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Bella S.F.

Egad! It's Electric

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It has taken a few years, but I think that we have finally perfected our Thanksgiving dinner. I have copious notes about the brining, when to start the stock for the gravy, what temps to use, when to switch from convection oven to the regular gas, etc. Now we are going to be cooking the meal in someone's electric kitchen. When I used it this summer I completely screwed up a batch of oven roasted potatoes and zucchini. I used and lower temp and checked them early and they were still mushy and not at all brown,

I don't know how to begin to figure out how to cook the turkey with all of the trimmings in an electric oven. The stovetop I don't think will be much of a problem. I just need to remember to use lower settings and check often, but the oven... This is my favorite meal of the year and I don't want it to be dreadful like the potatoes and zucchini were.

Please, all helpful hints/techniques will be most appreciated!


"My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne."

John Maynard Keynes

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There is a recipe I use every year now, from the Cotton County Cookbook, that has you drape the bird with a cheesecloth soaked in EVOO, and cavity parts including wings and leg areas are stuffed with butter. The top of the turkey is crossed with bacon and spread with a mustard paste before the draping of the cloth. The oven temp is 300 degrees and they give the following per pound guidelines

For a

7-10 lb bird 30 mins per lb

10-15 bird 20 mins per lb

15 -18 lb bird, 18 minutes per lb

18-20 lb bird, 15 mins per lb

20-23 lb 13 mins per lb.

I usually do a 15 lb bird and I have never screwed this up in an electric oven yet. Even if you aren't doing the paste and the cloth draping, those times and temp should work for you.

You might want to take an oven thermometer to see how accurate it is if you can


Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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No test run possible. It is 3000 miles away, which also brings up the problem of not having my own pots, pans, something to brine in, etc. I know. I can always go out and buy a bucket, but I am not going to buy a large enameled Lodge Dutch Oven. This is not an ideally stocked kitchen.

Convection oven? I need to call and find out. No, it is not a convection oven. There is a small convection oven the size of a toaster oven.

I am trying to be positive. "There is a way to make this work. There is a way to make this work. There is a way..."


"My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne."

John Maynard Keynes

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I think that electric v. gas ovens is not a big deal. If anything, a good electric oven will provide more even heat than a gas oven.

If you can deal with the adjustment from a gas cooktop to electric, then the oven is a piece of cake.

(Worry about other things -- knives, decent cookware.)

What seemed to be the problem when you cooked potatoes and zucchini in the electric oven? I cook potatoes and other vegetables all the time in electric ovens and have no problem getting them browned and crisp. If the temp was too low, then it's a calibration problem. As suggested earlier, bring an oven thermometer and check it before cooking.

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Ok, I don't suppose you know the make and age of the oven? If it's newer, then eveness of temp should be less than an issue.


Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Two suggestions.

1. Ditto on the oven thermometer. Considering your past experience, it sounds like there's a problem. This should go without saying, but since we are not acquainted, I'll say it: the thermometer is the only authority. Once the oven is on and has supposedly come up to temperature, don't worry about it if there's a significant difference between the control on the oven, and the thermometer. In fact, you might even consider using it in your own oven for awhile before you leave, so that you are confident it's right.

2. There are oven liners made of ceramic material that some people get for baking bread. They are several hundred dollars, and if their price doesn't make them out of the question for this, their bulk will. But take a cue from this idea, and when you preheat the oven, put some bricks on the bottom, or some quarry tiles, or even a baking stone. You need something that has some mass that will help keep the oven at a steady temperature in case the oven controls do not. In fact, that may be a lot of the problem here -- the oven's possible inability to maintain a steady temperature. Even a large cast-iron skillet will help if nothing else is available. Use an extra-long preheating time.

You have my sympathy. Before my father-in-law died a couple of years ago, I had to take all kinds of supplies with me for cooking holiday meals. His kitchen was very hit-and-miss when it came to cooking vessels, utensils, and common supplies. I learned to take everything with me. I hated it. We miss him very much, but I certainly do not miss his kitchen!

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1.  Ditto on the oven thermometer.  Considering your past experience, it sounds like there's a problem.  This should go without saying, but since we are not acquainted, I'll say it:  the thermometer is the only authority.  Once the oven is on and has supposedly come up to temperature, don't worry about it if there's a significant difference between the control on the oven, and the thermometer.  In fact, you might even consider using it in your own oven for awhile before you leave, so that you are confident it's right.

...

Added emphasis.

You want to see what the (portable) oven thermometer says that your home oven is really at when you use your chosen knob setting.

Then, when off-site, set the knob on the other oven so that the oven thermometer reads the same as it did when you were back at home.

Regardless of what that oven's knob scale says.

Here we're talking about a cheap thermometer to measure the temperature in the oven. Not in the meat (though one of those wouldn't hurt as a secondary thing).

Also beware a big turkey finding itself too close to electric elements. Lots of silver foil should be on hand to protect any bits that look like burning.


Edited by dougal (log)

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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What size turkey are you roasting & will it be stuffed? Is there a grill available?

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But take a cue from this idea, and when you preheat the oven, put some bricks on the bottom, or some quarry tiles, or even a baking stone.

If you use quarry tiles, make sure they are UNGLAZED!! No need to kill your guests with the wrong kind of tile. :shock:

I agree about adding thermal mass and a long pre-heat ... it will ensure a very evenness in temperature. I keep a full-size pizza stone in my electric oven no matter what I am baking and it works very well.


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jgm, like you, this is also for my father-in-law whose health is not good. My mother-in-law passed away a year ago, so we do not want my father-in-law to be alone. It is not possible for us to cart the supplies you mentioned back to Upstate New York. We might need to take back some decent wines but they can slip in between clothes.

The thermometer idea is a good one. I have been meaning to buy one for our oven at home. I will get one this weekend and try it out here first.

Marlene, the oven was new in July.

I don't know what size bird we will be making. I am just hoping that I will be able to find a decent fresh turkey. When we were back east this past summer it was really hard to find a free-range organic chicken. We finally did find an organic one but the butcher said that he had no idea if it was free-range. It also may have been the smallest chicken that I had ever seen. I do not want to use a frozen bird in addition to the fact that it probably would not have the time to defrost. We need to have enough meat for three people with a good deal of leftovers. I like to make pot pies and I would like to be able to make some soup to freeze for my father-in-law so that he will have some nice meals after we leave.

As far as stuffing. I adore it! I always stuff the bird (just love the way all of the juices make it taste) and I make a separate casserole of stuffing using some of the stock I make.

JAZ, I don't have a clue as to what I screwed up when I made the roasted vegetables in July. I just know that they were soggy and not golden. Would that have been from too high or too low an oven? How do you get your's crisp and brown?

When it comes to the stove-top, the only thing I really used it for was to boil water which got done much faster that it does with gas. I guess that means that I don't really know all of the settings and how to use them. It just seems that they would be easier to figure out.

Hope that I did not miss any point or questions. I look forward to learning more!


Edited by Bella S.F. (log)

"My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne."

John Maynard Keynes

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Going through my "Turkey Day" file I came across the recipe for the Orange Spiced Pumpkin Pie that I like to make. Do you need to change anything when you do that type of baking?


"My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne."

John Maynard Keynes

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A 15 lb bird sounds about right for the 3 of you with leftovers for soup and sandwiches and things. That's what I usually make for the 3 of us. Call ahead to the butcher where you want to buy the turkey and order it in.

If you are stuffing the bird, you are going to have to increase the time per lb per minute for the bird. The times I gave you are for an unstuffed bird. Since I always do the stuffing separately, I can't help you there!

If the oven is new, the temp shouldn't be too far off, but an oven thermometer will confirm. Do you happen to know the make?


Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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If the oven is new, the temp shouldn't be too far off, but an oven thermometer will confirm.  Do you happen to know the make?

I think that if one knows exactly what one is doing, but only with a specific (gas) oven, the point is not to produce a specific numeric temperature, but to produce a familiar temperature, albeit in the different oven.

If one adjusts to get the same reading on the same thermometer, then, regardless of accuracy of calibration (of any of the things), one is coming as close as possible to reproducing known conditions.

All that is being relied upon is the consistency of the thermometer. Same reading for the same temperature on different days.

Of course there's more potential variations, like different thermal mass and heating power (causing a different response to the oven chill on loading the bird), potentially different amounts of radiant heat and different air circulations (free space, fan{?}, ...) leading to differences in evenness and unevenness of cooking, and there's probably an oven humidity difference as well.

But reproducing a familiar oven temperature should go most of the way to curbing excessive variation, shouldn't it?


"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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If this was me:

1. I would drop any expectations for a perfect Thanksgiving meal like cooked in the past - Thanksgiving is just a day - when I got back home I would host an alternate Thanksgiving diner and invite a few friends over.

2. You are doing this to be with family that's the main focus - think of the cooking as a challenge or an adventure.

3. As Marlene sugessted, I would call ahead and order a fresh turkey (to be honest I really can't taste the difference between fresh and free range) - also I would find out if they also offered any other Thanksgiving treats (maybe homemade pie, apple cider, soup, dressing......).

4. I would get a 13 - 15 lb turkey, cook it unstuffed and use a probe thermometer, cook until thigh registers 170. Let rest before carving.

5. Make the stuffing in a seperate dish & baste with turkey juices (not the same but it comes close).

6. I would not worry about making any pies/dinner rolls. I would order ahead from a local bakery.

7. Drink wine, enjoy my family's company, have fun and relax.

8. If all else fails drink more wine & have a funny story to contribute to the cooking disaster thread. :smile:

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Although I detest cooking on an electric stove top I don't find much difference in the ovens.

I would surely use the thermometer as suggested above. Once you have the temperature figured out there is no reason to be concerned about baking a pumpkin pie.

I agree that a 12 to 15 lb bird would be enough for three people and plenty of leftovers, which I consider the best part.

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I bet the problem is less about gas vs. electric and more about one of the ovens (or even both of them) having innacurate thermostats. A good oven thermometer or infrared thermometer can sort this out for you. I'd get a reading on the oven you're familiar with before leaving on the trip. Make sure you know the actual temp that you've been using.

Then just make sure the new oven preheats to that temp.

I'd be surprised if temperature cyling is a big problem with something that has the thermal mass of a turkey.

At any rate, pay less attention to cooking time and more attention to the look, feel, and smell of the bird. Pull it out when it's ready, not when the recipe says it's ready.


Notes from the underbelly

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Well, we bought an oven thermometer this past weekend. We are trying to get a handle on our oven's temp and will take it back east with us.

lcdm point well taken. The problem for me is that I don't think of Thanksgiving as just another day. It is by far my favorite holiday. However, I also believe that every day should be Thanksgiving, (so to speak), so we will have two very different types of Thanksgiving. I just need to get myself to realize that I cannot do everything and I should not even try. That would make things too stressful. I will do my best, and yes, I might just pour myself another glass of wine.


"My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne."

John Maynard Keynes

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