remembers that turkey as being one of our tastiest.

            PS. Reward yourself w/ a massage and tent yourself away from family (and the kitchen) if necessary! Good luck and please report back since I'd like to hear more about whether you felt like the Heritage was worth the extra $.

            1. re: Carb Lover

              Thanks, Carb Lover, for your very sensible suggestions (and for putting things back in perspective. At the rate I was going, I was in danger of sticking thermometers into the guests as well.)

              I'll certainly let you know how the turkey turns out, but I have to warn you that I have a BAD history with turkeys. I've only cooked ONE that I've been satisfied with, out of at least 8, and that lucky one was probably an accident.

              Fingers crossed.

        3. My favorite comedian's line about roasting a turkey: "It really doesn't matter whether you roast it for three hours, or for three days - it's gonna taste exactly the same either way."

          So I'll keep it simple:

          Brine (brining does work - my mom says so - and she knows EVERYTHING): for each gallon - 1/2 cup sea salt, 1/2 cup sugar.
          It works by osmosis, so any seasoning has to be completely dissolved to be absorbed (whole allspice, for example would have no effect).
          How long? I say for one day. The salt will prevent bacterial growth. Use a big plastic bucket with lid.
          Change the brine once.

          Roasting: Preheat to 450. Cover loosely with foil, Don't waste butter or anything - it will all just melt off. Stuff or not - your choice. Once into the oven and probe in place - do not open the door at all. Roast one hour at 450 to sear. Reduce heat to 350 and bake until 160 degrees.
          Remove bird from pan, skim fat (easiest way is with paper towels), whisk in flour, s & p, heat pan on stove = gravy.

          Don't cut into turkey for 15 minutes.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Niki Rothman

            For the gravy, I should have said to add some broth to the drippings.
            Make the broth as the turkey roasts - from the gibs and neck, celery, carrot, onion, garlic, bay leaf and a bit of thyme. You can take the gibs out when done and add them to a stuffing mix to be baked outside the bird. But to me there's nothing more delish than stuffing that's cooked inside the turkey.

          2. Mary Pitman of Mary's Turkeys "marinates" rather than brines her heritage bird. Check out their website or call her--she's on the phone all the next week and is really sweet.


            1. After recommending brining your Thanksgiving Turkey for the last 5 years, the Los Angeles Times is recommending steam roasting your Thanksgiving Turkey this year (with no brining).

              The LA Times feels that turkeys, especially Heritage Turkeys, have inherent flavor that brining would subvert.

              Steam roasting involves roasting with the pan covered for the first two-thirds of the cooking time and then roasting uncovered for the remaining one third of the cooking time.

              With steam roasting, the turkey essentially braises in its own juices until it is mostly cooked, then you remove the lid to let the skin brown and crisp. The LA Times says steam roasting this way creates juicy meat, crunchy skin and the most concentrated flavor imanginable.

              Steam Roasting Turkey Recipe

              Dry rub turkey with a mixture of kosher salt, sugar, groung chili pepper and smoke paprika. Leave rub on for 1 hour. After 1 hour, wipe the rub off the turkey with damp aper towels. The dry rub will flavor the turkey and will help to draw out excess liquid so that the skin cooks crisp.

              Preheat oven to 425 F.

              Place turkey in a covered roasting pan with a large bunch of fresh rosemary, fresh thyme and 2 large heads of garlic, separated into cloves and peeled.

              Place the covered roasting pan with turkey into oven. Lower the temperature to 323 F and roast for 2 hours.

              After 2 hours, removed the lid from the rasting pan and spread butter over the turkey. Raise the oven setting to 350 F and continue roasting uncovered until the thickest part of the breast reads 165 F (about 45 minutes to 1.5 hours)

              Remove the turkey from the oven. loosely cover the turkey with aluminum foil and let rest for 20 minutes before carving.

              This recipe is still available on LA Times web site.