What a whirlwind weekend I had! I worked both Saturday and Sunday, so it was a blessing in disguise that my meet up with a friend after work on Friday fell through last minute.
When I first got my schedule and said that I was working the retain floor at Lincoln Square on Saturday, I didn’t exactly know what that meant. They had asked me if I minded working a retail shift here and there in a pinch, and the only thing I love more than talking to people about food, is talking to people about food related products – and The Chopping Block has an amazing retail space in both locations.
But then I got an email detailing the day, and I realized that it was TCB’s annual Turkey Trunk Show. They have cooking demos going on all day, we grilled whole turkey’s and turkey breasts, made truffle salted mashed potatoes, a delicious Brussels sprouts dish with a maple Dijon glaze. It was basically a Turkey Open House!
I was asked to be in charge of the smoked turkey breast sliders. Andrea, our marketing director, was in town and did a live Facebook video – hopefully THIS LINK will take you there (I start at around 4:50). Also the live feed above that post shows another Class Assistant, Christy, carving a whole turkey, so if you are a bit nervous to try to carve your own turkey, she will show you how easy it is.
One of the managers Patrick lives right across the street from work (lucky!) so he got the Big Green Eggs started at about 7:00 a.m.
Since I was in charge of the turkey breast sliders, I mainly paid attention to those. We put them on at 250 degrees – these were pretty big breasts – each one was about six pounds in weight and took about two hours to cook. Now here is where a meat thermometer is your friend! If you were to Google: “what temperature to cook a turkey breast”
Check the turkey’s temperature: The turkey is done when it reaches165°F in the thickest part of the breast meat. Start checking after 1 hour of roasting and continue checking every 10 to 15 minutes until the breast is cooked through.”
And that’s true – 165 is when turkey is done, but if I took the turkey breast off the grill when it reached 165 degrees, that does not take into consideration the residual cooking meat does once removed from the heat source, whether that’s your stove or grill. So I pulled these at 155 – as the residual cooking is about 10 degrees after removing from the heat.
We smoked the turkey breasts with apple wood chips. I had my iPhone, it was kind of busy, so I am not sure you can see how juicy this turkey breast is (which it was!) but what you don’t see? Juice running out on my cutting board. That’s because I let the turkey breasts rest nearly 45 minutes before making our mini turkey slider bites.
The whole turkey was equally stunning:
And we also did a turkey breast roulade, which was an herb and apple stuffed turkey breast, that we pounded out thin, placed the herb/apple mixture, then trussed it. We seared it on all sides before finishing it off in the oven.
As you can see, we probably could have let this rest a bit more, but it was still delicious.
I can’t believe that Thanksgiving is next week already! But thanks to what I’ve learned at The Chopping Block, hopefully these tips will help you have a successful and delicious Thanksgiving.
What Size Turkey Do I Need?
The larger the bird, the more meat it will yield per pound. Here are some general rules:
- a 12 pound turkey should feed about 6 people
- a 14-20 pound turkey: calculate 1.5 pounds per person (example: 10 guests = 15 pound bird)
- a 20-30 pound turkey: calculate 1.25 pounds per person (example: 20 guests = 25 pound bird)
These formulas do allow for a good amount of leftovers, so not to worry!
What Kind of Turkey Should I Buy?
Fresh…frozen…free-range??!! There are several choices when it comes to buying the bird. Here is some info to help you decide.
Turkey meat freezes beautifully, and the price is usually better for frozen, so don’t feel as though you are doing your guests an injustice by getting a frozen bird. You will need to plan ahead to allow time for it to defrost. (more on that below in a minute).
Fresh turkeys are readily available, but you may need to order a fresh bird a week or even more in advance at your local butcher shop, where you will have a chance to order either an organic or free-range turkey. Free-range turkeys tend to have a more intense flavor and are leaner. Organic turkey meat does not contain any antibiotics, hormones, preservatives, salt or any other additives.
Ah, the dilemma most people have every year, is not letting their frozen turkey thaw properly in time to even cook it on Thanksgiving. It’s not like taking a small pork roast out of the freezer and letting it defrost in the fridge overnight to have for dinner the next night. The other error is defrosting it in an unsafe manner. Although it takes a long time, defrosting in the refrigerator for the WHOLE defrosting time is the safest. Just make sure to give yourself ample time.
Here is the general rule: Allow about 24 hours per 5 pounds of turkey for defrosting in the refrigerator. That means that if you are buying a frozen turkey, plan to buy it at least three days before Thanksgiving.
A second way to defrost is to keep the turkey under a continuous flow of cold running water until it is defrosted. But please only use this method if you are in an emergency situation. This method lends the opportunity for bacteria to develop.
So here is another tip: CHECK YOUR TURKEY WEDNESDAY NIGHT. See if it may need the cold water bath to assist in finishing the defrosting if your bird is still a bit frozen after using the refrigerator method. If you wait until Thanksgiving morning to check on it, it often leads to turkeys going in the oven partially frozen, which will result in undercooked meat near the bones.
How long is this thing going to take to cook??!!
My old boss had THE hardest time cooking a turkey on time. Once I had her tell me how she usually went about making her turkey. While her turkey was fresh and she didn’t have to worry about the thawing process, she told me she basted her turkey every fifteen minutes. She was using a convection oven, which is nice because the air circulates in the oven, but what most people don’t realize is that every time they open and shut the oven door during the baking process, the oven temps dip a good 50 – 75 degrees depending on how long the door is kept open. (example: Turkey cooks at 350 degrees. Fifteen minutes after you put the turkey in, you decide to baste it, which requires collecting any juices in the bottom of the pan and pouring it over the top of the bird – this could take a couple minutes at the very least. Now you shut the oven, and the oven is at 300 degrees, not 350. By the time it gets up to temperature again, fifteen minutes has gone by and now you are opening the oven again to baste – rinse/repeat!). So if your routine is to baste your turkey – no problem. Just take the turkey out and open and shut the oven quickly. That way you can take your time basting while the oven door is shut keeping the oven at the desired temperature, and you really don’t need to baste more in more than 30 minute intervals.
Use this timetable to estimate how long it will take your turkey to cook. Remember, these are only approximations, as all ovens will vary slightly. Use a meat thermometer. For reals – the best tool to have in your kitchen during Thanksgiving. Don’t serve raw turkey to your guests people
- 8-12 pounds: 2 3/4 to 3 hours
- 12-14 pounds: 3 to 3 3/4 hours
- 14-18 pounds: 3 3/4 hours to 4 1/4 hour
- 18-20 pounds: 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours
- 20-24 pounds: 4 1/2 to 5 hours
Also, if you are roasting your turkey in a convection oven, it may be done sooner, so be sure to use your meat thermometer to check the doneness roughly an hour before the above mentioned times.
Whew! Hopefully you have learned something about cooking turkey from this post. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below, and if I don’t know the answer, I’ll definitely hit up one of our Chef’s and will get the correct answer for you.
What’s your favorite dish of Thanksgiving?! Mine is sausage stuffing – it’s the one dish I usually only eat once a year.
Make it a great day!
p.s. and Happy 15th Birthday to my niece Claire! Hope you have an awesome day!