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Turkey cookery


Smithy
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Maybe this belongs over on the cooking subforum, but my question relates - I think - more to the cookware needed.

I recently purchased a very large beautiful covered roaster, thanks largely to the bad influence of certain individuals on eGullet who swear by this cookware. "Cook your bird in this," crowed the eBay advertisements, "and you'll always have a moist turkey!"

I've now cooked 2 turkeys in said roaster. The first bird was about like my usual efforts: good, although slightly dry in the breast meat. (I know this is a common problem with turkey cookery; that's why I'm trying the cookware route.) The most noticeable difference was that the skin wasn't crispy. On the second attempt I rubbed the skin with an oil/spice blend, browned it slightly on the stovetop, then cooked it in the covered roaster, breast side down, until nearly done. I finished it with the breast up, just to allow the skin to crisp up slightly. This time the whole bird came out wonderfully moist. Still, the skin isn't crispy.

My question is, how necessary is this huge tightly-lidded roasting pan to the results I got? Was it the tight pan or cooking the turkey breast-side down that made the difference, or was it sheer luck? What about the skin? I have an idea that the skin stays flabby because it doesn't get exposed to direct heat the way it does with a shallower pan and foil that can be removed, or a cheesecloth and basting.

I'd just as soon relegate this pan back to eBay because it's too big for my sink. But if it's truly making the difference, I'll keep it.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

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"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)
"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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What really matters is your ingrediant. Was the turky frozen with additives, frozen without additives, fresh but with additives or a fresh turkey, unaldulterated? We only use fresh turkey that I get slaughtered as I watch, not one that has sat someplace for a couple of weeks.

Anyway using a fresh unaldulterated turkey, it should be very easy to get a moist breast and crispy skin without any additional vessel or any combersome techniques. -Dick

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Smithy,

I'm afraid you have been took. Yes a fresh bird is important - but I have been brining my birds for years, even frozen ones, with outstanding moist results. A remote thermometer is also important. Elsewere in the forums are instructions in great detail on how to successfully roast a turkey without a roaster.

Good roasting,

Jmahl

The Philip Mahl Community teaching kitchen is now open. Check it out. "Philip Mahl Memorial Kitchen" on Facebook. Website coming soon.

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Well a tight fitting lid of course means you are steaming your bird, not roasting so no you can't get a crispy skin like that. You've gotten what was advertised though, moist turkey. What if you fried it after it was cooked to crisp the skin? Like with a torch even.

Chef-boy torched a dang 6 inch thick porterhouse while he was here. There's no reason you couldn't try it. That's how they do the sugar on the honey baked hams.

Just some crispy thoughts for you.

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I have to say, taking a blowtorch to a finished turkey has entertainment value in its own right. Thanks for that idea!

So, nobody here swears by their covered roasting pans? Not even Southerners?

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

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"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)
"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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I think that a covered roaster is an oxymoron -- I think roasting means naked cooking with no cover. Crispy skin is just not a happening thing if you're cooking a turkey covered, though I'm enchanted with the blowtorch finish.

That said, a huge covered pan could be useful for enormous braises, and you can always roast your turkey uncovered. Dry breast? So what -- that's why we have gravy.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

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1912-2008

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Well a tight fitting lid of course means you are steaming your bird, not roasting so no you can't get a crispy skin like that.

Yep. You just can't get crispy skin with a tight lid.

I've also brined my turkey year after year. I roast it on a rack, uncovered, and get moist flesh and crispy skin.

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You don't need a covered roaster. You need a pan and a roll of aluminum foil. Though I agree it's not roasting, it's more of a steamy situation.

Bed of onions/carrot/celery - seasoned turkey and a cup or so of water/stock. Cover tightly with foil and roast (steam). Don't worry about turning your turkey over - cook it breast side up. When almost done, remove the foil and roast uncovered to crisp up the skin. (Cook at 400 for approx. 13 minutes per lb. - 15 minutes or so uncovered.) Et, voila. Moist meat, brown crispy skin.

All I use are frozen birds. They are kosher, so let's call them brined.

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. . . .

So, nobody here swears by their covered roasting pans?  Not even Southerners?

I've lived in the South for almost 40 years, and I've yet to see anyone use a covered roaster. What are you implying -- that we like steamed turkey down here?

Pam has the right idea. The breast-down/breast-up technique doesn't, as many think, redistribute juices (take a good look at an upside-down turkey, and you'll see that gravity, if not physiology, makes it highly unlikely). What it does is protect the breast from direct heat and the consequent evaporation of moisture. As Pam points out, you can achieve the same protection with far less exertion.

ETA: in case it isn't clear, I'm with the "put it back on eBay" contingent.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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. . . .

So, nobody here swears by their covered roasting pans?  Not even Southerners?

I've lived in the South for almost 40 years, and I've yet to see anyone use a covered roaster. What are you implying -- that we like steamed turkey down here?

No, but I thought Southerners swore by Magnaware for just about everything, and particularly roasting turkeys. Guess I was wrong about the last.

Thanks for the input, folks. I'll make sure to use the eGullet-friendly link to eBay.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

Follow us on social media! Facebook; instagram.com/egulletx; twitter.com/egullet

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)
"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Smithy,

You don't mention oven temperature and cooking time.

My roaster has a vent in the lid (as does an oven), which I leave open. I view the roaster as an oven within an oven, and merely acts as a buffer. As the oven cycles on and off, the roaster maintains constant temperature. I'll entertain any debate as to why it's steaming vs roasting any day.

I've cooked my Turkeys in a covered roaster for the last 15 years. Eighteen to twenty pounds @400F for about 3.5 hours. This one from last Thanksgiving:

gallery_39290_3790_184842.jpg

gallery_39290_3790_22260.jpg

Crisp skin and moist breast.

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Chefcrash, thank you for those comments. I remember now that my grandmother's roaster had an adjustable vent. I never understood why until now, and hadn't thought of that vent in years. This particular pot doesn't have a vent.

I think my last turkey was around 12 or 13 pounds, and I cooked it at 325 for 3 hours or so, until the juices ran clear and the joints were tender. The flavor was (still is, in fact) really quite good. The skin was the only disappointment.

Your turkey is a true work of art. Thanks for posting that photo!

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

Follow us on social media! Facebook; instagram.com/egulletx; twitter.com/egullet

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)
"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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i'm with maggie on this. this thanksgiving we did a big tasting in the test kitchen. 4 different turkeys side by side--one regular, one brined, one dry-salted and one roasted in a covered roaster. you could definitely tell the difference in flavor on the one that was covered. i'm not saying it was bad--it was certainly moist--but it did taste more steamed than roasted.

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Roasting is a dry heat process. What we do in the oven is actually baking at a high temperature to simulate authentic roasting--which is meat turned on an open spit in front off a very hot fire.

A covered roaster takes the process many steps furtherer away from true roasting. It accumulates steam, so you lose the benefit of the dry heat in crisping the skin and concentrating the maillard flavors on the surface. And you radically reduce the temperature at the surface of the bird, by blocking the radiant heat of the oven. Much of the browning and concentrated roasting flavors come from the high surface temperatures, which you get largely from radiant heat--this is true in an oven as well as in front of a fire.

You can dry out a turkey with a fire, a dry oven, or with steam: drying comes from overcooking it. The covered roaster just makes it harder to screw up, because you're cooking with gentler heat, and things take longer ... you'll have an easier time cooking the bird through without overcooking the beast meat.

But you'll have an impossible time making a great, roasted tasting bird. There are many better ways to confront the issue of proper cooking without overcooking ... ones that can give you crisp, delicious, mahogany brown skin without sacrificing any juiciness. I'd convert the covered roaster to a litter box if I had one.

Notes from the underbelly

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Nancy, does smoking turkey in a Weber Kettle count as "covered cooking?"

Smoke that turkey!  You'll be uber-chic, and the leftovers are much more versatile!

What she said, smoke that bird

There's two of the three blogging smokers heard from!

Well, when I sell the one I can look into buying the other. I'm afraid that would register as a net gain of cooking gear in a crowded household. :hmmm: At least the smoker would live outside.

Edited by Smithy (log)

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

Follow us on social media! Facebook; instagram.com/egulletx; twitter.com/egullet

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)
"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Oh ok. Smoke that bird :biggrin:

But if you want to roast it, do the bacon over the breast and cheesecloth over the bird route. I never roast turkey any other way (when I'm not smokin them) :biggrin:

Susan will tell you to get a kettle. Mike and I will tell you to get a Weber bullet. Two against one. We win. :raz:

Edited by Marlene (log)

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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I am in the same boat as you...we bought a lovely roaster four years ago and have used it once. It is huge and of good quality but it sits abandoned. We just opted to donate it last night to AV. I just brine my bird and cook it breast side down for best results in a huge magnalite or all clad dutch pan.

Whoever said that man cannot live by bread alone...simply did not know me.
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