For Thanksgiving this year, I couldn’t decide between cooking a smoked turkey or a roasted turkey. So I did both. 38 lbs of turkey may have been excessive for 12 people, but the leftovers are grand (still have quit a bit frozen).
For the smoked turkey, I followed the guide at Amazing Ribs. Hands down, the best BBQ/Grilling site around.
For the roast turkey, I started with Martha Stewart’s Cheesecloth Method, derived inspiration from Amazing Ribs, and applied a bit of my whim. The end result was incredibly good and, bonus, also produced some of the best gravy I’ve ever had.
- You’ll need a roasting pan that allows the turkey to be suspended at least an inch, preferably more, above the contents of the pan (which will be about 1″ deep). Looking closely at the (admittedly poor) picture, my turkey roaster’s rack has little notches that allow it to be suspended over the pan. If you have room, you could use a pan on the bottom rack of the oven with a rack immediately over to hold the turkey.
- Shove some sage leaves and a lemon inside the bird’s body cavity. No stuffing, though, as that just dries out the meat (by requiring a longer cook) while not really improving stuffing quality.
- Pre-heat oven to 450℉
- In the roasting pan place all the turkey innards but the gizzard — neck, any fatty bits cut off, heart, liver, etc… Add to the pan:
- One large onion, halved, skin on. The skin adds color.
- Several peeled carrots, cut to finger length chunks.
- Celery, finger length chunks.
- 6+ whole peppercorns.
- 60 / 40 mix of water / apple juice, enough to mostly cover the veggies.
- In a deep sauce pan, melt 3/4 lbs of butter. Add 2 cups of Sake and ~1 Cup of Jack Daniels. Once thoroughly melted and stirred, soak a cheese cloth in it and layer on top of the turkey. There should be at least 4 layers of cloth on the top and down the sides of the turkey.
- Shove the bird in the oven. After one hour, drop the temperature to 350℉ and baste the turkey with most of the remaining butter/sake/JD magic sauce. It’ll sizzle and pop. That’s OK. The cheesecloth will likely be near black and crispy. Also OK.
- After another couple of hours, remove the cheesecloth carefully. Baste with any remaining awesomesauce and baste with a bit more of the drippings from the roasting pan below the turkey.
- Cook for at least another hour. The bird will be done when the meat in the thickest part reaches ~155℉. Not 165℉ as the bird needs to rest for a good 15 to 20 minutes when pulled and carryover will cause the temperature to both continue to rise and continue to pasteurize (if you hold poultry at 131℉ for long enough, it’ll be fully pasteurized– the USDA’s quote of 165℉ for safety is based on holding at that temperature for only a few seconds!).
- Strain the contents of the roasting pan into a pot. You could choose to serve it as is as a delicious and flavorful broth to be ladled over the meat. Or you can choose to cook it down — to thicken it up — as a more traditional gravy.