Updated for 2022!
If you've ever wondered why there is a holiday feast centered around turkey: a dry tasteless meal, this article is for you.
Turkey CAN be fantastic, but we all know that it usually is terrible...
Don't give up! With the right preparation, you can have a feast to remember for years to come!
The first thing you can do to ensure a great meal is to splurge for a well raised bird.
Some of the most well known "happy turkey" or certified organic brands raise a handful of birds for promotional videos each year, but the vast majority of the birds are contracted to regular factories. Maybe if they are lucky some have doors that open to the dirt patch outside and which are rarely used.
Getting a TC Farm bird, you'll know you can feel good about the entire process for every animal. The reward comes through in the flavor and health of your meal -- plus all the environmental benefits too!
We've tried all different types of preparation strategies to get a moist white meat and fantastic dark. Having a heritage turkey really gives you a buffer here -- better results even roasting traditionally.
However, to enjoy the best of what any turkey has to offer, the dark meat and white meat should be cooked separately.
Cooking the dark meat ahead of time also reduces the amount of work on the big day.
Separating the dark meat from the white is fairly easy. Here are the basic steps:
Here is a video of me cutting the dark meat off of our turkey. This is a one-shot video so forgive the non-polished nature of it!
Either purchase our pre-smoked turkey or follow the steps for our Smoked/Sous Vide chicken for a DYI option. I added Herbs de Provence as well as the salt (after smoking). In total, you want about 1tsp of salt per pound of turkey.
After the meat has Sous Vide at 165 - 170 for 10-12 hours, you can put it into the freezer, or keep in a fridge for a few days.
To serve, bring the meat back up to room temp or even 130+ degrees in a water bath, then grill, broil or pan fry to crisp up the skin just before serving.
Include your wings as "dark meat" and cook with this recipe unless you really want them on your white meat roast.
Here is a short video showing how to finish the dark meat and make a quick gravy
If you don't have a sous vide machine, here is a short video showing an alternative:
This is also our recommendations for if you decide to roast a whole turkey.
Ideally, you'll brine the white meat (or the entire turkey if you roast the whole bird).
Combine the following into a large pot or bag big enough to fully submerge your turkey:
Keep the turkey covered in the brine and refrigerated for 1-3 days.
Roast the turkey at around 350 until the breast gets to 160-165 degrees. Be sure you have a good thermometer like this one. If you are using an analog one, it isn't good enough. If you are cooking a whole bird, try to get the thighs up to 180 degrees. Consider flipping to cook the thighs on top part way through.
If the skin starts to burn a bit on the wings or breast, cover with foil.
Plan on 2 hours for a whole large turkey (around 14 pounds). A smaller bird or just the breast roast might be as little as 35-45 minutes. Plan on much longer if you stuffed the bird.
Remove and cover the turkey with foil, a large bowl or by placing into an unused microwave, allow it to rest for 15 minutes before carving.
If you cooked your dark meat ahead of time, you then should be able to also sous vide your white meat. We like to stuff the white meat with stuffing and then smoke along with the dark quarters and then store in the refrigerator until the big day.
From there, the stuffing and white meat roast is cooked Sous Vide on Thanksgiving. I'd recommend 145 degrees for at least 2 hours at temp (so for a larger roast with stuffing, that might mean 3-4 hours total as a minimum.)
For a bit more of a traditional texture, you can bump that up to 150 or so degrees. If you want a really unique texture try a lower temp like 135. Just be sure to add an extra hour or two if you go that low. Technically you can even go down to 131 degrees if you cook it for much longer (do your own research please)
Making a good gravy is really the key to Thanksgiving. My dad is the expert, and I always try to have him make it for us.
Here is the best version I've been able to document. There is a gluten-free option as well.
The best stuffing recipe ever.... Check it out:
Its easy to make your own cranberry sauce, check out this simple recipe.
What do you think? I'm guessing there are a LOT of amazing tips that have been passed down over the years. It would be great if you would share your thoughts in the comment section below - no need to register or sign in, just click on the "Add a Comment" button and share with the rest of us!