I recently cooked two turkey breasts for dinner.
The breasts had been purchased at different times, although they were from the same brand/company.
One had been purchased as fresh and then immediately frozen a couple of months ago, and defrosted in the refrigerator for 2 days prior.
The other one I purchased fresh at the supermarket the day I cooked dinner.
I used the same simple seasonings.
Both were placed in the same glass roasting pan, covered with some olive oil, the pan covered with tin foil, and then baked at 375 F for 40 - 45 minutes.
One was incredibly tough and stringy, the other was soft and moist.
Does the freeze/thaw influenced the quality of the meat? or one of the breasts came from an old, low grade turkey? To this day I'm not sure.
Several years ago, I posted on here with a similar tough turkey problem. Since it ruined my Thanksgiving dinner, I was extremely disappointed. Many posters suggested that I complain to the grocer, which was Whole Foods. They were very gracious and refunded my money without question, explaining that occasionally a bird can be inherently tough.
Generally speaking, when cooking a premium turkey, I find a low and slow roast to be the best way to ensure tender meat.
Here is the easiest way that I have found to produce perfect turkey every time: buy a smaller bird, butterfly it, and cook it on high heat.
1) Buy a fresh, brined 12-14lb bird -- avoid the temptation to buy one big bird. Consider cooking two small vs one big. Do not buy frozen unless you have to, and don't buy a bird from any farm that doesn't have a great reputation among cooks you trust.
2) Butterfly it -- take out the backbone with a chef's knife (find videos on the net), then lay it backside down in the roasting pan, tie the legs together so that your bird is now level in the pan.
3) Leave it on the counter for an hour before cooking (get the internal temp up). Salt it heavily, ala the Zuni or Thomas Keller method.
4) Put it in a 450 oven for 75-80 minutes until your thermometer says it's done.
5) Let bird rest for 15-20 mins before you carve, to redistribute the meat juices.
6) Carve and serve immediately if you can. If you need to keep warm, put meat one layer deep in a 13x9 or similar pan with stock/juices at the bottom to maintain moisture.
That's very simiar to how I do chickens. I butterfly a smallish bird, not more than 4 lbs., and place it on a flat rack well above the bottom of the pan to allow for plenty of hot air to circulate around it. I crank the heat up to as high as it can go, and brown the hell out of it flipping it mid-way so all sides get browned. Once it's nice and browned, about 15 minutes, I turn the oven off and walk away. Or rather, walk away and forbid anybody to even dream of opening the oven door. Because for the next hour as the oven is cooling the meat is slow roasting. It comes out absolutely perfectly every time. A Chinese guy taught me that.
Take solace in knowing that my turkey was also tough, not dry. The skin was beautifully brown and crisp, the insides were not overcooked and in fact quite juicy. But it was tough. Very tough. I had an 11 lb. Diestel hen.
I slathered it with clarified butter, cranked the heat up to about 475, let it brown really well, then covered it loosely with foil, added an inch of water to the bottom of the pan and turned the heat down to 225 for two hours. This is how I've always done it, and they have turned out perfect in the past.
I wonder if I added too much water creating a steaming/boiling effect? I don't think so. Perhaps it really is the bird itself which another poster responded.
Now the question remains: Is there some way I can use the tough turkey in a pot pie or turkey salad that fixes the toughness? I could deal with dry leftovers in this manner, but tough? That's a challenge. Hmm.
That's interesting about crisping the skin after the slow cook. I've never heard of that.
But now I've determined the failure: it wasn't the bird, or the method of cooking, but the wrong tools.
We went to a restaurant for Thanksgiving, and last night I wanted turkey and didn't take my time with it. Rather than using the larger roasting pan, I used a smaller one. And I forgot to put it on a roasting rack in the pan. So, the turkey laid in a tight fitting pan and didn't have nearly enough hot air circulating around it. Of course! I should have taken my time and done it the way I know how to.
I think some turkeys might be just plain tough. Last year I sampled some Diestel (sp?) that was raved about by everyone else at the table. Me, being a dark meat fan, tried leg meat, and was disappointed. This year I cooked a Diestel leg and was similarly disappointed. I begin to wonder if teh new 'high quality' turkeys need to be jointed and cooked separately - dark meat stewed, light meat roasted.
Was the whole turkey tough? What sort of a turkey was it?
I bought a fresh turkey from our local market. I followed the directions in the Silver Palate Good Times book for Roast Turkey w/ Gand Marnier Apricot Stuffing. It said 325 for 3 hrs covered and then 2 more hours uncovered. It looked great, just tasted tough. I cut the time by a bit, because bird was only 18lbs.
Never trust those popper thingies. Pull it out and throw it awaw. Did you notice it was planted in the breast? Get a thremobrobe thermometer and put it in the thickest part of the thigh. When the bird reaches 155F take it out of the oven and let it rest a god half hour. No foil tent either which just sogs up the skin with steam. NO POP UP THINGIIES EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!