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Nov 23, 2012 06:51 AM

Beautiful, Moist, Tough Turkey. What Happened?

I know there are two camps on turkey, quick high heat and slow and low. I chose the first, and maybe that was my problem. Cooked a 2 1/2 pound split breast at 400 degrees farenheit until thermometer read 165. That took about 25 minutes longer than the recipe I was following said it should. (Cooked for about an hour 15 minutes.) Let rest about 10 minutes.

Beautiful bird, lovely skin, VERY moist. Almost inedible. Tough, tough, tough. Can you help me prevent this disaster next year?

*On the positive side, I saw a photo of a dressing dish that had a few cranberries on top -- added those to my cornbread, sausage, apple, pecan dressing (which is so delicious, but not terribly visually appealing) with a little parsley and chopped unpeeled red apple and it looked and tasted great. So I had that going for me. Too bad about the turkey.

Bummed in KC

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  1. What brand of poultry did you use?

    I had that exact problem this summer when I used lower quality chicken. So now I only use Bell and Evans or equivalent and have not had the issue even when I use Barbara Kafka's 500 degree method. That's what high heat is.

    2 Replies
    1. re: C. Hamster

      I used a fairly high quality brand (Diestel) this time and had the same problem, tough, tough, tough. When I took it out of the packaging I knew I was in trouble. The bird looked and tasted like an old stewing hen, not a Thanksgiving turkey...

      1. re: C. Hamster

        Thanks to all who replied. Yippee! It wasn't me! Now I can blame it on the bad bird. I bought it at an upscale market, so I thought whatever I got there would be good... but obviously not. I will be more picky next year. Thanks for the advice on which to choose and how to cut it!

      2. You should have let it rest for at least 30 mins and then sliced it in thin-ish slices, straight across the breast. That would have helped - but if you have a tough old bird, there's not a whole lot you can do.

        1. High Heat roasting produces firmer, stiffer and chewier texture meats

          Lower Heat roasting promotes softer and more tender meat. The reason is the low and slow method mimics the dry aging process and allows the natural enzymes in meat to break down the flesh.

          If you can afford the extra time....low and slow is always my recommendation. For Turkey breasts, with rib cage or boneless, I cook on a rack @ 225-275 degrees, depending on the size of the breast and it's shape(thick as opposed to thin.

          While I agree you can sometimes get a real clunker and poor results for a roast of any type of meat....I'll disagree with the thought it has to do with the quality of the bird itself......or in other words, a lesser brand as opposed to a premium brand. I've been cooking those free turkeys as long as they have been offering them .....and have never found the bird to be a problem....only cooking methods.

          If you research further, you will find many do not like Fresh Kill or Heritage Turkeys for the simple reasons of taste and tough meat....the latter due to the fact the bird may have been cooked before the natural process of decomposition needed to get the poultry out of rigor.

          1. The same thing happened to me. Luckily, I was roasting the turkey the day after Thanksgiving, so I didn't ruin the family feast!

            Out of necessity, I roasted a 13-lb. organic bird on 400. The recipe suggested it would take 2 1/2 hours. I roasted it for 4 1/2 , and the thigh was just to temperature when I pulled it out. I had it breast-down most of the time, so it wasn't dry, but it was tough and chewy with terrible flavor.

            My sister buys some mainstream turkey from the the Ag-industrial complex every year, and often cooks it to death. It's sometimes falling apart as we remove it from the roaster. Yet every year we have delicious turkey on Thanksgiving.

            Here's my takeaway:

            I will never, ever use a high-heat method again. Low and slow from now on. Probably 325. And no more 165-170. I will cook it mostly breast down until it's really, really cooked, maybe covered during part of the roasting.

            I may just buy a Butterball or some such thing. If organic, I will absolutely brine.

            3 Replies
            1. re: CathleenH

              I buy farm turkeys, not organic, and I never brine them. I just cook them on lowish heat and don't overcook and they are always delicious and juicy. Brining is fine but it is not the only way to get a tender result.

              1. re: CathleenH

                325 is not low, it's average. If you want to be more certain of moist, tender meat, don't go higher than 275. It's best to stay even lower, then blast the skin with high heat just at the end, watching for it to get almost as brown as you want (it will get a little browner from residual heat as it rests).

                The only really chewy turkey I ever made was the one time I bought a fresh one from a local poultry farm. Moist, right temp, but not tender. The skin was brown outside, but turns out it was thicker than I'd previously encountered, so it didn't render enough and was rubbery to chew. I bemoaned this to my mother, over the phone. She suggested it was too fresh, and I later learned she was correct.

                1. re: CathleenH

                  For several years, I've bought a Butterball, fresh if available. I do not brine, I unwrap the day before and wash and dry with paper towels and leave it uncovered in a disposable roasting pan in fridge (I do roast it in a regular roasting pan with a rack .. had a very big disaster one year cooking in disposable pan!).

                  I make sure I buy 15 lbs or under to get a hen. Always have good luck, outcome. I think temp starts at 400 and then cut down to 350 when I place turkey in oven. I like to stuff it (even tho many chefs say not to). Have you seen the thread where I put the Petrini Market recipe for turkey? The best!

                2. I've used Barbara Kafka's high heat (500) roasting method on chicken for years and it's never been tough. On the contrary, it's juicy and tender.


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: C. Hamster

                    Thanks to all who have replied. I did not have time for low and slow (tried to fit two Thanksgivings in one day) but am thinking now that a really high heat would have been better than 400. Or maybe only one Thanksgiving in a day. And being more picky when choosing my turkey. I'lll let you know how it goes next year. Keeping my fingers crossed. Maybe I'll do a test turkey some other time this winter so I don't pull off another Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Thanks again, guys.