November 21st, 2012

Cook that bird

[NOTE: This is a repeat of an old post, with a bit added that’s new.]

The big day is tomorrow. As usual, there are many pointers on how best to cook that bird.

I have a simple method: it almost doesn’t matter what you do, just get a good turkey and the rest will follow. A bird will be dry or moist, tasty or bland, depending on its nature more than on the cooking method you use.

Within reason, of course. The principle holds true as long as you cook it according to any of the generally accepted, tried and true methods. I’ve used somewhat lower longer heat and somewhat higher shorter heat, basted it more and basted it less, covered it with cheesecloth or not, and haven’t noticed any patterns—except that, since you douse it in gravy and cranberry sauce anyway before you eat it, even a piece of bland dry turkey meat ends up tasting pretty good in the end.

The whole point is really the rest of the food anyway, isn’t it? I’m a sweet-potato-sans-marshmallow gal, as well as a proponent of the pumpkin-pie-can-be-easily-dispensed-with school. Pecan pie, on the other hand, is a must-have, despite the fact that it packs in about 1,000 calories a bite.

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, although not the traveling. Why do I like it so much? Well, unlike Christmas, the season doesn’t seem to start too early and drag on forever. There are no gifts involved, so the focus is on the day itself. The concept—giving thanks for what we have—is a good one, and at least theoretically embraceable by all. And the food is fabulous.

15 Responses to “Cook that bird”

  1. expat Says:

    Happy Thanksgiving , Neo et al. Enjoy the turkey and the stuffing.

  2. Fausta Says:

    Happy Thanksgiving, Neo!

  3. davisbr Says:

    I’m using this rather untraditional method tomorrow (this year it’s my turn to get to cook the turkey …and yeah, we trade off).

    Serious Eats: How to Cook a Spatchcocked Turkey.

    I’ll check back with how it turned out.

  4. Susanamantha Says:


    I cook a spatchcocked chicken often and it renders a more evenly cooked chicken than the standard method. I cook it with a preheated cast iron skillet atop to further flatten the bird.

    To all:

    Happy Thanksgiving and we should all count our blessings – sometimes tough to do after the recent election. At least Obama is presiding for only 4 more years.

  5. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Nope. If it were merely a matter of getting a good turkey, then how do you explain that some folks get it consistently right and others have an inconsistent record?

    A properly prepared turkey will be; fully cooked, nicely browned and most of all… moist.

    Anyone who does some research on google will discover a plethora of methods, common sense should prevail as always. Three of my favorite tricks are to ‘brine’ the bird the day before and to tent the bird with tinfoil and cook it upside down on a roasting rack. Untenting the bird a half hour before its done and turning it right side up creates a nicely browned bird that is consistently moist.

  6. Cheeseburger in Paradise Says:

    +1 on the above

  7. T Says:


    Yes, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday for many many years mostly for the reasons you mention; it’s difficult to commercialize an ugly bird (except as your photo above does).

    In the spirit of the day we always set an extra place and toast, in recognition, those loved ones who can’t be with us due to death or distance.

    To you and to all your commentors, my best wishes for a Happy and meaningful Thanksgiving.

  8. texexec Says:

    Happy Thanksgiving all! My favorite side dishes are cornbread dressing and cranberry sauce made from fresh cranberries. My wife makes two kinds…traditional and one that is all chopped up with jalapeno in it.

    I’m ending a bout with stomach virus so I’ll skip all the rich food this year. Y’all all GORGE yourselves!

  9. Papa Dan Says:

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

    I’ve roasted several birds upside down the way Dr Bob does step by step in this post from a couple of years ago – perfect bird, perfect gravy everytime!

  10. mutecypher Says:

    You say 1,000 calories a bite as if it were a bad thing.

  11. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    I never realized before that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday too. And for the reasons that you cite, neo. Just never had thought about it in a methodical way. Thanks for the summing up.

    We are all so very lucky we live in the good old USA. Even with Obama as President. I just returned from visiting several countries that are nice to visit but I would not want to live in any of them. So, a very happy Thanksgiving to us all.

    I also agree that if the turkey’s not just right, the gravy and cranberry sauce will cover that. Hmm, my mouth is watering and it’s still 24 hours away. Be still my growling stomach.

  12. John F. MacMichael Says:

    A Happy Thanksgiving to Neo and all her commenters!

    We are having a duck this year (an experiment of my gf’s). On the pie question, I am with you in giving a pass to the pumpkin pie. My sweetheart makes a pecan maple pie that will make one purr with pleasure after the first bite.

  13. Ron Says:

    Wishing you a Happy, Healthy and Safe Thanksgiving.

    Still much to be Thankful for!

    EAT! We can diet tomorrow.

  14. expat Says:

    NRO has a poll up on favorite Thanksgiving foods. Stuffing beats both turkey and pumpkin pie. Doesn’t it say something about American ingenuity that we can make something so delicius out of dried out bread? Of course, we have to acknowledge the contribution of turkeys to the gravy we use on that dried out bread.

  15. JH Says:

    sorry to that bird ending cooked on the table…..

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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