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Turkey tantrum

So, I have cooked a few turkeys before, but have often been a guest a thanksgiving dinner bringing whipped potatoes, roasted root veggies or such.
I am about to have a mini meltdown at the number of recipes for the perfect, juicy turkey.

I have ordered an 8 lb and a 20 lb free range fresh turkey and want to know from you seasoned (no pun intended) cookers:

1. Should I be doing the America's Test Kitchen recipe http://www.cooksillustrated.com/turke...
OR the
Martha Stewart with wine and cheesecloth recipe
http://www.marthastewart.com/portal/s...

I am going to do a traditional stuffing in the big one, then do a giblet stuffing in the other.

2. We never get enough gravy from the drippings. Should I be roasting more wings, necks, etc and then throw them in a pot with celery, onion and carrots and simmer to make a stock?

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  1. OMG the wine and cheesecloth thing! I forgot about that. I think I did that like, ten years ago. And, it really was not memorable other than it was such an odd way to do it. I can't vouch for ATK. I usually brine the bird beforehand and leave it at that. (Although I did, one year, have the turkey turn out too salty, which everyone tells you won't happen.)

    1. 20lbs???

      **insert stunned look here**

      "Baldrick, I want a turkey so big it looks like its mother was rogered by an Omnibus"
      (Black Adder Xmas Special)

      13 Replies
      1. re: purple goddess

        I always get a 25 to 30 lb turkey from the local farm for Thanksgiving. (I'm pretty sure they come even bigger) We need those leftovers!

        And yes, you have to cook the giblets and neck to make extra stock for the gravy, otherwise there will only be a dribble for everyone.

        I miss Black Adder!

        1. re: purple goddess

          We used to get one not for the leftovers but just to feed all the people that were at our house!!!

          1. re: purple goddess

            Don't be stunned. My uncle always gets the most gigantic turkey he can get his hands on for holiday meals. I don't think we've cooked one smaller than 25 lbs for 20 years, and some years, they've been as big as 30 lbs.

            As for gravy, you need to cook the turkey in a giant pan where you can reserve all the run-off, but also need to have broth ready to the side (with those giant turkeys, we make at *least* a quart of gravy, if not double that).

            1. re: DanaB

              Tell me the best way you make your broth (roast parts first?) please

              1. re: itryalot

                Smoked turkey wings and necks are where I start, can be done days ahead and frozen. The smoke flavor omes through nicely.

                1. re: Scrapironchef

                  Scrapironchef - I forgot about that! I did that last year and it was so very good! It was smokey, but not overwhelming. Thanks for jogging my memory.

                  1. re: danhole

                    I use the green peppercorn gravy recipe from a food network show a few years back. The beauty is being able to make it a day or two in advance in large quantities, one less thing to worry about on the day.

                    The recipe - http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

            2. re: purple goddess

              My former company used to give out Thanksgiving turkeys in the 20-23 lb range. They were a bit absurd.

              For the gravy, I make stock from the giblets and neck, and make a TON of gravy.

              1. re: manraysky

                You get 8.5 ounces of edible meat per pound of turkey. That means a 20 pound bird has around 10.3 pounds of edible meat. A typical portion is supposedly 3 ounces of meat, but at least in my family, it was more like 5 ounces. So let's say 4 ounces per person (roughly speaking) at the main meal, then another two or three per person from nibblings later in the afternoon or evening. So a total of roughly 7 ounces of turkey per person on the day of the meal (some people will eat more, some less, this is a rough average). If you have fifteen people over (which was typical for my family when I was younger) for an entire day with turkey being served at noon and an informal dinner of leftovers that night, you're going to use up six and a half pounds of turkey. That leaves right around four pounds of meat for leftovers the next few days. That seems like a very reasonable amount of leftovers to me.

                I still get around an 18 to 20 pound bird, even though we usually only have four of us on Thanksgiving any more. But I also send a lot of the meat home with the other couple we have over, because the wife really loves turkey. I make turkey broth from the carcass (no salt added, it's brined bird), and I have sludge for days after the event. :) I love turkey leftovers and a smaller bird wouldn't give me the huge bunch of lunches and dinners the following week. :)

                If I'm going to be cooking a huge feast, I may as well make the effort worth it and stretch the whole thing out so I don't have to cook as much later. :)

              2. re: purple goddess

                Yes, we LOVE turkey and that is after the appetizers and first course. That is why we have a uhaul parked outside our door! :)
                Leftovers (hot turkey sandwiches, especially, and turkey soup) are what we enjoy too. Plus, there is never enough stuffing in small turkeys and the pan cooked one is just not the same.

                1. re: itryalot

                  If you add a well-flavored turkey broth to the stuffing when making it, and steam it instead of baking it (a la english puddings) it will be just the same. :) And much safer. :)

                  1. re: Morganna

                    Steam in in a bain Marie type of style (pan in a pan)?

                    1. re: itryalot

                      With english puddings you put the mix into a heavy stoneware basin, tall, round, and fairly deep, and angled. You cover the top with a damp, clean kitchen towel, then tie it round the top with kitchen string. Then you put it in a big pot of hot water, on top of something so that it isn't sitting directly on the bottom and plonk on a tight lid. It steams for several hours until cooked all the way through.

              3. Wow. I came here to post similar questions!! I think I have decided on Alton Brown's turkey, but the recipe says to take it out of the oven when the probe in the breast reads 160 degrees. I have have had my share of dry turkey, and I certainly don't want to serve one, but at 160 degrees will it be fully cooked in the breast and dark meat after resting? I plan to do a trial run before the big day, just want to know what I'm getting into. Part of me thinks I should just buy an outdoor fryer for the turkey and I could free up valuable oven space and still have a great bird.

                4 Replies
                1. re: jules127

                  I'm such a turkey ho' . I've made this one too. I totally trust Alton's temps because he is a stickler for food safety. (As evidenced in his book IJHFTF) I seem to recall that if the breast is around 160 then the thigh will be around 180. I might not be spot on. He is assuming some residual heat bringing the temp in the breast up to 165, I think. If you are concerned about dryness, brine, brine, brine.

                  1. re: jules127

                    I have been doing Alton's recipe for a very long time now. It always comes out wonderfully, though every once a while, the thighs aren't quite cooked all the way through. I have always assumed this was because my thermometer was off, so I've compensated by cooking it until like 165 in the breast instead of 160.

                    But brining, god I never make a turkey without brining it now.

                    1. re: Morganna

                      Me too -- I do his recipe every year now and we really like it. I haven't had any trouble with it being underdone -- but it could be a problem if your pan is too small and the heat can't circulate around the thighs.

                      Brining makes the most unbelievable difference. I do make extra turkey broth (sometimes a day ahead) to so there is plenty for gravy. I think this year I'll even buy some turkey wings or legs ahead for extra rich stock.

                    2. re: jules127

                      I'll be doing Alton's bird for the fifth time this year, I've always had a moist bird using his temps. I use two probe thermometers to monitor both thigh and breast temps and cover the preast with foil if it starts to cook too fast. I set my alarms about 5 degrees low and let the bird coast up until it's done. I'm blessed with a double oven so it goes in the bottom on the setitandforgetit mode until the thermos beep.

                    3. OK, this is going to get me stoned on this board, but I always use one of those Reynolds turkey bags and have great results.

                      For good gravy, simmer chicken broth with the turkey neck and wing trimmings along with the celery, etc. Then you have plenty of stock to add to your drippings.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: dalaimama

                        jfood uses the turkey bags for brisket all the time, but found they kept too much moisture in the bag and the sking did not crisp.

                        do you keep it on for the entire time or do you remove with 30-45 minutes left to crsip the skin?

                        1. re: jfood

                          I have only done the cooking bag thing once, with a turkey, and I was instructed by the organization I was making it for (they were VERY specific) to open the bag and let it brown/crisp up at the end.

                          1. re: jfood

                            Cut it open for the last 30 minutes or so.

                          2. re: dalaimama

                            We generally use the bag, because Mike likes them. If not, we pour a bottle of beer over the turkey and cover it with foil, except for the last half hour.

                            I have NEVER cooked stuffing inside a turkey. Neither has my grandma, who is as far as I'm concerned the expert. She usually cooks her turkey ahead, so she has the broth to use for the dressing, and then reheats it closer to dinnertime.

                            1. re: dalaimama

                              For years I took a brown paper bag, slit it down the side, slathered it with butter and used it to tent the turkey. Then someone freaked out and thought I might burn the house down so I had to learn to baste. My mother always cooked our turkey under a bag in a gas oven and we never had a problem, but there are some things you can't argue with and fire prevention is one of them. It always produced a perfect moist turkey - we removed it for the last hour or so so the bird would brown up.

                              1. re: ginnyhw

                                I think the cheesecloth soaked in wine and butter has the same effect and is safer.

                                1. re: itryalot

                                  Farenheit 451-that is the Ray Bradbury book on bookburning and also the temp at which paper burns. Turkeys cooked in a brown paper bag at 350 will not burn the house down. (Just a lttle fact I learned on this board and vaguely remember reading in high school english class).

                              2. re: dalaimama

                                I won't stone you. I use the bags (been doing so for two years now). They are great to use. I do, however, open the bag during the last 45 minutes for additional color and crisp.

                              3. They have changed the rules about the temperature that a turkey needs to be taken out at. Here is an interesting link. It says 165, but I guess it would depend on the size of the bird.
                                http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/turkey/t....

                                Always have extra stock on hand for gravy. That's what the bag of goodies in the turkey's cavity are for! I also use chicken stock. I do have a wonderful recipe for a herbed roast turkey that all my family loves, but we also love our turkey fried.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: danhole

                                  Off subject a little. Should I buy a probe to keep in the turkey's breast? I don't know how to calibrate one and I currently only have an instant read thermometer.

                                  1. re: jules127

                                    Yes, a probe thermometer is really important when you're roasting turkey. If you have to keep opening the oven to test the temp, it's going to take forever to roast. :)

                                    1. re: jules127

                                      If you have a restaurant supply place nearby, they usually will calibrate it for you for free

                                      1. re: jules127

                                        I LOVE my probe thermometer; get it soon at Wm-Sonoma, they ofter run out near the holidays. I always prefer a Butterball and always get 14 lbs or less -- that way you are getting a HEN, which I like better, breast is not stringy. Let rest. I like to use damp (rung out) cheesecloth that you soak in 1 stick of melted unsalted butter. Before cheesecloth goes on, I make a paste of 2T soft butter, 2T olive oil, 2T ground white pepper, 2T salt, 2T paprika. After you wash (cold water) and dry thoroughly with paper towels (use VIVA, they don't shred) wipe all of turkey with this mixture.Pour 2 cups of water and 2 cups of broth in pan. (As you baste, lift up cheesecloth some so it does not stick.)
                                        Halfway thru, I gently heat 1 cup dry white wine and 3 oz.brandy and pour over turkey -- makes the gravy great. I go to a temp of 175. You could make 2 14lb turkeys. This recipe is from a wonderful grocery store in San Francisco that is now kaput -- Petrini.

                                        1. re: walker

                                          This sounds great; do you cover for most and then uncover near the end?

                                          1. re: itryalot

                                            I don't cover at all, just the double folded cheesecloth that I keep basting and lifting up now and then so it doesn't stick.
                                            Last year, I tried a different method from "Chef Marc" - heard him on KGO radio. He believes in high temp, no salt, no stuffing. LIke 450 to 500 degrees. Like he said, it was great. I cooked 2 (one after the other) 13 lb turkeys --each took less than 2 hrs. But, by the second one, lots of smoke coming from the oven and fire alarm went off even tho I had vent on and front door open. I had to get my cleaning lady to come the next day to clean the oven. My daughter really liked this turkey, wings were nice and crispy but I think I'll go back to my original recipe because I like to stuff the bird and it makes a good gravy. The high heat method does not make juices for gravy. When you heat the white wine and brandy, the recipe says do not let it boil, just when it starts to simmer I take it off and pour over turkey.

                                    2. Buy a fresh turnkey. I've never cooked one over 22lbs. get a tom. Butter lots of butter, and truss the bird. I melt butter also give the guy a good rub, well season inside and out. I know I'm repeating myself here, I am heavy handed with seasoning whatever they are. If something calls for 1 T, it double it at least. Can't be afraid. Turkey needs it. Use thyme, sage, rosemary, summer savory, and or herbs de provence if you want to sub for rosemary,sage, and thyme. I do put it on the skin once its buttered and I tent with foil and remove at the end to brown what needs it. 165 degrees. No less, check the dark thigh area with a probe thermometer. Get one if you don't have one they are invaluable when cooking large birds. You can check a couple different areas. And don't forget to rotate the bird 180 degrees, to cook even, just turn it after at half the cooking time. I am not a big baster here, I think I've had better success not to. Every time you open the oven,the temp drops.
                                      Giblets, buy extra,do it sooner than later, so you get them. I have waited and the store has run out. I use a pork neck in the gravy too. shhhhh! When you cook the giblets, add the pork neck, garlic, a large onion, stalk of celery cut into large pieces, and simmer on top of the stove in chicken broth add to it as it cooks. Strain it, twice, with cheese cloth and thicken with whatever you prefer. Salt and pepper. I only use the meat from the turkey necks not the pork, add drippings, cut the giblets into small pieces toss the rest of the solids with the cheesecloth. Cover it turn it off, and then reheat slowly when ready to serve.

                                      1. In addition to brining, I always cook my turkey breast side down until the last hour or so. This keeps the breast meat very moist.

                                        1. I have used the ATK recipe several times and always had a moist bird.
                                          I'm concerned about stuffing the bird however. I don't think that the stuffing gets hot enough in the bird to fully cook. Alton Brown did a turkey and stuffing show. He put the stuffing in a cloth bag and nuked the bag to heat the stuffing through. Then, if I recall correctly, he stuffed the stuffing bag into the turkey and roasted. I'm sure that you can find information on the Food Network website about this method.

                                          I always make more stock for the gravy. Got to have lots of gravy.

                                          14 Replies
                                          1. re: Pampatz

                                            Yeah, I make huge batches of gravy because I adore having "sludge" for the next several days.

                                            Sludge:
                                            Roast Turkey, cut into bitesize pieces
                                            Leftover gravy
                                            Leftover mashed potatoes
                                            leftover stuffing

                                            Mix together and heat through in a saucepan or in the microwave. EAT! Yum yum... ooh I can't wait until thanksgiving... :)

                                            1. re: Morganna

                                              Mmmm... that is absolutely one of my favourite concoctions! I throw it on a slice of bread like an open-faced sandwich and sprinkle lots of black pepper and salt to taste on top. Canadian Thanksgiving just came last weekend and I'm disappointed that I've already devoured all the leftovers in exactly the fashion you described...

                                              1. re: vorpal

                                                Vorpal - come on down & celebrate Thanksgiving again in the states (11/22) - Virginia specifically. By-the-way, you have excellent Thai cuisine taste - I love Rabeing (on Leesburg Pike).

                                              2. re: Morganna

                                                I do that too! So good! With a little cranberry sauce on the side.

                                              3. re: Pampatz

                                                Yes, if you want stuffing in the turkey, you can't roast the bird whole without drying the meat out. The only real compromise is removing the backbone from the bird and roasting it over the stuffing. Otherwise, you have to choose - stuffing in the bird or moist meat. Very simple, if unpleasant, truth.

                                                1. re: Karl S

                                                  I love the stuffing best that is cooked inside the turkey. I do not brine and have best results with a 14lb or less Butterball. Does not dry out. Be sure to let it rest 1/2 hour. Shortly after serving, I remove all the stuffing to a bowl.

                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                    that is not true . make dbl the stuffing u normally make and besides stuffing the breast and main cavity , also stuff all over the breast BETWEEN THE SKIN AND BREAST, thereby insulating the meat. Mine never dries out and I end up wit hall the stuffing I need. The bird ends up looking really silly with bumps all over it from the stuffing - but it works excellently. Please try it - just once.

                                                    1. re: dibob817

                                                      Wow, what an interesting idea! I stuff whole garlic cloves under my chicken skin when I roast a bird, and you get perfectly roasted garlic under the skin, it's great. But yes, it makes an odd looking, lumpy bird. I may try your idea, maybe with a chicken first...I like the idea of a layer of stuffing in each slice....this thread is making me so hungry!

                                                  2. re: Pampatz

                                                    I just looked for the Alton Brown recipe and actually there are 2 of them, one starting the bird at 500 degrees, a bit scary I think, and the one with the stuffing, which is more suitable to our needs. I love the idea of the bag, "1 re-usable organic cotton produce bag". Any idea where I might locate one of these? Whole Foods maybe?

                                                    1. re: ginnyhw

                                                      I've been doing the 500 degrees thing for years. It does produce a lot of smoke, but my bird is always perfectly browned. :) Dunno where to find the bag, though.

                                                      1. re: ginnyhw

                                                        Wm-Sonoma and Sur La Table sell those cotton bags you can keep lettuce in, or mushrooms. Maybe that wd work.

                                                        1. re: walker

                                                          My eagle eyed husband spotted a turkey stuffing bag today at WF for $1.49 so I'm all set. The other bags sound like a worth while buy but when I was looking at them on line at Sur la Table they were not available until Nov 22.
                                                          thanks for replying.

                                                    2. For the last 5 years, I've been doing the Martha cheesecloth-wine method, with great results. I've also been brining my turkey for about 12 hours before using the method. This method has been successful for birds ranging from 15-23 lbs so far. If you do use the cheesecloth, be careful when you remove it from the bird for the last part of roasting. It sticks to the skin and can tear it. Make sure you baste the cloth as you remove it from the skin (it's like removing a very sticky band-aid). Good luck with your turkey!

                                                      1. jfood is a baster but is very concerned about the temperature drops. Watching his mom open the door, pull out the rack and then baste it with the door open for 1-2 minutes used to drive him crazy, even as a kid.

                                                        so the "fix" jfood does is as follows:

                                                        1 - cook in the lower oven (explained a little later)
                                                        2 - when ready to baste, make sure there is a clean spot on the couter that is the closest to the oven (jfood just does a 180) and have a trivet ready
                                                        3 - put on two mitts
                                                        4 - tell everyone to clear
                                                        5 - open the oven grab the roasting pan and use your foot to close the door (that's why you use the lower oven)
                                                        6 - place on the trivet and baste
                                                        7 - ask for help for number 8
                                                        8 - helper opens the door staying on one side of the oven door, you slide that puppy right back in and close the door immediately.
                                                        9 - high 5s (with or without the mitts is your call), hugs and laughs. it looks really really funny

                                                        door time is minimized, basting occurs and a few laughs are perfect.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                          I just wish I had two overns from which to choose!

                                                            1. re: coll

                                                              no, just double wall ovens. l'shana tovah

                                                        2. I just read on anther thread that the Zuni cookbook has a recipe for turkey confit. Anyone have the recipe, tasted it or made it?

                                                          1. I brined a fresh organic bird last year and it was fantastic, the best I've ever made. I used to try all sorts of "innovative" recipes for Thanksgiving but they never seemed to live up to their hype or the effort involved (my cranberry-orange-pecan conserve is the sole survivor of those experimental days). Therefore, now I keep it very simple, just rub with melted butter, sprinkle inside and out with salt and pepper, and stuff the cavity with onion, carrot, celery and fresh herbs like thyme and parsely. Start in a hot (450) oven then turn down to 325, breast side down and turn it over half way through, which is reasonably easy for me to do because I never make a bird bigger than 14 lbs. Baste occasionally. My focus is on the sides while the turkey is cooking. Dressing gets baked on the side, basted with some pan juices and turkey stock. And for the amount of bird you're talking about, you probably will want to make a large batch of stock from extra parts like turkey wings and even chicken necks. Roast them first for a richer stock and don't add any vegetables. Your stock will have a much cleaner taste rather than tasting like boiled vegetables.

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: Ellen

                                                              How about roasting veg and spare parts, 2:1 meat to veg proportion and then dumping in a pot and simmering?

                                                              1. re: Ellen

                                                                My sister is against brining - says it makes the turkey taste like corned beef. She did it one year and I tend to agree with her.

                                                                Is there any way to brine w/out turning the turkey into some kind of pickled thing? Or is the texture changed even when you use no pickling-type stuff?

                                                                1. re: oakjoan

                                                                  After MUCH googling, I was able to find someone who cut and pasted the article from last year's LA Times about the Zuni'd Turkey, and it sounds like it might solve your brining issue: http://www.atlantacuisine.com/cgi-bin...

                                                                  1. re: oakjoan

                                                                    The "corned beef" flavor is probably from the spices added to the brine. A simple brine (just salt water) will change the texture a little, but the flavor isn't altered, just enhanced.

                                                                    1. re: oakjoan

                                                                      I never brine with the same spices as I'd use for a corned beef. Alton's brine is a completely different mix of flavors, using allspice and ginger, but all it does is give a really nice delicate flavor to the turkey that enhances it. Doesn't change it. But as someone else suggested, you can just use a saltwater brine that will bring moisture but not flavor. :)

                                                                      1. re: Morganna

                                                                        Come on, you gotta say it...

                                                                        TO THE PARTY!!! (Thanks, AB)

                                                                        I always brine poultry. Sometimes with spices, sometimes not. But without a brine, the troops subtly make their displeasure known.

                                                                  2. RE: Brining
                                                                    I have done this for roasting a chicken, but where shall I put this monstrocity? I was thinking in a cooler but is it safe for 12 hours?
                                                                    Where do all of you place your brining birds?

                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                    1. re: itryalot

                                                                      You have to keep the bird and brining solution well under 40-degrees. If you have a big enough fridge, a large roasting bag or freezer bag (needs to be food-safe) can be used to hold the liquid within another solid container, such as a roasting pan. If using a cooler, you need to use sufficient blu ice freezer blocks or equivalent to keep that temperature down near freezing. Be sure to chill the brining liquid before immersing the cold bird -- otherwise there is a bad danger period where bacteria, etc. can multiply before everything is chilled.

                                                                      1. re: itryalot

                                                                        Oh my brining bucket (a large food service bucket) will hold a 20 pound bird easily. I also empty out the bottom of my fridge and take out a rack. Then it fits perfectly in the bottom. :)

                                                                        1. re: Morganna

                                                                          I do the same thing -- but have also done the new XL Ziplock bags in a pot in the past and that worked well too. I agree that you CANNOT skimp on cooling the brining liquid first or you could have trouble. Make the brine well in advance so it is completely cooled -- I've even added ice to be sure (as in Alton's recipe).

                                                                        2. re: itryalot

                                                                          I have an agrrement with my butcher, I bring my bucket down Wednesday afternoon, toss the bird in and leave it in his cooler overnight. Before that I used a large cooler and ziploc bags full of ice to keep it cool without diluting the brine, the newer giganto ziplocs would have me putting the turkey and brine in a bag and not having to worry about contaminating the cooler.

                                                                          1. re: itryalot

                                                                            Williams Sonoma sells pretty big brining bags. While you could probably get bigger and cheaper plastic bags a restaurant supply store, I like the WS bags because they have a double zip lock at the top to guard against leaking. . I brined a 20 pounder in a cooler out on the back porch but the temperature that night was about 30 degrees so I wasn't concerned. I brined a 14 pounder in a WS brining bag and placed it in the vegetable drawer of my fridge.

                                                                          2. Last year I remember that the LA Times tried dry brining a turkey ala the Zuni chicken method, and that it turned out great. I read it too late last year to try it, but I think I really want to try that this year, but now I can't find the article with the proportions.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: JasmineG

                                                                              By dry brining, do you mean rubbing it inside and out with lots of salt like you do the Zuni roast chicken recipe? Finding a spot in the fridge to let it dry on a rack on a tray might be tricky for some, but I've got an extra fridge in the basement. I found this: http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...

                                                                              Judy Rodgers apparently wet brined, though, if you read it through.

                                                                              1. re: amyzan

                                                                                Yes, by dry brining that's what I mean, but that wasn't the right article -- they had one last year where they tested wet brining, dry brining, and (I think) doing it without brining at all, and decided that dry brining was far superior. I found the old thread where someone talked about it, but the link didn't work anymore. Okay, after some more searching, I think that the LA Times must have deleted the article or something, because it's discused on this food blog: http://www.ediblecommunities.com/edib... and the link that they have doesn't work either. Does anyone have the details from this article that they could paraphrase? I thought that I saved it in an email, but I can't find it.

                                                                            2. Can't wait for Thanksgiving. Wonder what fellow hounds think in regards to fresh or frozen. Organic and Free Range Vs. a regular super market bird.

                                                                              Also any input on Heritage Birds would be appreciated. This year I am contemplating a Heritage Bird. 1 question for my fellow hounds.

                                                                              I've heard a heritage bird can be gamey. What is your take? This doesn't bother me at all, just curious.

                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                              1. re: angelo04

                                                                                I might experiment with a heritage bird soem other time, but Turkey day is already stressful enough without worrying about an unknown like that. If you're feeding many others you have to hit the mark dead on.

                                                                                I've gone with a fresh organic free range bird the last four years and had wonderful luck. This year we're debating between a home schooled or Montessori schooled bird.

                                                                                1. re: angelo04

                                                                                  Go for the heritage turkey. They're domestic animals--have been for centuries--so they don't taste gamey at all. They do taste more like turkey, though.

                                                                                  That said, flavor and texture of any meat is affected by how the animal is raised and what it's fed. A bird that grows up eating bugs and weeds in an open pasture will have a more pronounced flavor and better muscle tone (read: less tender meat) than a "free range" bird raised in an enclosed barn / yard and fed a controlled diet. But pasture-raised birds are few and far between, so that shouldn't be an issue for you.

                                                                                  One caveat: the Frankenbird on display at your local grocery has been selectively bred to grow very quickly, with short legs and an unnaturally large breast (to the point that they can't walk or mate). So the ratio of white meat to dark on a heritage turkey is lower than on a standard commercial bird.

                                                                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                    Thanks for the info. I am a little perplexed, easily done sometimes. You reccomend the Heritage Bird but then you say a pasture raised bird has better flavor but tougher meat while the alledged free range bird has less flavor but more tender. I thought Heritage were pasture raised. What am I not getting?

                                                                                    1. re: angelo04

                                                                                      Part of the definition of a heritage turkey is that it must be able "to withstand the environmental rigors of outdoor production systems." (http://www.albc-usa.org/cpl/turkdefin...) But there's no requirement that they be pasture-raised. Some are, some aren't.

                                                                                2. Followed the ATK kitchen recipe to the letter. Very good and juicy. We like our skin very crisy so for the last 5 minutes I broiled it on high. Still great. Wish I would have taken photos. It was such a hit, I have been asked to make it again on Christmas day, but I was going to play with the wine and cheesecloth method of Martha.
                                                                                  Have to say, the free range, organically grain fed chicken I bought from a local purveyor was well worth the money spent.