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Baked turkey thighs - tough as a boot. What happened??

I bake a turkey every year & have never had a problem with a tough bird. I buy Butterball & baste well while baking. I was so hungry for turkey so I bought 2 large thighs, not Butterball, just a package stating "turkey thighs". I rubbed with olive oil & butter & baked slowly, very juicy looking during the cooking process. What a surprise! Those two thighs were like rubber, not to mention stringy meat.

Could I have prevented the toughness in any way? I have never baked just a portion of a turkey so don't know if the method should be different than baking a whole turkey.

My idea was to bake the two thighs, eat one, slice the other for sandwiches since I am tired of turkey slices from the deli section. Also, was hoping for a little leftover to make a soup.

Both pieces landed in the garbage, my two old dogs could not even chew it.

Please help.

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  1. i'd say you baked for too long, but i guess you already thought of that. you don't say how long you baked them.

    1. I cook thighs or legs in a 325 degree oven until they are fork tender.
      I brown them in a cast iron pot, deglaze with chicken broth and throw some onions in the pot, a couple bay leafs (or any aromatics you like). What really puts this over the top is a handful of dried porcini mushrooms. It makes a spectacular restaurant quality sauce after its strained.
      The turkey legs are very tender.
      Also.....cooking them in Reynolds cooking bag with the same ingredients gives a tender result too.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Annief123

        Do you cover the thighs? That's what I'd suggest to OP. Your dish sounds delish :)

        1. re: c oliver

          Yes, I absolutely cover it with the foil and the cover to the pan.
          It's almost impossible to over cook it.

          You may want to thicken the sauce.....the way you would do Ny gravy.

          It's really a great way to do chicken thighs. I then shred the meat and put it over rice or garlic mashed potatoes. I've even put the chicken on Nann bread with fontina cheese for a delicious pizza.

          Great mixed with pasta and cherry tomatoes.

        2. re: Annief123

          Do you brown & deglaze on the stove & then put your cast iron pot in the oven to bake to finish baking at 325 deg?

            1. re: Annief123

              This is probably the best thing I've learned so far since joining Chowhound. I had 2 very large turkey thighs and did exactly what Annief123 recommended, sans mushrooms but only because I didn't have them. The meat was falling - off - the -bone tender, but the skin was crispy.

              A master technique. Many thanks!!!

              1. re: nlgardener

                I'm so glad to hear that!

                When you have a chance, I would recommend giving the dried porcini's a try. It really gives the sauce a delicious and complex flavor.

                For anyone in the Ma. or Rhode Island area, Ocean State Job Lot carries them for under $3. For that price they are a regular staple in my pantry.

          1. re: Annief123

            I'm glad this thread popped again, I have a turkey thigh in the freezer needing to be used and had no idea what to do with it. I was going to try a high temperature roast Zuni-style but maybe I'll give this method a try instead.

          2. I did not cover the thighs & I baked at 325 deg for about an hour an a half. Thanks for pointing this out. I kept testing them for doneness, but each time they felt like rubber. Would it have helped to use an injector of melted butter/olive oil?

            With that said, I am eager to try again. Perhaps you all could toss in some of your methods of cooking individual pieces.

            A cooking bag sounds like that would help a lot.

            I am open to cooking any portion of the bird as long as I end up with something tender.

            6 Replies
            1. re: cstout

              I've done legs not thighs in the slowcooker.

              1. re: cstout

                Too hot for too long. Use a thermometer. If you don't have one, brine the legs first, which will give you a cushion against too high a finished temperature.

                1. re: greygarious

                  I'd have deboned and de-skinned the overcooked thighs, ground the meat, and made croquettes or a potted meat spread. And chopped up the cooked skin for the dogs.

                  1. re: greygarious

                    That's a good idea......with a good cranberry relish, I can see that being very tasty.

                    1. re: greygarious

                      Yes, I should have come to my senses & thought about plan "B".

                      Thanks for pointing that out to me. Wasted food is a bad thing.

                  2. re: cstout

                    I don't think it's too hot for thighs (not talking about drumsticks) but I do think it's too long. I generally roast bone-in, skin-on thighs uncovered anywhere from 350 to 450 deg, depending on what else I'm cooking. It generally takes about 40-60 minutes, depending on temperature and size. Start checking after 40 or 45. Always been nice and juicy.

                    Drumsticks, I like a nice slow braise.

                  3. Well, contrarian that I am.. I roast turkey drums, wings, thighs both for pre stock making and for a meal. 425F for about 1 hour or so till the skin is crisp and golden. It's the Michael Ruhlman way. Seasoned with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper ... and a dusting of garlic powder, uncovered. Perfect every time. Tender and juicy with great flavor.

                    1. I think the problem might be that you are baking the turkey instead of roasting the turkey. ; )

                      1. Folks, I am really confused about all these wide variations in temps & times you giving.

                        Each of you is getting good results, so there must be a common denominator appearing. I just can't put my finger on it though.

                        Is it the cooking vessel - does size & weight matter?

                        Does the meat always need to be covered?

                        Sorry to be facetious about this, but I am determined to get it right & start taking advantage of those turkey parts. Chicken is getting so tiring so I thought I would move on over to the turkey.

                        I know, sometimes it just makes sense to get in the kitchen & go down the line & try each of your suggestions, but since I threw out those pieces, I am being cautious as to how I need to proceed.

                        It is sorta like when a person follows the directions to a tee & it does not turn out while others use the recipe with success.

                        Food is so darn expensive these days & I am always trying to eat healthier & cheaper. That in itself is a continuing challenge.

                        Anyway, enough said from me.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: cstout

                          According to the America's Test Kitchen people, what matters is the final temperature. If memory serves, the example they used was beef, but the point was that as long as the temp of the roasted meat was correct, the juiciness was the same whether the meat was simmered in liquid or roasted covered or un. Of course, that doesn't take into account the crispness or degree of rendering of skin or fat caps, or color.

                          With a modicum of experience and imagination, most failed dishes can be salvaged or transformed into different dishes. That's a matter of your level of determination to conserve on ingredients and expense.

                          1. re: greygarious

                            Finding the correct temp for whatever you are cooking seems to be key, whether it is roast or turkey or whatever. Good to know that.

                            Thanks for some very import information.

                          2. re: cstout

                            For a while I was cooking (as in boiling) turkey thighs to make dog food. One thing that I learned was that big thighs took a lot longer to become "falling off the bone" tender compared to small ones.. And really were never as tender in the end. . I used to cook several at a time, so I had a good sample for comparison. Next time, get small thighs, they will be more tender!

                            1. re: firecooked

                              Will try to snatch up some smaller thighs, unfortunately I have been watching them for a long while & they are huge, much larger than I wanted really.

                              I remember an old neighbor man who used to have one of those outdated pressure cookers & he would throw whatever meat he could find that was cheap (bones & all) in there & cook until everything was mush, including the bones. Made dog food for his two dogs & they loved it since they did not have teeth anymore.

                              Have often thought about getting a small pressure canner to do the same, but don't know if those small canners would break down the bones too. Besides, everyone is making stock from the carcass, so then comes the question, do I want to make mush or stock?

                          3. Any protein strands, including turkey legs that are heated to over 200F WILL turn into rubber bands.
                            The phrase "low and slow" did not become popular for no reason.
                            It's funny how everyone who has ever tried 200F low and slow cooking ends up with moist juicy meat and those who continue to roast at screaming hot temps often wonder why the meat is basically rubber. Go figure.

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: Puffin3

                              My "low & slow" was way off based on your temp of 200F!

                              Don't anyone laugh, but I had no idea you could cook a turkey at 200F. I have always feared poisoning everyone at Thanksgiving, so I just kept the bird at 300F or there about to make sure.

                              Geez, I would have sworn we would all get sick from baking at 200F! Revelation for me.

                              1. re: cstout

                                You can get sick from cooking poultry at 200.

                                They key to cooking at any temp is to not overcook it.

                                I prefer high heat roasting

                                1. re: cstout

                                  When you make real BBQ (on a smoker), you keep the temp between around 180-250. And for tough cuts of meats like Pork or Brisket, you aim to get the final temp up to around 200 (less than around 190 and the tough collagen won't dissolve), but very slowly (can take 14 hours!). Even then, you don't want to hold it at that temp for too long (since even at low temp, the moisture will eventually evaporate out).

                                  For sous vide cooking, the water may be set at 130 degrees - the meat cooks eventually, but never goes above that temp.

                                  Turkey is really "done" at around 155, but you are advised to cook it to 160-170 to kill all the potential pathogens. In fact, there is a relationship between time and temp in killing bacteria. I don't have the exact figure, but for chicken, bacteria is killed by "flash" cooking to temp of 160 (that is, as soon as the temp hits that temp). However, if you cook to 150 and hold it there for 30 minutes, the bacteria will also be killed.

                                  1. re: cstout

                                    You are correct. You can get sick if you cook a whole bird at 200 degrees. According to the turkey FAQ website it explains that the bird takes too long to come up to a safe temperature and bacteria can result and cause a food born illness. Even though our mothers might have done it, a whole turkey should never roast under 325 degrees.
                                    It did say turkey thighs and legs are safe to cook at 200 degrees.

                                    1. re: Annief123

                                      There is debate about low and slow. Same as 'SV' cooking. There's lots of information out there about both methods.

                                      1. re: Annief123

                                        Your contention is not without its detractors. I have done roast turkey using the method that has you roast at 160-180.
                                        So have thousands of cooks over decades, if not centuries, without a problem. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/335611

                                        The beauty of cooking meat at its goal temp is that it cannot overcook that way.

                                    2. re: Puffin3

                                      I only ever braise turkey legs -- whether on the stovetop, in the oven, in the crock pot, or in the pressure cooker.

                                      One of my teen's favorite meals.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        Just to educate myself I googled braising & visited this web site. Other good info there for other cooking methods.


                                    3. I made a few turkey thighs in the crock pot last week and they came moist and tender. Although I did cook them for a long time as I intended to shred the meat but even half way through the cooking time they were quite tender. I would increase the temperature and cook for a shorter time or cover with some liquid in the pan and braise.

                                      1. This thread makes me want to go buy some turkey thighs. We much prefer the dark meat over the breast meat, whether it's turkey or chicken.

                                        1. They needed another hour is all... Wrapped in foil for a while to keep moisture in, then broiled to get skin crispy...