|Browned and crisped, but still juicy. Magic.|
I. If you want good turkey, get a good turkey.
Breed is important. Modern breeds have been engineered to mature quickly on very little feed. They’re economical, but have little flavor. Heritage breeds are the opposite. They cost much more, have smaller breasts, and better, more intense flavor.
My favorite are hybrids that fill the middleground almost perfectly: significantly better flavor, with a minor price premium. Bo Bo raises excellent hybrids.
If the farm or packaging makes no mention of the breed, assume the worse, regardless of price.
II. This is cooking, not ritual sacrifice.
Be ruthless about washing hands and avoiding cross-contamination.
Don’t let anyone near your cooking area if they haven’t been lectured on food safety.
IV. This is technical.
Roasting, traditionally and technically, means turning meat on a spit in front of a fire. It cooks by bursts of radiant heat, as the drippings fall into a pan that sits near the coals. Marshmallows toasted on a stick are akin to a real roast. What we do in our ovens is actually baking. We bake because most of us don’t have fire pits and rotating spits, and probably wouldn’t know how to control them if we did.
Nevertheless, there are some practices from traditional roasting that can benefit us when cooking in the oven*. The first is barding, which is covering meat with strips of fat, to prevent the surface from cooking too quickly and drying out. Smart chefs learned that by selectively barding the white meat, they can slow its cooking. This allows a bird to be cooked whole with all the parts ending up the right temperature.
|16 lb bird in a 20 quart stockpot of court bouillon. Thermometer probe on left.|
Here’s the Underbelly recipe, which has evolved over about ten thanksgivings.