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Dec 15, 2013 12:58 AM

What to do with whole turkey


I just bought a whole turkey, at about 11 lb. It was frozen, but is sitting in my fridge right now, I guess it's almost thawed by now. Now my problem is, we're basically just two people eating turkey, so 11 lb is a bit much for one dinner. So obviously I'll need to cut it into suitable portions. However, with a bird this size the number of dinners for the two of us would be quite high (5? 10?), and by the time we manage to eat it all, I fear we would be fed up (literally) on turkey.

So, would it be possible to thaw the bird, cut it, and then refreeze the individual portions? Or would this destroy the meat in some way?

Alternatively, would it be better to cook the portions first, then freeze? And then just thaw and reheat whenever we want turkey for dinner?

And in the latter case, would you recommend cooking the whole bird before cutting (roasting it in the oven), or would it be better to cut it first and then cook each portion individually?

One final question: I guess I should consider brining? If so (and if I refreeze the portions uncooked), should the portions be brined prior to refreezing, or would it be better to freeze first and then brine after rethawing again?

So basically, to sum up, I need to perform the following operations to my bird: Brine, cut, cook, refreeze, thaw, eat. What would be the best order in which to perform these operations?

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  1. Cook first then freeze. Now that the bird is thawed, if you cut it up and freeze before cooking you risk lowering the quality of the meat - repeated freeze/thaw cycles mean ice crystals break down the flesh and cause it to be mushy once cooked.

    Though there are many proponents of brined poultry, I find wet brining makes the flesh spongy and wet, and doesn't improve the flavor beyond adding saltiness. If brining interests you, do a search on this board and you find lots of advice from those who do brine. Then there is "dry brining" which is essentially salting the bird and refrigerating it for a day or two. Again a search on this board using the term will direct you to threads discussing pros and cons of dry brining.

    A cut up turkey will cook faster and more evenly than a whole bird. If you have a large enough oven and roasting pan, consider butterflying the bird. (Search this board for "spatchcock") Otherwise cut into quarters like you would a poultry, and don't cook the breast as long as the dark meat.

    Handle your turkey in this order: cut it up, brine it if you wish, cook it and freeze.

    1. Here's what I do: I defrost the turkey just enough so I can remove the breast, cut up the legs into portions, cut up the bones to make soup. I wrap each breast half, and each legs and freeze, make broth. You can then have turkey anytime and make turkey scallops with the breast. It's a bit hard to do this while the turkey is partially frozen but it's well worth the effort.

      1. Don't thaw it and refreeze. Don't do that to any protein

        I agree with everything janniecooks told you except for the wet brining. I always brine my turkey usually using a wet brine method.

        1. After you cook that bad boy, bone it out and portion it, it will easily fit in your freezer after a nice meal of it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: treb

            And use the carcass for broth/stock.

          2. You go it. Only thing I'd offer is to 'slow-simmer' the bird at 200 F until the deep interior reaches about 155 F. Remove and cool and remove all the meat and into Zip locks. Don' 'boil' the water or your bird will turn into rubber bands.....the kind we all get to enjoy at every turkey dinner unfortunately hence giving turkey such a bad wrap.

            14 Replies
            1. re: Puffin3

              That's gonna be one big, big pot to hold even an 11# bird!

              1. re: c oliver

                I've accumulated quite a collection of pots over the years. I used to cook for 20-25 @ the Holidays but now our family is smaller.Another option I didn't mention was to deep fry your turkey. Personally, I've never fried one but have eaten them. Delicious!

                1. re: c oliver

                  Not to mention a food safety hazard

                  1. re: C. Hamster

                    What's the "food safety hazard"? I always pull at 155F.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      Do you cook it at 200?

                      When you cook at such a low temp there is less carry over.

                      Also IMO dark meat benefits by cooking to 175 or 180, IMO .

                      1. re: C. Hamster

                        I don't know what "carry over" is. I just think it's done at 155.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          Poultry isn't safe to eat until 165.

                          When you take something out of the oven, it's really hot.

                          So it continues to cook unless you cool it immediately.

                          That's carry over.

                          So a turkey continues to cook after it's pulled. But the carry over cooking time depends on how hot the item is when it's pulled.

                          A turkey cooked at 200 will have less carry over cooking time than one cooked at 350.

                          1. re: C. Hamster

                            Turkey, nor any other food, isn't dangerous even raw unless a pathogen is present. I'm fine with 155.

                            1. re: c oliver

                              Pathogens are present all the time.

                              If you cook at 350 and let it rest, pulling it at 155 is fine.

                            2. re: C. Hamster

                              That's not true. There are a number of other threads that talk about this.

                              If the meat has reached 155 degrees for 2 minutes or 150 degrees for five minutes, that is just as safe as 165 degrees for 10 seconds.

                              1. re: calumin

                                Calumin is correct, 165 is the "instant kill" temperature for poultry but youcan cook it to lower temperatures if it will be held warm for awhile. I cook my turkeys @ 325 (convection- on) unstuffed to 150 degrees internally. This always seems to get he job done nicely without turning the breast meat to sawdust.Her's a time temperature chart for poultry:

                                Minimum Pasteurization Times For Selected Meat Temperatures*
                                Chicken & Turkey With 12% Fat

                                136°F (57.8°C) 82 minutes
                                140 (60.0) 35 minutes
                                145 (62.8) 14 minutes
                                150 (65.6) 5 minutes
                                152 (66.7) 3 minutes
                                154 (67.8) 2 minutes
                                156 (68.9) 1 minutes
                                158 (70.0) 41 seconds
                                160 (71.1) 27 seconds
                                162 (72.2) 18 seconds
                                164 (73.3) 12 seconds
                                166 (74.4) 0 seconds

                          2. re: C. Hamster

                            not me. At 180 it loses its succulence.

                    2. re: Puffin3

                      Low and low 225F, pull at 150F, freeze into portions.

                      For future turkeys, I've ready here that some cut it in half before freezing and roast half at a time