The Tale of 3 Turkeys
Whew ““ well, with the leftovers almost gone, I wanted to share our turkey day experience (and document it for next year). First, all things considered, the actual day went flawlessly ““ it was the preparation leading up to it that was a little screwed up.
Way back in October, the Ex & I were “nominated” to host Thanksgiving for her fellow PhD students ““ which was fine, except when we started thinking about it we realized we had never cooked on Thanksgiving for more then 3 people. And now we were going to be cooking for 10 or more ““ yikes! The first thing we thought of was thank god we now have a normal sized kitchen and not the closet we used to have in NYC. Seriously, if I had a picture of it on this memory card, I’d share it with you. I (being all of 5′ 8″) could extend my arms and touch both walls (in either direction). It’s a wonder how we used to make some damn fine meals in that small space. But I digress”¦
So onto Thanksgiving 2007 ““ As soon as I realized that we’d be having that many people over, I decided to cook 2 Turkeys, one smoked on the BGE and the other deep fried. Why deep fried? Well, because I could and Alton Brown made it look really cool. Ha ha ““ actually, I wanted to try it out as we had never done it before and had always heard great things about the flavor. So I consulted the Creator on what would be the best fryer to get and ordered one from Amazon.com, which arrived in mid Oct., leaving me plenty of time to “test” it out and make sure I knew what the heck I was doing before the actual day. But if you recall back from my THT Cranked Up Cranberry review, I couldn’t, for the life of me, find a whole turkey in any market until after Nov. 1 ““ then the suckers were every where.
So after Nov. 1, I bought Turkey #1 ““ frozen but ready for the challenge. I popped the turkey in the fridge to defrost (takes 3-4 days) and went on my merry way. On day 3 of defrosting, I decided to put together the deep fryer that had been sitting in the living room since Oct. and low and behold, the sucker didn’t go together. For some reason, where the regulator screws into the burner was not threaded ““ meaning I couldn’t use the damn thing at all. So, not wanting to waste a 12lb bird, the Ex baked it in the oven and I went about finding another Turkey Fryer. The second time was much easier, as it seems that every store was selling the damn things. Because I didn’t need the pots or anything else (had those from the 1st purchase), the 2nd time I only bought the actual stand and regulator. Which was all connected already so I didn’t have to worry about it not being threaded together.
At this point, it was still 2 weeks until Turkey day, but the Ex refused to let me test on another bird. She didn’t want to OD on turkey before the big day. So I went into full planning mode ““ even to the point of documenting all of the necessary ingredients in an excel spreadsheet and pivoting the data so that we knew exactly how much of each item we needed. Fast forward to the Saturday before Turkey day and we went grocery shopping. My handy chart worked perfectly and we were done in no time ““ plus it ended up that we didn’t need to go back to the store for anything (with the exception of ice).
That Monday, I put both Turkeys (frozen) in the fridge to defrost. On Wednesday, I made bird soup ““ that is, I put both birds in a brine solution at about 4pm. Both bird remained in the brine until the next morning ““ just over 12 hours of brining.
Thursday morning the real fun began. Turkey #2 was destined for the BGE, which would take 3-4 hours so it came out of the brine first. After being coated in Tony Cachere’s Creole seasoning, stuffed with white onions, celery and butter, Turkey #2 went onto an oven rack which fit just right into a drip pan. I then filled the drip pan with 2 cans of beer, 4 bay leaves, some cloves and some steak seasoning (for good measure).
This entire setup went directly onto the inverted ceramic plate setter. The BGE had been fired up about 45 minutes prior to the bird going on and had reached a steady temp of 325. Just before setting the bird onto the plate setter, I tossed a handful of hickory chunks onto the fire ““ which had been soaking in water for more then 30 minutes.
Then ““ the turkey went on and the thermometer went in (make sure to wrap the cord in foil to protect it) and I shut the lid. I didn’t touch the BGE again until the thermometer beeped and let me know that the turkey breast had reached 160 degrees. Turkey #2 hit the grill at about 9:30am and was done by 12:30pm ““ just about 3 hours of total cook time. I removed the bird from the grill, brought it inside and covered it in foil to rest while the rest of the meal was prepared. Actually, that’s when I began to cook bird #3.
While Bird #2 was cooking, I set up another space for the fryer and began to assemble all that I would need. I decided to fry bird #2 on our driveway which is not normally recommended for turkey frying, but our driveway is away from the house, long enough that I wasn’t near the garage and one of the only flat spaces we have where there are not trees directly above me (pine needles falling into the fryer would not be a good thing).
So I got everything set up and out that I would need (even bought a fire extinguisher ““ just in case) and decided to try to light the burner to make sure everything worked before I brought out the bird (this was about 10am ““ giving me time to throw bird #3 into the oven if I had to). And guess what? The regulator on the new unit was faulty! So I grabbed the regulator from the original fryer I had bought and everything worked perfectly. We now had flames! After turkey #2 came off the grill, I began to heat up the oil (peanut) for Turkey #3. After the oil reached the correct temp (325), I put the bird in. Prior to putting it in the oil, I had taken it out of the brine, dried it, injected it and then seasoned it with more of the creole seasoning. (Sorry, no pictures of any of this). Less then 45 min. later we had a perfectly cooked and tasty turkey. After days of prep, it was finally time to eat!
Dark Meat – Both Turkeys (1 smoked, 1 fried)
Both turkeys were insanely moist ““ something which I can’t attribute to the brine or the cooking method, as I had done none of these before. But in any regard, both were a hit ““ and the contrast of flavors was much appreciated by all. Turkey wasn’t the only thing I cooked for the big day, but it was the only thing that I’m going to be cooking again ““ and soon. Might fry a turkey this weekend (before leaving for Chicago) and if I do, I’ll be sure to document that process with pictures.