Holly Ebel: Turkey — have it your way | Food


With Thanksgiving just over a week away (I can’t believe it either), thoughts of turkey are definitely on our minds.

Decisions like how many pounds and what kind -— a frozen supermarket one, fresh, kosher, free-range, organic or a heritage bird? So many choices.

Then there’s the decision of which is the best way to prepare it. These days we have options that go beyond the simple roasting — some are easier, others not so much. However we choose to do it, the end result will still be festive and delicious, especially with our favorite sides and lots of gravy.

The majority of cooks do a simple roast, bowing to decades of tradition. It’s not called a simple roast for nothing. The bird is rubbed with unsalted butter, salt and pepper, then into the oven at 425 for 30 minutes, then down to 325 for however long. The experts say 15 minutes a pound. Some advise adding one cup of water or turkey stock to the pan.

This is the method our grandmothers and mothers likely used, but there are other ways, some say more interesting.

Many cooks choose to brine their birds, a method that has come and gone several times around the food world. Essentially, the turkey is put into a large pot and immersed in a mixture of herbs, salt and water for several days. It needs to be kept cold, so you might need to re-adjust things in your refrigerator.

Brining does give you a juicier bird, but the gravy might be saltier than you’d like. If you are worried about that, roast some turkey parts ahead of time and use those drippings. This method works the best with fresh turkeys, since self-basting, frozen and kosher have already been salted.

Not too many years ago, deep-frying the turkey became another option, the problem being it works the best with a small bird. This isn’t the way to go if you are having a crowd. It cooks incredibly fast (45 minutes), the skin is crispy, and the meat moist. The downside is that it is not an especially safe method, especially if young children are around. It also should be done outside. Wear an apron, because the oil will splatter.

In the never-ending effort to keep the breast meat moist, there are those who roast the turkey upside down, then the last hour turn it right-side up. I’ve done this and wouldn’t recommend it. Try turning a large, very hot bird right side up, especially after a glass of wine or a cocktail. Once was enough.

Grilling a turkey over charcoal is a wonderful way to prepare a bird, and is especially popular in warmer locales. They turn a beautiful mahogany brown and have a great mild smoky flavor. You probably won’t have gravy from these drippings, but again roast turkey parts and use those as your base.

Grocery store bags are still another way people have roasted their turkeys. Since they’re now made from recycled materials, use a special oven bag instead. These will steam rather than roast, but it is a faster method. The same is true of a bird wrapped in tin foil.

For efficiency and to assure juiciness, you can cut apart the bird, take the separate pieces and roast them in the same pan, but add at varying times — first the breast, then the legs, finally the thighs. And if you really want to be ahead of the game, roast the turkey the day before, carve it, layer on a platter, cover with gravy, refrigerate, and warm it the next day.

The least recommended roasting method is doing it at a low temperature overnight. This was how a family member years ago prepared the turkey, and to this day I am grateful we survived. Also a bad idea is to partially cook it, refrigerate, and finish it off the next day.

Whichever way you prepare your turkey, however many guests you have coming, enjoy the day.

Post Bulletin food writer Holly Ebel knows what’s cookin’. Send comments or story tips to life@postbulletin.com.

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