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Nov 23, 2007 08:52 PM

Thanksgiving turkey -- overrated?!

I brined a fresh, free rangin' turkey for Thanksgiving and basted in the last 1/2 hour with maple syrup (I cooked at 400 for two hours-ish), per the recipe from the current (Nov 2007) issue of Gourmet magazine. It was good, I think, and my friends all liked it very much. This was my first turkey, and I think it was a real success. BUT... it just didn't knock my socks off. I've enjoyed farm-raised roasted chickens much, much more. Next year, I might blaspheme and roast two chickens rather than cooking a turkey! What do others think: is turkey overrated?

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  1. It all comes down to personal preference. I think you just don't like turkey that much. Turkey certainly isn't the first thing to come to mind when I think of overrated foods. If anything, turkey gets a bad rap because of how often it's badly prepared.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Humbucker

      If you don't like turkey, it's overrated.

    2. I'm with you - I like chicken MUCH more than turkey...but my traditional family could never abandon it, so I just stick to all the yummy side dishes.

      1 Reply
      1. re: cate_cooks

        Turkey, chicken, it's all good.

        The bottom line to me is, you just haven't found the way you like it yet. I never liked turkey growing up. That is, until I met Mrs. Sippi. The first US thanksgiving I enjoyed the turkey was smoked. I reluctantly tried some and was very pleasantly surprised. It was good. And not dry. My mom is the old school type, stuff the bird and baste it constantly. All that extra time in the oven is a killer.

        So keep trying. Maybe for you it's smoked. Or maybe it's deep fried. Who knows, maybe you need to "Set it and forget it." Sooner or later you'll find a way you like it.


      2. I usually think turkey on T-day is overrated, except this year I kind of missed it after eating the world's driest ovenstuffer. Cook and eat what you like.

        1. jfood loves turkey and chicken. he eats chicken probably 175 dinners a year. turkey is great on a 5 time per year cycle and like everything else needs to be prepared properly. most people overcook both their chickens and turkeys.

          likewise jfood loves the dark meat on both. there is so much flavor in the dark meat and usually is cooked to the temperature that jfood likes. until recently the chestnut stuffing was always the highlight of the meal, but alas, a new nut allergy sorta killed that theory. now jfood focuses on the turkey as the centerpiece and really likes it.


          4 Replies
          1. re: jfood

            I'm with JFood on the dark meat. Dark v. white is like two different foods on the same animal. I love when I can get turkey thighs at the market and cook those by themselves in a great braise, maybe adapting a Marcella Hazan recipe. They make great chili too. Smoked turkey legs are good for seasoning beans and greens instead of ham hocks if you don't eat pork.

            I cook whole turkeys several times a year because they're an easy way to feed a crowd. Economical, simple and most people prefer the white meat for some reason. The white meat is good for casseroles and soup so it never goes to waste at my house.

            I have never liked sweet flavors with turkey and wonder why so many recipes use sugar or maple syrup in brines or as bastes. Maybe the American taste for sugar or people thinking it helps with browning. Turkeys brown fine without it. Perhaps the maple syrup basting was some food writers' ideas of a way to add regional flair to Thanksgiving. I think the same holds true with sweet stuffings but they are less important to the flavor of the bird itself.

            IMO turkey is far tastier with savory seasonings rubbed well onto and under the skin several hours or a day before and allowed to marinate. Liberal use of olive oil under the skin plus the fat in the turkey itself allows you to skip the basting. Opening the oven door to baste causes the temperature to drop and creates a less than ideal roasting environment. The turkey should do perfectly well without basting if it's properly prepared for roasting. If anything, it will brown too fast and you'll have to open the oven door quickly to tent the breast with foil for the last few minutes.

            1. re: jfood

              The thigh is the best part of the bird.


              1. re: Davwud

                It's the best part of MOST birds, far as I'm concerned, but turkey thighs are just a great big meaty treat. Braise'em, bake'em...and I think they make even better confit than duck.

                My wife and her family, for whom I cook the main part of the T-Day feast every year, regard white meat as being fit only for sandwiches, so we have to have a four-legged turkey. Works for me!

                1. re: Will Owen

                  I'll tack on that white meat, for me, is merely a vessel for gravy. It is hard to beat an open-faced turkey sandwich w/ liberal graviness.

            2. We love turkey.
              However, through the years we have served lobsters, duck, Guinea hens, and pheasant just for a change. Each has been accepted enthusiastically by my long suffering family. But, turkey still remains the sine qua non for Thanksgiving. The trick is to get the best you can buy and pay attention to the seasoning and roasting temp & time.
              BTW: I never baste the turkey, nor do I stuff it.