The great turkey test

I’ve been using J. Kenji-Lopez-Alt‘s recipes for some time now, since my son told me about the Food Lab and Serious Eats. This year, we had our holiday dinner on Saturday, but some family arrived on Wednesday. It didn’t seem fair that they’d miss all the leftovers, so I decided to make a small turkey on Wednesday, have a couple of days of turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey pot pie, before the big day.

I’ve seen Kenji’s posts about spatchcocking the turkey, cutting the backbone out, flattening it and cooking it splayed on a rack over a cookie sheet. But he also had a post about cooking a whole turkey with a baking steel. Because I was going to do two different turkeys, I decided to try both methods. I brined the 12 lb. turkey overnight, heated the baking steel, and cooked for a little over two hours. It came out looking gorgeous, but was a little bit drier than I like like, though still excellent.

turkeyOn Saturday we had a big crowd, and spatchcocked turkeys need to be on the small side (10-14 lbs.) I decided to do two, one with dry brine, one with wet brine, 48 house of brining each. They cooked in about two hours, and looked great.

We put the meat on identical white platters, labeled underneath Dry or Wet. Then we had someone who was not involved in the process label the two plates A and B, so it was a true double blind.

turkey1The vote was very slightly in favor or the wet brine, but everyone thought both turkeys were terrific.

And this stuffing recipe cooked in muffin tins is my favorite. It goes perfectly with a spatchcocked bird. You can make a vegetarian version by substituting a couple of tablespoons of butter for the pancetta and a rich vegetable stock for the turkey stock.

Note to Kenjii, for a whole turkey, I prefer the method I learned from Marshall Harrison, who had a big restaurant in Connecticut and turned out dozens of turkeys every holiday. You put the turkey in a closed, air-tight roaster (I actually wire the handles shut with bailing wire and a pliers). Set the turkey on a rack with about a quart or more of liquid and veges below. You turn the oven to 500, and essentially steam the bird for an hour and a half, then remove the lid, turn it down to 450 and brown for 30 min. Perfect! Maybe next year I’ll add a baking steel if I do a whole bird.

 

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