More on cooking a turkey

Cooking turkey is actually kind of a dumb idea. Most people don’t ever cook turkey. Turkey is like chicken … it’s a domestic bird that is familiar to all Americans … but it is very difficult to cook in a way that does not ruin it. So once a year, you cook this huge bird and try not to ruin it, and invite everybody that is important to you over to see if it worked.

As a result of this the truth many people have never had good turkey. They’ve only had ruined turkey. And for each of these people, what they think turkey tastes like is unique to the particular way their family’s turkey cooker learned to ruin the turkey every year.

So, do you want to know the REAL secret for cooking a turkey?

Cook more than one a year and use different methods to see how it turns out! (Jeesh, you’d think this would be obvious.) You can try the method I mentioned a while back, but I just heard about a few new recipes over on my close personal friend Nina’s blog: How to Cook a Traditional Turkey

Oh, and if you need to make stock for anything, here’s how to do that.


  1. #1 savve
    November 18, 2009

    Seriously, cooking a turkey isn’t that hard!
    I have to this day not ruined a single turkey, they have all been juicy with crispy skin and completely nommable. And I’m not American, grown up with this tradition. All you really need is a good roasting thermometer, or preferably two, inserted correctly, and the meat will be done but not overdone every time. It isn’t rocket science.

  2. #2 jdhuey
    November 18, 2009

    I have to agree with savve. The only times that I’ve seen a turkey ruined was when the cook didn’t use a thermometer or when the oven temperature was set too high. But then again, I violate tradition and fix turkey several times though out the year.

  3. #3 Nancy Whiting
    November 18, 2009

    Actually, I let others do the testing for me. I use Pam Anderson’s (former exec editor of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine) recipe from her book “The Perfect Recipe.” Two simple techniques–brining and turning–make producing a perfect bird simple.

  4. #4 Juice
    November 18, 2009

    It’s called frying.

  5. #5 cpsmith
    November 18, 2009

    Baste it with beer. That is the real secret to the tenderest and tastiest turkey ever.

  6. #6 Alcari
    November 18, 2009

    “So, do you want to know the REAL secret for cooking a turkey?”

    I already know the real secret. It ends with a questionmark and begins with the words “Hey, mom…”

  7. #7 Gilgamesh
    November 19, 2009

    My father cooked all the holiday meals for our large family. He continued even after his children had left home and our mother died. My dad’s turkeys were always spot on. He said the successful recipe for cooking a turkey included consuming many bottles of beer during the process.

  8. #8 Hank Fox
    November 19, 2009

    In fact, the REAL reason the Large Hadron Collider went down was that staffers, unhappy with lifelong bad holiday food, were experimenting with cooking a 17-pound turkey with a particle beam.

  9. #9 Jefrir
    November 19, 2009

    The actual solution, of course, is to cook a chicken instead.

  10. #10 Left_Wing_Fox
    November 19, 2009

    Flavorful brine the night before, fill with aromatics instead of stuffing, Cook at 500F for 30 minutes, cover the breast with a tinfoil tent to prevent burning, then drop to 350F until the probe thermometer in the thigh goes off about 510 degrees before completely done, letting carryover finish the job. The only “failure” was when I accidentally punched the thermometer through the thigh, and it came out undercooked. Oops.

    Still delicious, and no-one died. 🙂

  11. #11 Rrr
    November 19, 2009

    Yahya, hear harun, but Turkey is already more than halfway cooked, between the Turks and the Kurts (sp). It’s constantinoply in dire straits. Roast. Shishkebob. Done. Stuffed. Pining for the Fjords… no, that was the Norwegian Blue bird. Nevermind. Carry on.

  12. #12 Ami Silberman
    November 19, 2009

    Basically any method you use for chicken will work for a Turkey of up to about 12 pounds. Modern farmn-raised turkeys (even free-range ones) are basically built like large chickens. You can even cook them on a vertical roaster. The problem is that most people don’t even cook whole chickens, or if they do, use only one method and then try to cook a turkey a different way. Take stuffing, for example. I found cooking turkey with stuffing much easier after I had cooked a few stuffed chickens. About the only big difference with turkeys is that they take to brining much better than chicken.

    On the other hand, ducks and geese cook much differently from turkey — to the point that you have to use special techniques (pre-boiling to get the fat out comes to mind.) Also, wild turkeys are shaped much differently from domestic ones, being long and thin.

    For what it is worth, this year we are trying Julia Child’s version from “The Way To Cook” which is semi-deboned and essentially spatchcocked,with the legs removed so that they can be cooked for a lesser amount of time. You put the turkey on top of the stuffing as well.

  13. #13 Greg Laden
    November 19, 2009

    Ami: That is how it all started here …

    I think you are absolutely right about the turkey-chicken thing. In fact, many people are not very experienced at cooking whole chickens. I love cooking whole chickens, but I hardly ever do it these days myself.

    We are probably having thanksgiving at home alone as the offspring will be born two days before thanksgiving (by my calculation). Maybe I’ll cook a whole chicken!

    Or better yet, a handful of Cornish game hens…

  14. #14 Rick Pikul
    November 19, 2009


    Some of us were around for Serdar Argic, and do not need to be reminded of it.

  15. #16 Mr. Upright
    November 21, 2009

    Simple. Brine, then rotisserie cook on a charcoal grill. I like to stuff with onions and tart apples…for flavor and moisture, not for eating later. I’ve never had a bad turkey on my grill.