Thanksgiving Turkey 2012

This year I had to approach things a little differently with the Thanksgiving turkey, due to new living arrangements and the state of the turkey when it arrived.

Normally I would brine the whole turkey in a large bucket and store it away in the second fridge that we had.

However, moving and living in a rental home means things are much different.  There’s no second fridge anymore leaving me with no room to brine a whole bird. So I had to plan a different approach.

I decided to break down the bird and only roast half, saving the other half for another time.  However the bird came to me already frozen which meant once thawed, all of it had to be cooked.

Ok, no big deal.  Go with the flow and all that.

I still broke down the bird into quarters and used the back to make stock (which turned out lovely!).

I brined one breast and wing, and one leg quarter.  The other breast-wing and leg quarter got a dry rub slapped on. I did not have room in the fridge for four large brining bowls or else the entire turkey would have been brined.

I was actually excited to do this little experiment! We have been eating brined turkey for years so I was curious to be able to do a side-by-side comparison of brined verses not brined.

Maybe they would taste the same? Maybe not? We would soon find out!

Instead of using butter to rub on the skin and underneath, I used lard that I recently made. It went on a lot smoother than the butter!  I then sprinkled the turkey with:

  • Garlic Powder
  • Smoked Paprika
  • Chili Powder

In the roasting pan was:

  • Stock
  • Bourbon
  • Onion
  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Jalapeno Peppers
  • Lemons

I also decided to go with the cheesecloth method while the turkey roasted.  This was something that another food blogger suggested during a weekly food blog Tweetchat, Foodies Nite In. (PS: This food chat happens on Twitter each Monday from 4-6pm EST)

The idea is that you soak a cheese cloth in melted butter and white wine, drap that over the turkey as it roasts.  This is supposed to help keep the turkey moist while it roasts.

If you’re curious about where you can buy cheesecloth, Target carries some for a really inexpensive price.

For my turkey I went with:

  • Melted Butter
  • Bourbon
  • Stock

I used bourbon since the turkey was brined in bourbon.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that you won’t have to bast the turkey as often since it is covered in cloth.  If anything, you have to bast it even more.

The cheesecloth will dry out and dry out quickly. I found myself having to bast probably every 15-20 minutes.  If I waited any longer, the cheesecloth would start to burn.

The oven was 375 degrees, so not a high temp at all.

I was roasting parts from a 13 lb bird and it took about 2.5 hours for it to roast.  20 minutes before it was done, I removed the cheese cloth and cranked the oven temp up to 425.

I let the turkey finish roasting while the skin browned and crisped up.

The results I found with this Thanksgiving Experiment:

  • Brined turkey was way more tastier than the non-brined. It was also juicier.
  • Cheesecloth method was nice but the increased basting was kind of a pain.
  • No need to use alcohol or butter to soak the cloth in. Regular stock or even water would be fine. Save the alcohol for sipping (or gulping, whatever).
  • Roasting in quarters is easier and the back makes for great stock.
  • Lard seems to make the skin a lot crisper and more golden in color than butter.

That was how our Thanksgiving bird turned out!  Not sure if I’ll do any of this again next year.  I’m not making plans just yet and will see what next year brings.

Did you have turkey for Thanksgiving?  How did you prep yours?

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