23 November 2011

Open Letter to First-Time Turkey Cookers

by Frank Turk

Dear Readers & First-Time turkey roasters:

You do not have to be "truly reformed" to use this recipe. You just have to like Turkey and stuffing.

Roasting a turkey isn't as hard as it sounds. I have made it my holiday tradition to share this recipe, and if you read this today you still have time to make it for tomorrow prior to any football and just in time to slow-roast while you watch the Macy's Day parade. In this case, the turkey is stuffed. DO NOT stuff the turkey and put it in the fridge overnight: that's bacteriologically a bad idea, and we want you all to enjoy Thanksgiving on the sofa, not on a hospital gurney.

It should also be known that the Johnson Household cannot abide Turkey on TG, so we'll extend them grace to abstain, but the rest of you have no excuse now for abstaining from the traditional vittles.


12- to 14-lb. turkey, thawed if purchased frozen
1 bag, your favorite "Italian" croutons
2-4 bouillon cubes
2-3 stalks, celery, chopper or cubed
1 cup carrots, chopped
½ cup onions, finely chopped
1 tsp, dried parsley
1 cup, cashews (Mrs. Cent prefers walnuts; use the nut you enjoy most)
Pepper and Garlic Salt

  1. Preheat your oven to 325. Remove the cooking racks, then place one rack into oven at the lowest position.

  2. Unwrap your THAWED Turkey in a clean sink, and remove the giblets – that bag of stuff that you never thought you would use for anything because it looks gross. It's not gross. You may have to unhook the metal clip which holds the legs together in order to get all the giblets out; you may have to run some warm water into the bird to get the giblets out. Don't be afraid.

  3. Start a medium-sized pot of water boiling – not more than 3 cups. Put your packet of giblets in the water (sans wrapping paper), along with your bouillon cubes and the onions, carrots, celery and parlsey. (FWIW, the leafy parts of the celery are great for this recipe, so don;t get squeemish) 2 boullion cubes will make a somewhat-mild flavored stuffing; 6 will make a very salty and spicy stuffing. You know what you like best, so add the cubes to the low end of your tolerance for spicy. For your reference, I usually use 4 cubes. Boil this mix for about 30 minutes – long enough to cook the giblets thoroughly.

  4. While the soup (yes: you very smart readers knew that we were making soup, didn't you?) is cooking, wash the Turkey thoroughly, inside and out. I wouldn't use soap as you might miss a spot in the rinse and ruin your hours of hard work here, but washing the bird is an important health safety tip. If we were deep frying the bird (that's the Christmas recipe), washing is pretty much unimportant because if some germ can survive the deep fryer, it will kill you before you eat any of the dinner. Anyway, clean the bird thoroughly and put it in a large roasting pan. For this recipe, the deeper the roasting pan, the better. I suggest a large disposable roasting pan from WAL*MART.

    If you get bored waiting for the soup to finish up, this would be a good time to rub salt and pepper into the skin of your bird. Visually, salt and pepper the skin so that it looks like very light TV static. Do the top (the breast side) and the bottom (where the shoulders are); do not worry if you put less on the breast side. Because of the way this bird is going to cook, pay special attention to salting and peppering the wings and drumsticks.

  5. You now have a clean, prepped bird and a very delicious-smelling pot of soup. You have to make stuffing now. Remove the soup from the heat and remove the giblets. If you are a complete carnivore (like me), take the fully-cooked giblets to your food chopper and chop them up and put them back into the soup (you can't chop up the neck, but if you have 20 minutes, de-bone the neck and put your neck meat into the soup).

    Those of you grossed out by chopping up the giblets can throw them away. The rest of us will weep for you.

    Now empty the bag of croutons into the soup. If you used about 2 cups of water, you will get a somewhat-damp bread-and-soup mixture; if you used about 3 cups of water, you will get a very wet bread-and-soup mixture. I like the latter better, but some people like their stuffing more dry than others. The extraordinary secret here is that a soupier stuffing makes for a more-moist bird in the final product. After the soup and the bread are well- mixed, add the cashews and mix again.

  6. When you have this mixing complete, use a tablespoon and start loading the stuffing into the bird. Pack the stuffing down into the bird to get the cavity of the body completely full of stuffing. Don't leave any air pockets. Once the Turkey is completely stuffed, position it in the roasting tray breast-side down (I learned that from watching Emeril) in the center of the pan, and load the pan with the rest of your stuffing mix.

  7. Cover the Turkey, and place it inside your oven. After 2 hours in the heat, remove the cover and roast for another hour. In this final hour, the skin of the exposed parts should turn golden brown. At the end of the third hour, test the bird with a meat thermometer; the center temperature should be 175-180 degrees F. It will be the most unbelievable bird you ever ate.


Thomas Louw said...

I’m very proud of being a South African.
Very proud of being a ‘Boer”.

Yesterday a secrecy bill has been past, so our freedom of the press has flown the coup.

Now you come and post this.

I will only ever immigrate to the USA for this turkey and for no other reason.

Tom Chantry said...

Tsk, Tsk.

You forgot to tell us to take the Turkey out for coffee. What are we to think of you?

The Damer said...

You watchbloggers are talking turkey while the rest of us a really cooking turkeys. Shameful, haters.

Fred Butler said...

I prefer ham.

FX Turk said...

The key is to have ham and turkey. This is America after all.

donsands said...

"ham and turkey"


Have the happiest Thansgiving holiday ever, in the love of our Savior, Friend, and Lord, Jesus the Messiah!
How I long to see our Lord Jesus. Come back soon Lord.

"He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen."

(Revelation 22:20-21 ESV)

Anonymous said...

And all the cows said: "Amen!"

Stefan Ewing said...

At first, I thought this is the best Open Letter of them all, bringing everyone together to celebrate the Thanksgiving meal.

But then the shocking truth occurred to me.... This is the worst Open Letter of all: what about the poor turkey!?

If you will forebear a tangential comment on this day...

This year, I thank God that in His grace, mercy, and forbearance through Jesus Christ, He has provided both my wife and me with new jobs this year, brought us both closer to Himself, and transformed our marriage as well.

And ironically, the fruits of my prayers and labour at this new job for which I'm so thankful are being realized right now—as a direct consequence of the very secular and commercial Thanksgiving week retail upswing that has already begun!

James Scott Bell said...

Can you explain the breast side down part again? The "Emeril trick." Does that mean fully upside down (i.e., the opposite of the Norman Rockwell turkey on the table position)? I'm assuming it makes the bird juicier. Does it brown the same as the traditional way? Thanks for the recipe.

Mike Westfall said...

I thought "vittles" was actually spelt "victuals."

But then, you are from Arkansas, ain't y'all?

John Dunn said...

I only eat Baptist turkeys . . . they are mature birds that fully immerse in the New Covenant gravy!

Those Paedobaptist turkeys are so little and scantly sprinkled. And they mix together their Old and New gravies into one dish.

James Scott Bell said...

@John Dunn:

We Arminians prefer free range turkeys.

DJP said...


I've lived to see "TURKEY RECIPE" introduced as a tag on Pyro.

Robert said...


You place it upside down (the bottom is usually flat, so the flat side will be up) on a rack in the roasting pan and that will help you keep the skin on the breast crisp, while the meat inside stays moist. I picked that trick up from Paula Deen and it really made for a tasty turkey!

Robert said...

Let me add to that previous comment by saying that we actually have a metal roasting pan (not the temporary kind) and that is what we place our rack in. It is my wife's pan, but I am pretty sure the rack came with the pan.

Kaj Ballantyne said...

Not to be disagreeable ... I know how you guys hate disagreements ... and I am Canadian so I probably have no idea about Thanksgiving or turkeys ... but ... you haven't had turkey until you've had deep fried turkey.

DJP said...

I've never had it, and would love to. I'll eat deep-fried-almost-anything.

Kaj Ballantyne said...


You and me both.

Deep fried anything ... or anything with bacon.

The only caveat: fully thawed turkey only. Learned that the hard way.

Mike Westfall said...

I've had deep fried turkey, and it's yummy. But no more, because we left the deep fryer outside, and the big turkey-sized cheap aluminum frying pot got full of water, then froze over the winter, and got all distorted and eventually sprung leaks...

But we still use the burner to heat a big tub of water to swish the turkey in just before plucking it.

You haven't really had turkey until you've eaten one that you raised yourself in the back yard...

Robert said...

We had fried turkey for our project quarterly safety meeting on Monday. It was perfectly seasoned and totally moist. I think they got it from Honey-Baked Ham, but I'm not sure.

John Dunn said...

@ Mike Westfall

Rather, you haven't really had turkey until you've eaten one that you SHOT yourself in the back yard...

Here in Southern Ontario wild turkeys often make the mistake of trespassing in my back yard. And my yard is clearly posted for all to heed, "All Trespassers Will Be Shot".

Mmmmmm . . . wild turkey

James Scott Bell said...

@Robert, thanks.

APM said...

Three words:


Solameanie said...

My mom is an 88-year-old Southern belle from Arkansas, and she never stuffs her turkey. She always makes the dressing and bakes it in a separate ban with plenty of broth and poultry seasoning. Turns out moist and flavorful every time, and non-deadly.

Solameanie said...

As an aside comment, I wonder what the Johnson household will be partaking of this year? If it's not a pizza, perhaps escargot slow-boiled in eye-of-newt juice? I'm only speculating based on past food posts of his, and knowing his cast-iron stomach for unusual world beat cuisine. ;)

donsands said...

"...and she never stuffs her turkey."-Sola

That's rank heresy here in Maryland bro.

Hey, I saw a flock of wild turkeys not too long ago on the eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. I would imagine they gobbled their last gobble, and someone will be gobbling them up tomorrow: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2697137433249&set=a.1199052622065.31739.1401015879&type=1&ref=nf

Also, I saw this lonesome crazy turkey trying to cross the road in Easton MD.

The Squirrel said...

Mike Westfall said...

"You haven't really had turkey until you've eaten one that you raised yourself in the back yard..."

... And named "Floyd" and loved and had to listen to the kids weeping when Floyd's time came and they wouldn't eat any and we ended up going to McDonalds and...



Allison Gray said...

Mmmm, I love Turkey!! I would also suggest that when you wash the turkey, make sure the water is really hot, as this will seal in the juices and makes for a nice, moist bird. Also, the injection method is amazing! My husband did it last month for our turkey dinner (yep, we're also Canucks), and it was great. And you can't forget to put some cut-up yams or sweet potatoes in the roasting pan with the bird for the last hour of cooking time :)
A happy and blessed Thanksgiving to all of you!

Aaron Snell said...

I propose an alternative to the Elephant Room called "The Turkey Room."

That has so many fun possible applications.

Scot said...

Turducken has nothing on the Tugoodumal Guchipheapapigwood.

You're welcome.

Solameanie said...

Don, Phil and all...

In case you'd rather hunt something other than turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, how about a land-walking octopus/.

I kid you not.

Phil Johnson said...

Solameanie: "I wonder what the Johnson household will be partaking of this year? If it's not a pizza . . ."

It's ALWAYS gourmet deep-dish pizza.

We're strict traditionalists when it comes to Thanksgiving, and that's our tradition.

FX Turk said...

Johnny --

You have to flip the bird in the last browning step to get the crispy skin on the breast side, but on-net the trick keeps the white meat from turning into paper pulp.

FX Turk said...

The Johnsons are fundamentalists like that. I had to sneak this in under the wire.

donsands said...

"It's ALWAYS gourmet deep-dish pizza."

I love that. Makes me smile.

Lord fill you with overwhelming joy this holiday, for His glory and pleasure. And also John MacArthur and his family Lord bless them in greater ways we all would dream of, but never experience. Amen.

Mike and Judy said...

If you like fried turkey, you'll appreciate this.


Tastes every bit as good as one fried in oil minus the mess.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wendy said...

Does this work the same with never-been-frozen brined turkeys??

I'm hosting my second-ever T.Dinner...at my first one the turkey got done an hour and half early but was the moistest I've ever tasted. It was an accident I can't replicate.

James Scott Bell said...

@Frank, thanks. May want to try this.

Solameanie said...

Phil, given your experiences with TSA, I think I should warn our friends here of a new development. You might be interested to know that turkey fryers are a threat to Homeland Security.

Hmm. Never thought that the desire to deep fry a gobbler might get me groped by a federal poultry cop. Wonder if Pec has any thoughts on this?

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Johnny Dialectic likes free range turkeys because he is Arminian. How funny!!!!

Did you give your turkey a free choice as to how he wants his goose cooked? :)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Frank, I have never made my dressing that way before: makes sense.

Anonymous said...

Bouillon cubes? Oh, Frank.

A Foodie

The Squirrel said...

"It's ALWAYS gourmet deep-dish pizza."

What time should we be there, Phil?



donsands said...

Hey Meanie,

That Octo was incredible. I sent it over to Josh, my grandson.

Amazing how some people eat these animals.

Hey, how about deep fried octopus for Thanksgiving?
Not, no way.

Unknown said...

Ah. It is not really Thanksgiving without the annual Frank Turk Turkey recipe. I say your recipe is for the birds. It is time to flap to a new roost with no squawking or getting your feathers ruffled and brine that bird. Come on, stick your neck out and see what happens.

Unknown said...

Oops. That was me, Candy. My computer is all mixed up.

Mike Westfall said...

Ditto on the brining. We always do that now-a-days.

Half a cup of sugar and half a cup of salt per gallon of water.

Matthew Olmstead said...

Do it the way Alton does it: (1) brine for at least 10 hours (2) coat the turkey with canola oil and roast it at 500 degrees for the first 30 minutes (this will get it golden brown (3) cover the breast with aluminum foil, lower the oven temp to 325, use probe thermometer (4) cook until breast is at 161 (5) pull and let rest 15 minutes before carving.


White meat is perfect! I won't do it any other way!

Susan said...

Frank, I think you may have just saved my Thanksgiving dinner with this post. (The bird is still thawing, so I can't really brine or marinate it...which means I may end up trying it your way!!)


Susan :)

Chris Nelson said...

I'm sure the Pentecostals must cluck and gobble in tongues at the dinner table.

Solameanie said...

Don, I'll just keep to watching the octopi walking on land. I hear they taste like pencil erasers.

As an aside, my boss's secretary is Japanese and she likes octopus. She has a hilarious story where someone left a live octopus on her porch in a gunny sack. When she went to boil it, it kept popping it's head up through the kettle lid like it was playing peek-a-boo. Not so funny to see it written, but hearing her tell it put me in stitches.

Tim Bushong said...

I'm with Kaj- that deep-frying does something insane to a bird.

Jim said...

Your recipe made it all the way to Mexico City for a celebration here. Ok, I adapted it a little - it was kind of a Mexican-American-Canadian turkey. :)