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Turkey Sous Vide Style

Cooking the Perfect Turkey


The traditional bird is often overcooked in some parts- maybe undercooked in others.  But that isn’t surprising when you consider this: most people put the entire bird in the oven, and to make sure the turkey is cooked all the way through, some parts of the turkey will end up being dried out and overdone.

Why cook your holiday turkey with this traditional and outdated method, anyway? When was the last time you took a cow, shoved it into an oven, and hoped the ribs, steaks, and rump roast came out perfectly cooked? Never – exactly! We butcher the cow into different parts  - and all of the parts are cooked differently.  Not to mention the obvious problem – to get the temperature we want in the very middle of the animal means the temperature on the outside of the animal will be overdone for our tastes. Use the Sous Vide method instead.


Or you can break the turkey down yourself into the various parts: thighs, drumsticks, breasts.  This makes the turkey managable.  I like doing this job, as you can see by the video, but it is easier if you get the butcher to do this for you (this means you either buy the turkey parts by themselves, like the drumstick and the breast, or get a fresh turkey and butcher it into its parts).Break it down.  Cut the turkey into parts.  Your butcher will be happy to do this for you.  Separate the thighs-drumsticks from the breast – separate out the wings. Cut out the breast.  Now if you like the gizzard, neck, ribs, and wings—make some soup or stock out of them.

First Step to Brine or Not to Brine

I don't like to brine turkey. It is a big bird, takes up a lot of room, is messy, and the better way to take care of a turkey is to "salt" it and let it sit for a bit.  To do this you simply rain salt on all sides of the turkey and place it into the refrigerator. This drys out the skin of the turkey so it will do better in the process..  If you want to brine instead, there it is below.

Get a fresh, not frozen turkey. Then brine the turkey.  Putting the turkey into a salt/sugar water bath will allow it to remain moist, although salting is just fine.  The brine changes the nature of the proteins on the surface of the turkey.  With the turkey broken down it will be a lot easier to make up the brine, and you will navigate turkey parts better than a whole bird. 

Some like to purchase the pre-made brines and I bought one from Williams-Sonoma and followed directions. I still prefer to salt the turkey  Brine the turkey parts the day before you cook it.

TIP –  You can make your own brine – one cup salt and one cup brown sugar for a gallon of water.  Add quart of apple cider to it—and if you need more brine – add more cold salt water to it.  IMPORTANT: the brine is done in a cold refrigerator,  not on a counter top. Put the turkey parts in the brine, then them in the refrigerator.

Second Step:

You are going to Vacuum seal the turkey parts in individual bags. Before you do this you want to put salt and pepper on the turkey – and you also want to put some savory herb spices.  Get some fresh Thyme, Sage, and garlic.

First salt and pepper the turkey – on all sides.  Next roll the sage, thyme, and garlic into plastic wrap, like rolling a cigarette. Cut off the ends of this roll and put this in the bag. Put some butter in the bag (if you prefer you could use some duck fat).  Put the turkey part into the bag and vacuum seal the bag.

TIP: If you use duck fat put it at the back of the bag – not the front of the bag so the grease allows you to seal the bag. You can get duck fat from most fine food stores or kitchen stores. 

Third Step:
Drop the bags into a water bath with a temperature of 150 degrees Fahrenheit. The thighs will be done in about two hours—the others in about two and a half hours. But you can leave them all in for 2.5 hours or longer because the turkey will not get overdone.

No basting,  no checking the internal temperature of the turkey. You want to go watch a football game, go do it.  If you take an hour too long—it won’t matter. The temperature of the water oven is 150 degrees, and you won’t overdo your turkey!

Step Four:
Do you want a nice roasted finish to the bird when it is done? Two ways you can do this. One is to take the parts out and brown them in the oven at a high heat (as high as your oven will go but not broil - center rack) this will take about 15 minutes.  The easer way is to take a large saute pan and heat it up with some oil. When the oil is smoking at the turkey parts and fry the skin and all sides- about 90 seconds a side. If you plan to do this remember this: after you remove the turkey part from the bag use paper towels to get rid of the moisture on the turkey - that way your oil won't pop.

Here is the great part: you only have to fry up the parts of the turkey you will need - if you have lots of left-over turkey you can leave them in the vacuum seal bags and put them into the refrigerator for the next day, or they will keep in the freezer for up to three months.

I made Turkey Sous Vide for Thanksgiving, and a month later took out the turkey breast, put it back into the waterbath for 30 minutes, then sliced it for some great, moist meat. 

TIP: When making a turkey sandwich – just slice some off the breast. You will have moister turkey than you have ever had. It won’t be dry, so you won’t need a lot of extra gravy, or mayo, or butter – or any of those condiments you used to slather on just to choke the turkey down.

What about the dressing? Oh yes, the stuffing.  You can put your favorite stuffing recipe into a bag and vacuum seal it and it will cook just fine.  Or you can bake it—to make your home smell like a delicious Thanksgiving morning.

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