For those of you who have been following BBQ My Way for the past decade, you probably know by now that the Holidays are my favorite time of the year. Starting with Halloween and going right through New Year’s Day it’s a great time of family, food, thankfulness and fun. The Christmas meal is now etched in stone, which is now homemade Italian lasagna. That is unfortunate for me because the recipe is very labor intensive. I’ve mounted a campaign to bring back smoked prime rib, as it is much less labor intensive, but it has fallen on deaf ears.
Now I am confronted with how we will prepare the turkey for Thanksgiving. We’ve cooked it traditionally in the oven, in a smoker and on a kettle grill. All are delicious for their own reasons. But Liz shared with me that the biggest pain-in-the-rear for cleanup (and yes, I participate in cleanup as well) is dealing with the aftermath of carving the Norman Rockwell style bird. Given that, I started researching how I could prepare the turkey the day before, carve it and then warm it up on Thanksgiving Day in a way that won’t dry it out. And then I stumbled across possibly the most brilliant method of cooking turkey. Well, I shouldn’t say that quite yet as I haven’t tried it. But here is why I think it is brilliant.
As you may know, a whole turkey has different parts that cook differently, and that’s one of the challenges of cooking, grilling or smoking an entire turkey. Once the dark meat is fully cooked the breasts may be overcooked and dry. And according to federal guidelines, turkey needs to be cooked to 160 degrees. But wait. Maybe not.
I am told the reason turkey has to be cooked to 160 is because it is a quick cooking of the bird, and you have to do that to kill all the bacteria and gunk. You actually accomplish the same thing by bringing the bird to 130 to 140 degrees but holding it at that temperature for a long period of time. So here is what we are going to do. We are going to carve the bird while it’s raw, creating breast pieces, thigh and leg pieces and wing pieces. The rest of the bird will be used to make stock for the gravy. The pieces will be sprinkled with salt and sugar and placed in zip lock bags. We will then place these turkey filled bags in a pot with water large enough to hold 10 to 15 lbs of meat. We will then sous vide the meat for 24 hours at 140 degrees. The sugar and salt will mix with the turkey juices to create a brine which will add flavor and moisture. Then, on Thanksgiving Day, the turkey will be removed from the bags (it will be really gross looking at this point) and placed on a hot grill with some smoking wood (probably apple) and grilled to create color and to crisp up the skin.
I’m told this is the most awesome way of preparing turkey, and we win because we don’t have to deal with the cleanup. By the way, I am not recommending you try this at this point. I’m going to give it a trial run on a small turkey prior to Thanksgiving. If I don’t get sick and it turns out as well as I am told it will, I’ll give you a “thumbs-up” in one of my columns prior to Thanksgiving. Wish me luck!