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Nov 21, 2010 07:02 AM

Enormously, tremendously, stupendously huge turkey advice?

For reasons too convoluted to go into, this year our turkey is a 35+-pounder. I'm a little daunted. I usually wet-brine -- is this guy too big for that? Should I dry-brine? Anyone have any advice on this ... weighty matter? Thank you!

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  1. Did you already buy the bird? Wouldn't it be easier to get two 20 pounders? That way there are more legs and wings too. Although I guess that would mean twice the equipment.

    I'm not sure about the brine I would guess it would work but it would take more time to soak into the meat.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Zusie

      Yeah, it's a done deal - one I don't plan to repeat, but it's a fact on the ground this year.

    2. Wow, I would first call one of those turkey hotlines that poultry companies operate around Thanksgiving. It seems like you'd need some professional or at least experienced *with huge turkey cooking* advice.

      9 Replies
      1. re: blue room

        So you're telling me to seek professional help? ;)

        1. re: Tatania

          OK, here's a picture of a 40 pounder--does it scare you?

          1. re: blue room

            Wow, all I can say is that poor turkey, bred to be so big around the breast there was no ability for him to have any, um, relationships with lady turkeys. Sad. Oh well. Anyway, wet brine it the usual way, for 12 hours max and roast for a long time...

            1. re: bushwickgirl

              All commercial turkeys are that way. None of them are capable of breeding on their own.

              1. re: ZenSojourner

                All commercially produced large breasted turkeys. Yes, and it's sad.

              1. re: blue room

                Oh dear lord. Yes, yes it does scare me. I wonder if you'll even be able to break the wishbone in that thing.

                1. re: blue room

                  Sure doesn't look like that 40 pounder was going to fit in that oven behind her.

                  1. re: blue room

                    What terrifies me more is the prospect of daily cooking on that range. Couldn't get a stock pot on it to save your life.

              2. Wow, I didn't know they got that big!

                I should think that brining would be equally workable whether wet or dry, but be sure not to soak it too long (6-12 hours max in a strong brine like 1 cup kosher salt to a gallon of water; you could go longer with a weaker brine).

                Depending on your tools and sense of tradition, you might also consider breaking the bird down and roasting it so that you could pull the separate parts as they come to temperature. That's on the theory that a bigger bird might exacerbate the usual doneness differences of white and dark meat. Good luck!

                7 Replies
                1. re: Bada Bing

                  Interesting. Are you saying I should brine for a *shorter* time than with a normal bird? I would have thought the opposite. Why?

                  As for butchering the thing, that was the original (sensible) plan, but it's been nixed.

                  1. re: Tatania

                    A traditionalist put the kibosh on butchering? Well, that's Thanksgiving for you.

                    About brine times, I don't mean to say a *shorter* brine timing than is probably typical for you. But here's my concern: I know that some briners follow a time-to-weight formula (an hour per pound-and-a-half, or whatever), but with a weight that high, you run some risk of pickling the bird if you brine it, say, twice as long as you would an 18lb bird.

                    It will be interesting to hear from people with experience. Something makes me think that a lower, longer cook would work best for a whole bird this large. I'd use a probe themometer, maybe even two if possible in different parts of the bird. You might also consider the Cooks Illustrated approach of laying ice packs over the breast meat to even out the breast-thigh cooking times.

                    1. re: Bada Bing

                      >Well, that's Thanksgiving for you.

                      Yes, I see what you mean about the brining - a very good point. Thank you. And the ice-pack is a definite.

                      As for longer-lower, this is something else I'm dithering about. It's my first thought as well, though I've also had great success (with smaller turkeys) with the Barbara Kafka 500f shorter blast. Very interested, too, in others' experience.

                      1. re: Bada Bing

                        Using a recipe from Alice Waters, I brine my 22 lb. bird for 72 hours. It has always turned out great and never"pickled."

                        1. re: emilief

                          What sort of container do you have for a bird of that size?

                          1. re: emilief

                            Interesting. What's your salt/water ratio?

                    2. Measure your oven! A bird like that might not fit roasted whole.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: weezycom

                        Something to be thankful for: it does fit.

                      2. We usually wind up with a thirty plus pound bird. When I brined, I think it was for a day or so. I just followed whatever directions/recipe for the brine I was using in any given year (most have some sort of instruction concerning brine needed per pound with recommended soaking times).

                        I actually skipped brining altogether last year. I just wasn't in the mood to wrestle a big wet bird any more than I already had to. I was going to dry-brine, but scrapped the plan at the last minute. I decided to roast the bird breast side down for the majority of the cooking time, and then flipped it only for the last hour or so (doing a foil tent on a bird that size, to protect the breast, almost required a building permit). We were really pleased with how it turned out.

                        Please note that flipping a bird that size usually requires two people. Good luck!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: onceadaylily

                          >doing a foil tent on a bird that size, to protect the breast, almost required a building permit).
                          Laughing over this line.

                          This is all comforting advice. Breast-side down may be the way to go.