There are so many sensory delights to appreciate in a properly roasted turkey. The skin should have a consistent golden brown hue and a crisp texture that is audible when met with a knife (or a pair of fingers trying to filch a tidbit before it goes to the table). The breast meat should be tender and juicy while the dark meat should be succulent and toothsome. The aroma should be rich and intoxicating, filling the kitchen with a scent that is tangible and evokes memories of Thanksgiving or holiday feasts.
Brining is an option many cooks exercise though we don’t do it every time we roast a turkey. When we do, a couple of our favorite concoctions include salt + sugar + paprika + granulated garlic + granulated onion + peppercorns + water or salt + sugar + aromatics (onion, carrot, celery) + thyme + rosemary + Italian parsley + bay leaves + water. The benefit of brining a turkey is to impart additional flavor to the bird and to add moisture. Of course, if the turkey is cooked correctly, brining is unnecessary! In the tests we did for this post, the birds were not brined. Nor were they stuffed. While stuffing a turkey may be a tried and true part of cooking a Thanksgiving feast for many, we discourage the practice. In order to get the stuffing inside the bird to a safe endpoint temperature, you risk sacrificing the moistness of the white meat by overcooking it.
In one test, we roasted a 10 lb. turkey in a CVap Cook and Hold Oven (CAC) with the Food Temperature set at 190°F, Browning Level at 8, and we cooked it for three hours with Constant Cook ON.
In another test we cooked a bird in a CAC at 180°F with a Browning level of 6 for five hours with Constant Cook ON. As you can see, this test yielded skin that was not as brown or quite as crisp as the other test.
An alternative suggestion might be to cook a turkey at 175 + 0 to end point doneness and then either flash fry or flash roast it to brown and crisp up the skin. Using this method will yield extremely tender and juicy meat.
No matter which of these methods you use, the moral to this story is that a perfectly cooked turkey is something to be very thankful for!
I’m sure I’m not the only one who builds up enough points to get a “free” turkey at their grocery store. I hadn’t had a chance to cook the one from last year before this year’s came along. So, it was time to make room in the freezer. Over the years I have explored cooking many different foods sous vide style in CVap. To be accurate, only things that are vacuum sealed can be called sous vide – it’s a French thing. The literal translation of sous vide is under vacuum in English. However, the same precision cooking that you get by sealing something in a bag and dropping it into a water bath heated with an immersion circulator heater can be done in CVap.
I pulled the turkey out a few days ahead of time to defrost in the fridge, pulled the organ meats and neck out and gave it a good rinse. Grocery store birds are technically brined with a salt solution at the factory (read the small print on the package) so there was nothing to do but get the CVap set up. My intent was to start the bird early in the morning and get it close to a final temperature of 160 degrees F so that I could finish it in a 500 degree F oven to add texture. To make sure I had an idea of what was going on inside the bird I bought a new toy that has a Bluetooth temperature probe that sent a temperature chart to my iPhone. Yeah, I’m a sucker for kitchen gadgets and this one is particularly cool. The temperature charts throughout the process. The CVap cook and hold was set to 160 doneness and 0 Browning. Essentially the CVap is acting like an immersion circulator at this point. I put the probe in the thigh joint, put the turkey in the oven and went about my day. I knew that at some time during the day the turkey would get to the set point of 160 and that it would stay there. By keeping tabs on the progress I would get an idea of when I needed to get everything else ready.
When the turkey got to 160 and all of the side dishes were done, I fired up my convection oven to 500 degrees. I put some fresh thyme and sage in a stick of melted butter and basted the turkey with it before browning it in the convection oven.
Ten minutes in the convection oven to add texture and the turkey was done! No trussing of the bird, no hassle and everything done at the same time with very little hassle. This is my method for Thanksgiving (and anytime) turkey from this day on!