The holiday season brings with it a number of traditions that we celebrate on an annual basis here in the United States, but fewer are more synonymous with the season than the annual Thanksgiving feast. As many of us may remember from school growing up, the first Thanksgiving was held nearly 400 years ago when the Pilgrims arrived in America. Fourteen months later, after suffering through a brutal winter, the settlers celebrated their first Thanksgiving over a three day period in November to honor their first bountiful harvest. Nearly 250 years after the first celebration, Thanksgiving was named a national holiday.
Depending on who you ask, the first Thanksgiving meal included any number of things, but most agree that fowl was a part of the meal. In those days, the bird of choice was mostly likely goose or duck. This week however, it’s estimated that nearly 90% of Americans will sit down for turkey, and you can be sure that no two will be alike.
With the amount of information available at our fingertips, the number of potential ways to cook a turkey seem almost limitless. Whether you turn to an app on your smartphone, a favorite blog online, Pinterest or just an old family recipe, one thing will remain the same. A bird isn’t fully cooked until it reaches 165 ℉.
With the way the bird is shaped, cooking a turkey can be as much an art form as it can be a scientific achievement. With the big cavernous opening right in the center of it, the breast meat often ends up dried out by the time the thighs are finished oven roasting. There are a few ways that this can be avoided.
Deep Fried Turkey
Deep fried turkey is a Creole tradition that dates all the way back to the 1930s. Even then, the process was similar to today. Chef’s would use a hanger type apparatus to lower a turkey into a pot that was full of hot oil. Once in the oil, the bird would cook for approximately three to four minutes per pound to get it up to temperature.
The draw of deep frying a turkey is it’s crispy skin and juicy interior. However, be warned. In the late 80’s the National Turkey Federation claimed that deep fried turkey was like “staring into a loaded double barrel shotgun.” This was partially due to the unhealthiness of deep frying anything, but also the fear that the meat could end up being under cooked. That hasn’t stopped some of America’s favorite chefs from enjoying the meal. Below is a video from Alton Brown that shows his take on the process.
As you may remember from news stories during Thanksgivings past, and as Mr. Brown mentions in the video, deep frying turkey can result in some dangerous consequences. It’s been estimated by the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) that nearly 4,300 fires will occur on Thanksgiving. Based on these numbers, they go on to estimate that the fires may cause as many as 15 fatalities and almost $27 million in property damage, many of them due to deep frying accidents. If you decide to deep fry this Thanksgiving, make sure to take the proper precautions to keep yourself, and your loved ones, safe.
Roasting a turkey in the oven is one of the most common ways to prepare your bird for the feast. Even so, we’ve apparently been doing it wrong for years. I was recently informed of my family’s Thanksgiving wrongdoings thanks to the Slack podcast. During a recent episode, their team decided to pit turkey technology against human ingenuity.
From a technological aspect, they looked at recipes that they found across numerous websites and phone apps and cooked a bird accordingly. It was similar to most of the recipes I’d seen and tried. Put it in the oven at 325℉ and baste it regularly to keep it from drying out. Like the turkeys I often cooked, this bird still ended up dry.
For human ingenuity, they turned to the people at America’s Test Kitchen, and their cooking recipe was unlike any I’d ever heard of or seen. They started the bird upside down, flipped it half way through, cooked it at a higher temperature and didn’t baste it at all after it went in the oven. In the end, it was their turkey that remained crispy on the outside and moist within leading it to be named the far and away winner. A more complex version of the ultimate Thanksgiving feast as done by the test kitchen is below.
At the end of the day, the way you prepare your meal is fully based on personal preference. Whether you decide to fry your turkey, roast your turkey, or choose a different direction altogether, we at Dickson wish you the happiest and warmest of holidays.
Thanks for reading, and Happy Thanksgiving.