Benjamin Franklin was a big fan of the turkey, so much so that he nominated the humble bird to be our national symbol. I happen to be a very big fan of Benjamin Franklin, but I can’t help wishing he had left us with just one more product of his scientific genius: A better way to cook a Thanksgiving turkey.
Let’s face it, most turkey comes out drier than a powdered wig. The white meat literally crumbles, while the dark meat stays intact merely by the tenacity of its stringy fibers. This inherent and perhaps unavoidable aridness is, I believe, the true motivation behind the countless variations for preparing turkey. One has to wonder what our open-minded forefather would think of some of these.
Dunking a whole turkey into a vat of boiling oil was all the rage a few years back but has since gone the way of the countertop espresso machine. You can find recipes for the process from numerous sources, including eatturkey.com. If you’ve ever worked in a fast-food restaurant, this should bring back some fond memories. I’m all for fried food of any kind, but this one is a bit of a fire risk.
Just to set the record straight, this is no urban myth. It’s a chicken wrapped in a duck wrapped in a turkey (all deboned, of course). I haven’t had the pleasure, but I’d love to try it. Although, given the dryness of chicken and turkey and the succulence of duck, it seems a little like making a bacon sandwich with Melba toast. Stuffing the “bird” with sausage is a great idea and will make your guests feel like they’re dining with Henry the 8Th.
Now we’re getting somewhere. I found this on seriouseats.com (and the post leads in with the best sentence I’ve read all week). This looks like something from a horror movie, but the appeal is obvious. Will it make a turkey less dry? Sure, when pork bellies fly.
4. Plastic oven bag
While this newfangled technique may sound bogus, the idea is legitimate: You bake the bird inside a heatproof plastic bag to help keep in the juices. I have tried this method. Once.
Cooksrecipes.com has a perfectly legitimate-sounding method for cooking a 12-pound whole turkey in a microwave, using an oven bag. Given the multi-step process, you wouldn’t try this for convenience, but it might get the job done if all you have is a microwave.
Hot off the grill from BBQ master Steven Raichlen comes this recipe for a Cajun-spiced barbequed turkey. Not exactly a traditionalist’s version, but Justin Wilson might give it an “Ooowee!”
7. Beer can turkey
A big-bird variation on beer can chicken, in which the turkey is propped up on a partially full can of beer and cooked in a barbeque. Emeril's website and numerous other sources have recipes.
8. Crock pot
It takes five to six hours to cook a whole small bird this way, according to Stephanie O’Dea’s blog. It’s doubtful this would yield crispy skin, but the moisture factor could be a little higher than with roasting in a big oven.
Personally, I would like to try turkey done two ways:
The best fried chicken I’ve ever had was cooked for 45 minutes in a pressure fryer (at Ianne’s Pizzeria in Pueblo, CO). Even the white meat was good, and that’s saying something coming from a true carnivore. If this could be done with a whole turkey, I’d happily spend Thanksgiving seated on a plastic booth in Pueblo.
10. Deep-fried in lard
Vegetable oil is fine, but if you’ve ever had French fries cooked in lard, you know where I’m going with this. Lard can make pig skin taste great (chicharron); just imagine what it could do to turkey skin.