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Stringy turkey breast -- likely with a huge bird??

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Last year or so we had a stringy turkey breast for the first time ever, and it so happened that we were cooking a really really big turkey for the first time too. Has anyone else seen this? My wife always cooks the turkey, and it has always been wonderful, juicy of breast and thoroughly cooked in the dark meat portions. This one was still very juicy but the breast was practically uncarveable, because it just fell into shreds along the grain of the muscle. We use the Whole Foods free-range birds, and she cooks it straight-up old school, no brining, no turning, just basting it and covering the top with foil once it is nicely browned. I can't remember how big the turkey was or how big our usual ones are, but we typically would shop to feed several people with leftovers, and Mrs Stringybreast was definitely a lot bigger than our usual -- like, really pushing the limits of an ordinary if pretty large roasting pan. Anybody?

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  1. Starting a turkey, or large chicken for that matter, with the breast down helps to keep it juicy. It just sounds like the breast over-cooked while the dark meat got done.

    1. I always cook a large turkey and have never experienced that problem before...it sounds like the meat was overcooked. I never cook my bird breast side down cause I find I have a problem turning it over without it falling apart so I just brine it & cover it up really well.

      1. Did you use a meat thermometer? That's THE most indispensable tool in my kitchen for large meats of any kind.

        1. Conventional wisdom states that a larger bird is an older bird, and an older bird has a better chance of being tough/stringy. That said, roasting to the proper temperature can help, as can carving the breast meat across the grain.

          As with flank steak, the fibers in a turkey breast run lengthwise, so if you carve the breast into crosswise slices you'll have shorter fibers in each slice, making it easier to chew and more tender. When I carve a turkey, I do it in the kitchen, on a cutting board - I remove the legs, wings and thighs whole, then remove the wishbone and cut down either side of the breastbone so that I can sort of "scoop" each breast off the carcass in one piece. Once the breasts are off, I cut them across the grain in 1/2" thick slices. SO much easier than carving at the table, and the results look neater and prettier (and taste better) than what you get doing it at the table.

          1. We average a 24lb bird and haven't had that problem, but I've noticed in recent years our turkeys always seem to cook in a shorter time period than expected by at least an hour, so I'd guess overcooked as well (with no offense meant to your wife).