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38 lb turkey?

I just ordered my bird from the farm (Loags Corner in Chesco PA if you're wondering).

We've got a big group again this year, so on a whim, I asked what the biggest bird they have would be.

38 pounds!!!

I didn't need to go that high - we usually have one between 22-24, but I went with a 28 pounder.

Anyone cooking a 38 lb turkey? Would most standard ovens have trouble with this? Certianly, you'd need a big pan - but I wonder if there would be some other special prep as well.

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  1. I think that would be one poor turkey with great potential for some serious drying out and over cooking and probably tough too. If you need 2-24 lbs you are better off with 2 12 lb. birds.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Candy

      I know a lot of people who cook a 16-18 pounder, plus a turkey breast in addition. Luckily, I've got plenty of dark meat lovers in my family.

    2. Geez, that's huge! It's like cooking a toddler! ;-) Only joking!

      With something that large, it would be wise to take the legs off and roast them separate from the breast, otherwise you're looking at something too massive to cook properly in a regular oven.

      1. I think you'd be best served doing 2, 15lb turkeys.
        You're bound to end up with a dry bird or it taking the better part of two days to cook.


        1. What you would do in a standard oven is cut the bird into halves and roast on two levels, switching positions.

          1. My inlaws raise turkeys at their place.. usually just 2 or 3 a year but they get huge. Then largest they ever cooked was a 65 lb bird all dressed out. The largest I ever helped them cook was a 55 pounder. You really earn your meal when you have to tackle on of those beasts. They have a propane oven that they have modified just to cook birds that large. My father in law modified a stainless comercial roasting pan to just barely fit in the oven. They take all the racks out and just have some stand offs on the bottom of the oven to allow air to circulate. Even with the custom pan and no oven racks things are a fairly tight fit. they never stuff the bird and usually have to empty the roasting pan several times over the course of the day to prevent it overflowing. Other than the novelty of cooking such a massive bird it is almost impossible to get good results. because it takes over 8 hours to cook such a massive bird, when it is finally cooked a lot of the meat will be fairly dry, i imagine this can be a big problem for any bird 25 pounds or so and up. It is also difficult to get even cooking because there just isnt enough air circulation in the oven with the massive beast in place for even cooking. At home when i need to feed lots of people i just do multiple smaller birds.

            For what it's worth i think the average time we are finally able to sit down and eat turkey at my inlaws is about 9 at night assuming we start prep work around 8am.

            1. I've cooked some pretty big birds, and although, as other posters said, I'm not sure whether it's worth it, I've had pretty good luck using cheesecloth over the top of my turkey and basting every hour. As long as you keep wet cheesecloth over the turkey at all times, it shouldn't get too dry.

              You also definitely need to cook for longer at a lower temperature the bigger your bird is, in order to cook it through without overdoing the outside. You might want to ask the farmers what they recommend; they probably have experience with this.

              Good luck!

              1. with turkeys that big i would seriously consider cooking the breast and the leg/thighs separately unless you have access to a commercial size convection oven.

                1. I have managed a 28 pound turkey in a regular oven. The only way to get moist meat is to basically undercook the damn thing and hope carryover gets it to 165. Forget about crisp skin. THe meat, however, was excellent.

                  For anything over thirty, I'd think the super low and slow methods might be the best- I was going to suggest smoking, but the discussion below about bit cooking might be the perfect answer!

                  My family, for no particular reason always cooks absurdly large turkeys (we did a 22 pounder last year for 4 people- we like leftovers) If I get to make the call I usually try to find a more reasonable 12-14# hen. The probe thermometer is my friend.

                  Biologically speaking, I'd love to know more about the monsters mentioned in this thread. THe 22# beast last year was a young tom, even at 22#, we only got half a week of meat from the carcass. I know older birds can get really large, but the bone weight is such a significant part of the yield.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: lunchbox

                    That's an interesting thought. Next time around i'll have to wiegh the carcas after the beast is all carved up. The one thing that sticks in my mind is that there seems to be much more dark meat in proportion to the smaller birds i've had and the dark meat is much darker in color. Also we don't usually take the time to hang the birds for anyabout of time so i'm not sure how that affects the dressed weight. I'll also try to figure out what types they raise. The toms generally look like pictures from elementry school pictures and not the ugly white birds more common in production farms.

                  2. It's interesting all the talk about 12-14 lb birds. Then a few people suggest a 22 or 24 pounder is a problem because it's so big.

                    For us, I'm not sure we've ever cooked anything under 20 lbs, and it's usually around 24 or 25. I use Alton Brown's method (brine, brown at high heat, then roast until 165. Never had a problem with the 25 pounder.

                    I can imagine having difficulty with something as big as 38, but do you folks think 28 will give me trouble?