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Thanksgiving Turkey

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  • Thanksgiving Turkey

    Did the turkey in the regular oven (wife wasn't willing to risk a
    failure). However, Saturday, we had a post-Thanksgiving pizza party
    followed by cooking of our backup turkey. Thursday's was a 25lb
    monster that yielded some OK results but was kind of stringy (not my
    wife's fault - it was the turkey...moist but as white meat folks not a
    lot of leftovers from the 8 folks at dinner).

    Saturday's backup turkey was a 10lb turkey breast. I soaked it
    overnight in a brine solution (1 1/4 cups salt, 1 1/4 cup sugar
    dissolved in 1 qt hot tap water, whisked until the sugar was
    dissolved...added 4 more qts of cold water, the turkey breast, an
    onion quartered with bay leaves pinned to the qtrs using whole cloves
    and an orange sliced with the juice squeezed into the water).

    After taking the turkey out of the brine solution I drizzled it with
    olive oil, ground fresh pepper over it, dusted it with Mrs. Dash
    seasoning and put it into a foil roasting pan. I covered it with a
    double layer of aluminum foil tightly crimped around the pan edges.

    I put it into the oven we had used for pizza. The dome brick temp was
    400F and the hearth bricks were 350F. I checked it after an hour &
    half but it was only at 155F. The dome bricks were running 450F
    (wicking it from the outside of the brick) and the floor was still

    I left it in until it had spent 18 minutes a pound (3 hrs). The bird
    topped 190F (which means I could have reduced the time a bit) but
    although "overcooked" it was moist, succulent, and delicious. It
    sliced better than the Thursday bird and yielded more meat than
    Thursday's did too. The moist heat of the oven allows for more
    tolerance in overcooking. In the electric oven it would have been dry
    and tough at 190F+. In the brick oven it was better than any turkey
    I've ever had. My wife agrees. In fact we're seriously considering
    cooking next year's main bird in there.

    Other things I'll try now -- pulling it out at 15 mins/lb, starting
    another fire and putting the bird back in surrounded by the flames to
    brown & crisp the skin (we're not skin eaters so the lack of browning
    didn't bother us but presentation can be a lot when serving to
    others). Also, I'll try a "quick smoke" process where this fire gets a
    dose of water soaked hickory chips to push a bunch of smoke out &
    potentially give me the same results as using my smoker (which takes 8
    hrs to yield a hickory smoked turkey).

    We've also decided to try a suckling pig...probably in the spring.


  • #2
    We did find a turkey at the last minute, though I had to arm wrestle
    with a grey-haired Italian grandmother to get the last one. I got to
    the meat counter just a few seconds before she did -- and when she
    looked at me and asked if I wanted it, I said yes (and that I was
    sorry). She said she was sorry too. :-) This was the third store we
    looked in, so I think this was it for south Florence. Having worked
    so hard to find it, we had to cook it in the oven.

    It was a very nice 16lb bird (the quality of meat and produce here is
    incredible). It was even better than the organic, free-range turkey
    you can find in NorCal.

    I always like to put a thick layer of onion, garlic, carrot, celery,
    leeks, etc in the bottom of the roasting pan, along with 1/2 cup of
    water, which cooks dry and browns and makes a nice base for gravy. I
    oiled and stuffed the bird (sausage, pancetta, dried apricots,
    walnuts along with traditional bread, onion, sage, port and celery),
    and like Jim, did a good job of covering the bird with foil.

    The oven was 3 mississippis when I started -- I started cooking after
    about two hours of firing, including a 90+ minute fire and 30 or so
    minute rest period.

    To keep the oven from giving up too much heat (and completely ruining
    Thanksgiving) I kept a small fire going on one side using 1-2" piece
    of wood. It kept the oven warm, and there was never a risk that it
    wouldn't finish roasting the turkey. I even did roast potatoes and
    dinner rolls (from Reinhart's Breadmakers Apprentice) before eating.
    The oven was still 2 mississippis when everything was done.

    We also went for "safe" on cooking making sure the bird was well
    done. I was talking with Alf at the midway point, and agreed it would
    be better safe than sorry. The turkey cooked for over 4 1/2 hours,
    and could have come out earlier. As Jim noted, the brick oven cooks
    with a moist heat, and the turkey was moist and delicious. Our
    visitors raved, and the Italians all said "of course, the wood fired
    oven is the best for roasting." The gravy was nice, and just a little

    We're doing it again for English family visitors at Xmas. More to
    come then. Alf suggested a fully raked-out oven, with a re-firing if
    necessary. We'll try that next.



    • #3
      You did yours with the fire in there? Mine (in the closed oven using
      retained heat) left a good 1 1/2" of liquid in the bottom of the
      roasting pan. We're going to try adding some Calvados (apple brandy)
      to the brine solution for Christmas (we usually have a ham on
      Christmas day & my middle son really doesn't like ham so now we'll
      give him an alternative).



      • #4
        I raked out most of the coals, and left a very small fire going as a
        safety valve. I wanted to make sure that we wouldn't eat at midnight.