By Popular Demand
To slow cook a turkey is the only way to cook a turkey and still be happy no matter what. I’ve cooked turkey this way since I had an oven. Remember Adelle Davis? This is her recipe for slow cooking meat and poultry. It works. One reason I remember how long I’ve been cooking the turkey is that Thanksgiving is my birthday and for most of my life I’ve spent it cooking.
Thanksgiving may be the first reason to cook a turkey but soup is the second. Soup made from real stock is something that many have never tasted. The decline of soup is the result. Soup is well worth the effort because it is totally easy and makes a one-pot meal.
The slow cooking method ensures that the fat will not boil and the meat will be tender.
And second major plus for large turkeys and early dinners, you can put the turkey in to cook the night before. It can be held a long time in the hot oven before being served. It can’t overcook although a few hours after it is finished cooking it may begin to dry out.
Slow cooking works for all meat and is the best method for meat and poultry, particularly if it is free range and grass fed, with no artificially induced fattening up.
Special order your turkey weeks before Thanksgiving or purchase it 2 DAYS IN ADVANCE from the supermarket. The large turkeys will be gone if you wait. The largest turkey you can find is the most special. I look for 23-24 lbs no matter how many people I think will show up. It makes a splash on the table, smells good cooking longer, and provides lots of bones and plenty of left over meat for soup.
If you want a small turkey, or it isn’t Thanksgiving, allow 2 lbs per person for dinner and soup.
FOR A LARGE TURKEY, THE NIGHT BEFORE
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Wash and stuff the turkey. Coat surface with oil or butter or nothing. I stuff the turkey and also cook the turkey on top of a bed of stuffing in a large enough pan. If you want to make gravy, cook the additional stuffing separately so you can save the drippings. The stuffing in the turkey will be moist; the stuffing in the pan, dryer with brown crispy edges.
I use Pepperidge Farm Herb Stuffing and add onions, butter, and sometimes cranberries or celery. You can add anything you like. You can also make your own stuffing, of course, but why duplicate the masters?
Cook the turkey at 300 for one hour to kill surface bacteria and seal the surface.
Turn the temperature down to 165, the done temperature for turkey. This is the key to slow cook a turkey. The dish will never be over-cooked. All flavors and texture will be unharmed. Some ovens will only go down to 170 so use an oven thermometer and crack the door if necessary. But 170 will work too, just check the turkey so you know when it is done.
Cook 1 hour for each pound. The oven may only turn on for a few minutes every hour or so.
SOME OVENS TURN THEMSELVES OFF IN ~12 HOURS, so may have to restart it. Only the slow cook a turkey method is fail-safe. I can’t control your oven.
Use a meat thermometer to ensure that the turkey is done. (The pop-up button, if your turkey has one, may overcook or undercook using this method — or any method, actually.
After dinner: Do not let people take all the left-over meat and dressing. (You may need help. Weapons are usually not necessary.)
If you are cooking soup later, refrigerate or freeze the turkey. Save the stuffing so people can put it in their soup or eat as a side dish. Save pieces of turkey meat separately to add to the soup after the stock is done.
If you are cooking the soup immediately after dinner, put all bones, skin, etc.— in a large pot and add water to cover. If some bones are sticking up, just push them down periodically while cooking until they stay down. Add 1-3 tablespoons of vinegar depending on the size of the pot to leech calcium out of the bones. The vinegar will cook off so no taste will remain or what does will blend with other flavors.
Put onions, parsley, celery, etc. in with the bones. You can cut them into large pieces, just small enough to fit in the pan.
Strong simmer until the connecting tissue is soft and the bones just begin to fall away — about 4 hours or so.
Put the whole pot with the bones and vegetables in the fridge or if it is cold enough, outdoors. Put a stone on the cover outside if you have raccoons or large cats. Leave it for 12-24 hours to leech more calcium out of the bones and allow the flavors to blend.
Scoop off the big globs of fat on the top. You don’t have to be meticulous about this. You want plenty left for taste and nourishment. Remember, this is a one pot fills all meal.
Warm the pot so the soup stock is completely melted. Cool until safe to handle and pour the soup through a colander into another pot. With the solids now in the colander, pick out the loose pieces of meat and any remaining on the bones.
Mush the meat carefully by hand to be sure there are no small bones.
Set the meat aside and throw out all the solids. The vegetables will be cooked to a mush of tasteless fiber but don’t cry over them. All the taste and minerals stay in the broth. You can add more celery, carrots, etc., later.
If you want to remove more fat, you can put the pot of liquid back in the fridge so it floats to the top and becomes solid. Or use a baster to siphon it off. But remember, a lot of the flavor is in the fat. Don’t over do it. This is one day a year. Maybe two if you do both a Christmas and Thanksgiving turkey.
Boil the liquid down until it has a rich taste, usually reducing it by 1/4 to 1/3. This depends on how much water you used on Day One and how many bones you have.
Relax. The soup is almost done. Season and add whatever else you want in the soup — carrots, celery, beans, rice, noodles, etc. — and cook until they are done. Add left over turkey just in time to heat it thoroughly.
I use soy sauce instead of salt because it gives a richer color. Soup stock can be really ugly and I’ve never been successful in the clarifying techniques recommended in cookbooks. (You probably lose flavor anyway when you swirl eggs around in it.)
I like Old Bay for poultry. Then I just smell stuff on the spice rack and decide if I want it or not. Sage is good in turkey soup. Some butter gives a nice aftertaste. It doesn’t have to be a lot. A very small amount adds flavor.
Heat stuffing separately if desired. (I like cold stuffing.)
That’s How to Slow Cook a Turkey
It sounds like a lot of work but it isn’t. Most of the time things are just cooking by themselves and you can go read a book.