Thanksgiving Feast

Let's have a great feast!

Active time: 2 Hours • Total time: 2-3days


Posted on Nov 16, 2020 by Jack McCann
Tags: Recipes article newsletter

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 for the ages.

Well Raised

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!





Dark Meat vs. White Meat

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:

  1. Cut the skin to separate the drumsticks from the breast without cutting through any meat. Try to cut the skin as close to the drumstick as possible
  2. Flip the bird over and press your thumbs into the thigh joint by the backbone and pull out on the drumsticks to dislocate that joint.
  3. Work your knife along the backbone to separate the thigh from the backbone, trying to avoid cutting through any meat. I like to start from the back, carving out the 'oyster' from just behind the joint before coming forward through the thigh.

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!

Dark Meat Instructions

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.

Tips

  • If you don't have a smoker, you can skip that step and just include a bit of liquid smoke along with the herbs and salt.
  • Consider following the instructions from our confit recipe to dry out the dark meat a bit in a fridge overnight.
  • Remember: You don't need a Sous Vide machine, but it is easier. Just use a stockpot full of 165-degree water placed in an oven at the same temp (see example in the video)
  • We use this sous vide machine - totally worth it.

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:

White Meat Instructions

This is also our recommendations for if you decide to roast a whole turkey.

Brine

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:

  • 1 Cup of salt
  • 2 Gallons of cold water (or ideally a veggie broth made by simmering a few each of celery, onion, and carrot plus a bulb of garlic and bit of ginger for 10hours)
  • If you use water instead of broth, add the chopped veggies to the water (or juice them)
  • Turkey roast (whole or just white meat plus ribcage)

Keep the turkey covered in the brine and refrigerated for 1-3 days.

Roast

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 (~14lbs). 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.


Sous Vide White meat?

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...then stored 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)

Gravy

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.

Grandma McCann's Stuffing

The best stuffing recipe ever.... Check it out:

What do you think? Have any tips?

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!


Comments (1)

  1. BJ:
    Sep 14, 2020 at 07:59 PM

    I have to credit Whippoorwill Holler on YouTube for this recipe, but it worked wonderfully for me last year and if I don't get a sous vide before Thanksgiving to try your recipe, I will use this one again.

    12 pound Turkey in 90 mins or less:

    Save for stock: Back Neck Gizzards
    2 carrots
    2 onions
    2 celery
    1T poultry seasoning
    1 tsp thyme
    1/2 tsp rosemary
    1/2 stick butter
    S & P

    For the brine: 12lb turkey, cut up into pieces.
    2 legs, 2 thighs
    2 wings, 2 breasts
    2 lg Bottles of cheap Italian Dressing

    1 stick Melted butter
    1/2 t each of S & P
    1/2 t Thyme
    1/2 t Rosemary

    Day before:

    Crockpot: the back, neck and gizzards 2 carrots, 2 celery, 2 onions, S & P covered in water overnight for basting. 16 hours.

    Brine for 12-24 hours in 2 large bottles of dollar store Italian Dressing, in large ziplocks make sure to flip them occasionally at least once.

    Day of:
    Preheat oven to 425.
    Discard marinade and rinse turkey with clean water, pat dry.
    Prepare two large cookie sheets (and grates if you have them) by lining them with tinfoil (add parchment paper and spray with oil if you don't have the grates and food comes into contact with foil)

    Place legs and thighs on one sheet and wings and breasts on the other.

    Melt a stick of butter. Lift the skin of the breasts and rub butter underneath and on top of skin. Butter makes for the crispiest skin. Just drizzle and massage into the surface on the rest of the pieces.

    Sprinkle thyme and rosemary, S & P under the skin of the breasts, on top of the skin, and just on top of the other pieces.

    Hint: put combined spices in a small bowl and discard the rest if your hands come in contact with the turkey and spices.

    425 oven for 1 hour then check with a thermometer. The breasts and wings may get done first, but may not. So check each pieces temp and remove once they are at 165-170.
    Transfer all the pieces to a warmed serving platter. Just tent with foil loosely and let rest while you get everything else ready. Pour the pan juices into a saucepan and put on low or, if you have the oven space, pour one pan's juices into another and place it back in the oven to keep the pan juices hot.

    Just before serving: Cut up both breasts into serving sized pieces and place the cut-up breast meat and the other turkey pieces on a platter drizzled with hot pan juices.

    The entire turkey was done at 425 in 54 minutes! Every piece had crispy skin and juicy meat.
    Happy Thanksgiving or and other day you want to enjoy turkey. :-)

    Use the stock to make a delicious gravy.


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