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Low and Slow turkey report as promised

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As a recent convert to fourunder's low and slow roasting, I fearlessly decided it was the way to go with today's turkey. As I promised on the prime rib thread, here's how it went:

5.6kg (just slightly over 12lbs) pre-basted turkey crown (breasts only, no legs/thighs/wings) The turkey was provided by our host, I was only asked to roast it due to his oven space restrictions.

Removed turkey from fridge at 1000. One hour at room temp. Just before oven time, it got a paper-towel pat down and a rub all over with a veg oil/salt/homemade poultry seasoning mix. I planned on getting this just under the skin, but found it difficult to get the skin to separate from the meat, so I just left it alone. Crown was set on a rack on a shallow roasting tray. Nothing under it. (I had plenty of stock left from Thanksgiving, so I was not concerned with drippings for gravy.) I was also considering breaking it down into two separate breasts, but no knife or kitchen shears I own were getting through that breast bone!

1100 - in to a 220C oven with convection fan on. (oven was already at this particular temp from some breakfast pastry baking.)
1115 - oven temp decreased to 140C (275F), fan shut off.
1240 - internal temp up to 97F. reversed position of roasting pan
1330 - internal temp at 124F. Again, reversed position.
1405 - internal temp 135F
1445 - internal temp 148-154 depending on probe position.
1510 - internal temp 158 in multiple locations on both sides. We need to leave for dinner, so I pulled the turkey at this point, wrapped it well in foil, covered in three layers of clean dish towels and took the turkey to our host's next door, straight to a warm stove-top location to rest. I was told ahead of time that no one at dinner was huge on crispy skin, so I opted against a high-heat finish.
1540 - started carving after a 30 min rest. I forgot to bring my thermometer along for a post-rest temp check. No pink noted upon carving. Minimal amounts of clear juice loss. Turkey carved beautifully, super moist, texture completely unlike any turkey I have ever roasted before. I only carved one breast to start, and left the other covered in foil and one dish towel during dinner.
1700 - I carved the other half of the turkey so I could cool it down and get it into the fridge. It was still nice and warm (I would have served it at this point!) and amazingly moist.

I am absolutely thrilled with this technique and have no plans to go back to any high heat method! The results were so far above what we were expecting, and there was just no stress about overcooking it. I even got compliments from a few self-proclaimed turkey haters! I just need an oven-safe temp probe to avoid the repeated checks with my instant thermometer. My thanks (and the thanks of all 12 of us at dinner) to fourunder for your kind and patient instructions!! Anyone even thinking about trying this, do it. You will not be sorry!

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  1. Wow, this is a great report, thanks for all the detail. I think you've inspired me to give this a go! My last attempt to roast a turkey (using my traditional blast at high temp then turn down & roast for a couple of hours technique) ended up with some of the leg bits underdone & a couple of my dinner guests commenting on how rare they were. Very embarrassing. You've reminded me how important it is to check temp in multiple locations.

    I have one of those fancy digital thermometers in my venison roast in the oven at the moment -it's great, but I used it on that turkey I mentioned above so it's no substitute for care & attention :-)

    3 Replies
    1. re: geekmom

      This was for breast only, no wings, legs, or thighs. I also struggle with making a perfect turkey with all pieces done to perfection. The wife and I have battled over turkey for our short marriage, I've just decided to let her do the turkey, I can deal with overcooked breast, let's see, gravy, butter, olive oil, and crispy skin on the side.

      1. re: James Cristinian

        I agree that there's the issue of dealing with dark meat that I have yet to tackle. I have gotten over the whole Norman Rockwell presentation thing, and I carve in the kitchen and serve up on a platter, so next time (next year?) my plan is to break the turkey down and pull pieces as they test done. I'd also like crispy skin, so now that I know to allow plenty of time, I can plan on a high-heat finish as well. But there will never be cotton-turkey served in this house again.

        1. re: tacosandbeer

          Thanks for the plug and it's nice to hear you had another enjoyable result with your finished roast bird. While I do roast turkeys whole, the presentation aspect is a distance memory at my holiday meals, as I plate out of the kitchen like yourself. While many on this site preach the virtues of a spatchcocked bird....I find simple dismemberment of the leg and thigh, and back to be preferable and much easier. It also allows for more consistent roasting and you can fit the parts of two 14# birds into the oven at the same time.

          To be honest, I rarely use a digital probe thermometer, as I'm comfortable cooking the same items from memory and experience to tell me what to expect at certain time intervals....as such, I do not poke the meat with a thermometer while checking the meat. My process is to poke the meat with my finger to test the resistance, couple with a visual inspection. Between the two methods, the outcome is always suffice and predictable.

          Now that you have the confidence to use the low and slow method for future roasting.....here's what I suggest: When you hit your target temperatures, take a visual inspection to see how the meat has pulled back from any bones or skin. Also, poke the meat with your finger to test the resistance of the meat and bank that in your memory. Between the two checks, you will be surprised how easy it will be for you to even more less stressed and the reliance of the digital probe thermometer. While others will tell you that's not the way a chef would do it....I would tell you otherwise and I have much more commercial kitchen experience than most to know that's not true.

          As for the Dark Meat Turkey..... roasting it apart from the breast and off the carcass allows for more consistent cooking...and both usually finish at roughly the same time. Remember, that with low temperature roasting, the method is very forgiving and most meat will only increase in temperature at around 5-7* at most....so the fear of drying out the breast meat while cooking the legs and thighs is reduced.....especially since the breast is much thicker.....plus the fact I think most overcook the darkmeat in an effort to be safe.

    2. Congrats for beginning your move away from 'the Dark Side' AKA cooking poultry at screaming high heat. You are part way there.
      Your next leap of faith must be: Whole turkey is wet brined for five or six hours the day before. Patted dry. Refrigerated over night. An hour before going into the oven remove the bird rub with a bit of s&p NO oil/butter and no internal stuffing. I put a couple of halved lemon and a few fresh thyme sprigs in the cavity. Leave it covered on the counter to come up to room temp. Preheat the oven to 200 F. NO HIGHER! Put bird in roasting pan uncovered. If you cover it it will 'stew' like the one my mother-in-law did a few years ago. Depending on the size of the bird this 'low and slow' method can take four/five hours more or less. After a couple of hours check internal temp. Keep checking every hour until the internal temp is about 145 F. Remember every time you stick a thermometer into the bird you are allowing juices to escape. You'll notice the skin won't be golden brown though. Now turn the oven to 'broil'. Watch the bird carefully. Within a couple/few minutes the skin will turn a lovely crispy golden brown. Remove the bird and tent lightly. Rest for at least half an hour or more. The carry over temp with bring the temp up to 150 F +. If you want a higher temp remove the bird when the internal temp is to your liking. IMO any poultry is going to begin to dry out quickly after about 160 F. My thought on resting/carving is when you can hold the drum stick/s to begin carving with your bare hands the bird has rested/cooled enough. It doesn't have to be screaming hot when served. Just make sure the plates are warmed and the gravy is really hot.
      If your follow this method religiously I promise you you'll be delighted with the results every time. The same goes for roasting any poultry.

      1. Not to quibble with your results, but an hour out of the fridge is not enough to allow a 12# hunk of meat to reach room temp. Most of that breast was still almost as cold as if it went straight from fridge to oven. Just keep that in mind when figuring out your timing in the future. Spending that hour submerged in cool water will come closer to equalizing the temp throughout than leaving it on the counter does.

        5 Replies
        1. re: greygarious

          IMO the reason to have the bird in the fridge over night after being patted dry is to have a nice dry crispy skin that helps hold in the moisture. It's pretty dry in a fridge usually. AB has done a great vid on 'air drying' a big roast for a few days in the fridge. Sticking the turkey in water for an hour before putting it in the oven doesn't add up with respect. Personal I don't see a problem leaving the bird out over night covered in a 'cool' room like a garage. As long as the pet dog doesn't find it. LOL
          Anyone here ever see how the British handle fresh shot game birds? They will hang them feathers and guts intact by the legs even in the summer. When the birds have basically rotted to the point where the bodies fall to the ground leaving just the legs hanging then they consider that's the time to eat the rotten things. Gaaaaah! Seen it with my own eyes many times while living in England.

          1. re: Puffin3

            A turkey still in its wrapper won't get any wetter as long as the plastic is not punctured. OP's plan did not include an unwrapped nap in the fridge, though I agree with you that it's a good thing if you have the time and space.

            1. re: greygarious

              They didn't offer that the bird was still in it's wrapper. Still think 'fridge drying' is a good way of drying the surface over night.

              1. re: Puffin3

                Just for clarification - I am in the UK with a ridiculously tiny fridge and do not have the luxury of dedicating enough fridge space to unwrap and dry the turkey, as much as I would love to try it. As it was, the fresh veggies and beer got relegated to the cold garage for the night to make room for it!

          2. re: greygarious

            I agree - but juggling a 3 year old's Christmas, trying to reassure BIL that turkey would be amazing and not completely confident of the timing, an hour was as much as I dared to wait before getting the damn thing in the oven. I took good notes so I can learn from these experiences. I kind of wish we ate turkey more often so I could fine tune the process!

          3. If I may offer a few additional points... First of all, congrats to all who have adopted this method and ignored the nanny state trying to scare you away from it. You've discovered that you never have to put up with dry overcooked poultry ever again.

            We have a restaurant that does nothing but Turkey every day and we use a method similar to those outlined above and our guests are amazed that they've never tasted anything like our Turkey before. We tell them exactly how we do it, which is the way all you guys do, but no one believes us.

            We have these crazy prime-rib ovens with computerized temperature probes -- each one costs more than a sports car -- and we use 30-lb birds. They come to us frozen, injected (pre-brined) so the brining part is taken care of. After thawing we give them a spice rub and let them air-dry for five days in the cooler, standing upright on a vertical roaster so no juices can pool anywhere. Then we roast them upright as well.

            Because of onerous health laws, we don't have the luxury of using the same temps you do, but we roast at about 250F and the ovens kick into holding mode once the internal temp hits 165 (we'd do it at 150 if the laws allowed it). The ovens hold at 170 until we arrive in the morning and break down the birds for service. Even at these higher temps the white meat is silky and moist, very unlike your typical Turkey. The dark meat is enough to send you into fits of joy.

            I actually have a video I made with a home version of this if anyone is interested: http://youtu.be/4xFOd6QicAU

            6 Replies
            1. re: acgold7

              Yeah when I had a restaurant we'd do a 200 F 'low and slow' turkey and half a dozen chickens a day sometimes. It still amazes me to read post advocating screaming hot roasting temps. We'd also tell any customer who was interested how we roasted the birds. You could see in their eyes a lot of them simply did not believe it. We figured that's fine. The next time they ruin another turkey or chicken they'll be back to us for a really delicious juicy turkey or chicken dinner. 'Back in the day' the health inspectors never asked about internal temps. As long as the kitchen was spotless that was enough. They also enjoyed to odd dinner on the house. LOL

              1. re: Puffin3

                Yeah, times have changed. These days you offer them anything on the house and they write you up.

                Worst cookbook ever: "Roasting" by Kafka, which does everything at 500 degrees and guarantees a blackened parched bird and a smoked up kitchen.

              2. re: acgold7

                ac,

                Nice tutorial and video presentation.....

                btw....Alto-Shaam or other?

                1. re: fourunder

                  Alto-Shaam 1200 TH III, baby! I can no longer afford to send my kids to college, but they were worth it!

                  1. re: acgold7

                    Nice....15-20 years ago I picked four identical Alto-Shaam cook and hold, top/bottom ovens for 400 bucks each at auction. It was the start of my low and slow approach ways..

                    1. re: fourunder

                      I am weeping at the thought of 400 bucks each....

              3. Tacosandbeer are you doing low and slow again?

                10 Replies
                1. re: fldhkybnva

                  Absolutely - we are hosting a Muslim family and a Scottish couple this year, and I have no turkey stress whatsoever! It was THAT good! And now that I have last year's notes to refer to, I can plan a little better. I especially love the fact that there's no problem holding the turkey out of the oven while the rolls and dressing bake.

                  1. re: tacosandbeer

                    I made my first and only turkey with the low and slow method last year. As I was thinking about planning this year I started to worry, but then realized that it was so easy and delicious that it'd be the obvious choice again! I wish I had more notes to go by but I think my plan from last year worked pretty well with 450-475F for 20 minutes then at 250F to finish, and let it rest at 140-150F. I'm quite excited, I have to say it was the best bird I've ever had and as a turkey lover that makes me quite excited as it's an important part of the meal for me. It was recommended that I rest it as long as I can close to 2 hours so that's my plan.

                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                      That rest time is awesome, isn't it?? I used to rush around trying to get the stuffing and sweet potatoes warmed through and the rolls baked before the turkey got cooled off and started to dry out. I'm telling you - the lack of stress for the first time in 30 years of trying to perfecly time this meal with only one oven - I'm so excited it's a bit sad!!

                      1. re: tacosandbeer

                        Not sad, fantastic! This is my favorite part of the year because its when we get together and remember what's important and spend time with those we love while also indulging on once a year treats of course. It's a perfect celebration to me!

                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                          I know - and I am thrilled that we get to share it with some new friends who have never experienced an American Thanksgiving - we are even having a "kid's table"!! Mr Tacos is teasing me a bit over the spreadsheet timetable on the front of the fridge though!

                          1. re: tacosandbeer

                            Spreadsheet, just one! I have 4 all in a handy dandy Google Doc. We used to always have a kids table and in fact when i do make it home I still sit there :)

                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                              Oh, I am soooo showing this thread to Mr Tacos - he's going to HAVE to quit giving me a hard time now!!

                              1. re: tacosandbeer

                                Oh I know I'm a psycho. When do you do your shopping?

                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                  Non-perishables will get purchased with next week's regular grocery run. Bread has already been cubed and toasted for the stuffing. Homemade sausage for the stuffing has been made and is frozen. (No Jimmy Dean available!) Homemade poultry seasoning has been blended and ground (McCormick's is non-existent here.) Pumpkin is already roasted, pureed and frozen. (Canned Libby's has to be ordered online.) I have to tag along with my sweet neighbor when she makes a Costco run for pecans for pie, so whenever she goes. Turkey gets purchased the day it needs to start thawing, along with perishables. The reason for that is because our UK fridge is not much bigger than an under-counter model, and the freezer is simply not big enough to hold a turkey. Beer, wine and ice the day before, to be held in the Igloo in the garage. But I have a few extra days - because no one gets the day off here, I'm actually not doing the big meal until Sun Dec 1st. Oh, and the menu has been emailed out to the guests.

                            2. re: tacosandbeer

                              Best of luck with your low and slow turkey and I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I'm sure your dinner will be a treat to introduce Thanksgiving to your new friends.