There’s more than one way to cook a Thanksgiving Turkey

There are more ways to cook a turkey than using a conventional oven. We reached out to some area chefs to find out their favorite methods for cooking turkey. None of them used a conventional oven.

All three soaked their turkeys in a brine mixture hours before cooking.

Paul and Patty Taylor, of Mendon, like to smoke their Thanksgiving turkey.

Patty Taylor said they use a smoker to cook their turkey. Her husband Paul does the turkey. They use a rub/ brine kit they found. After soaking their turkey in a brine solution for up to eight hours Taylor, who works at Kitchen Kneads, said they rinse it off, lightly wipe olive oil over it, then sprinkle the rub on. Finally, it’s time to put the turkey in the smoker, making sure there aren’t any parts of the turkey touching the sides of the cooking surface.

She said her husband Paul usually gets up in the night and puts the turkey in the smoker because it takes hours to get it to the right temperature. Just like when using a conventional oven to cook a turkey, you have to check the temperature with a cooking thermometer.

The Taylors use a mixed wood fuel of cherry, maple, and hickory pellets, with no fillers or glues, in their smoker to add extra flavor.

Jack Carlisle, a professional cook at Camp Chef, dumps vegetables into a Dutch oven dish he is creating. Carlisle prefers the Spatchcock method for cooking his turkey.

She said one of the advantages of cooking the turkey outside is you can use the oven to make side dishes. Using a smoker also cooks the meat slowly, generally making the meet more moist than in a conventional oven.

Jack Carlisle, a professional cook at Camp Chef, said he likes the Spatchcock method of cooking a turkey best. He also soaks the bird in a special brine solution for eight hours before cooking.

“First, you cut the backbone out of the thawed turkey using cooking shears or a knife,” Carlisle said. “Then break the breastbone and flatten the turkey, tucking the wings under the body.

“The flattened turkey is usually more evenly cooked and is done in half the time as traditional oven-cooked turkey,” Carlisle continued. “The other neat thing about this cooking method is you can use a pellet stove, traditional smoker, an oven, or you can even cook it on a grill.”

With a Spatchcock turkey, you can put the vegetables at the bottom of the pan with chicken stock and the backbone at the bottom of the pan.  When it’s done, clear au jus sauce or gravy can be made after you strain it. Dressing can also be made from the drippings.

Carlisle said you can add savory vegetables: onions, celery, carrots, thyme and butter in the pan below the turkey. The cooking temperature of the turkey needs to be at 165 degrees, taken from the internal part of the thickest part of the meat.

It may not look done but if you cook it any longer than 165 degrees, the turkey gets dry.

Hollie Reina from Santa Clara showcases her Thanksgiving turkey from last year. She cooked in a Dutch oven over coals in a fire pit.

Hollie Reina prefers her method of cooking turkey in a Dutch oven.

She also prepares her turkey in a brine solution about 24 hours in advance.

“To add even more flavor, I rub my turkey with butter, lemon juice and/or rind, and with herbs under and over the skin,” she said. “For herbs I usually use sage, thyme, rosemary and garlic.”

She also stuffs the cavity with onions, garlic and lemons. Some people use onions and apples. She says it’s just a preference thing.

“I like citrus and onion mixed. Do not use stuffing with this method,” Reina said. “Just use your stove top.”

Prepare the Dutch oven with a small amount of chicken stock in the bottom and place the prepared turkey, breast side down, inside the Dutch oven, she explained. If desired, place more cut onions and lemons around the turkey.

Hollie Reina

Preheat about 30-40 coals. When the coals are grey, leave enough to evenly heat the bottom of the oven (about 18). Place the Dutch oven over the coals and then place the rest on top. About every half hour to an hour you will need to switch out the coals to maintain even heat. The whole process takes about 3-4 hours using a 16 pound turkey. Internal temp should be 165 degrees when serving.

“You can use a meat thermometer, but I usually know it is ready when the juices run clear after poking it in different spots,” said Reina.

Using this method makes for a very juicy turkey that easily carves (or falls apart), with lots of flavor.


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