Turkey

Gluten Free & Paleo Classic Holiday Turkey

Gluten Free and Paleo Classic Holiday Turkey | Home Again Creative

There's no doubt that cooking a Holiday Turkey can be a challenge, and I have definitely made several turkeys that were worthy of the trash! To cook a great turkey, there are many obstacles to overcome: the white meat needs to be cooked to 160° F, the dark meat needs to be cooked to 175° F, and all the while, you want to get the skin crisp without turning the breast meat to chalk.  

I have read a lot about roasting turkey and through trial-and-error, I've come up with a method that works for me, every time. 

 First, a few rules.

  1. Don't Stuff the bird. No doubt stuffing is awesome, but if you think about it, the thing that makes stuffing awesome is the bird's juices infusing it. However, those juices need to be cooked to 165° F and you can't achieve that without drying out the breast meat. Removing the stuffing to finish on the stove top isn't a good option, because when you remove it you will inevitably cross contaminate the meat. Also, stuffing isn't Paleo, and we're Paleo.

  2. Don't baste the bird. Basting the bird does nothing to moisten the meat and keeps the skin from crisping. Not to mention every time you open the oven to baste, you add to the overall cook time. Salt or brine instead.

  3. Don't rely on the pop-up timer — it will likely fail you. However, don't remove it — juices will flow from the gapping hole it leaves behind.

  4. Rest the turkey for 30 minutes. Resting the turkey will allow the fibers to reabsorb the juices. If you don't let it rest you'll wind up with a puddle to clean up on the counter.

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Home Again Creative's Gluten Free & Paleo Classic Turkey

This recipe is for a 12-14 pound turkey. If you have a bigger turkey, add additional herbs and roots accordingly. Total time for this recipe is 17-23 hours, so be sure to plan plenty of time.

Ingredients

(1) 12-14 pound turkey with neck, giblets, and tail piece
(6) sprigs of thyme
(2) onions, chopped coarse
(2) carrots, chopped coarse
(2) celery ribs, chopped coarse
(3) tablespoons ghee

Instructions

Trim any excess fat from the turkey and set aside the neck, giblets, and tail piece.

Salt or brine the turkey, though I recommend brining. For instructions, see our blog post How to Salt & Brine Poultry.  After brining, you will need to air dry the bird. Pat the turkey dry in the cavity and outside and place it on a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet; refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

Chop the thyme, onions, carrots, and celery; melt the ghee. Toss 1 tbsp of melted ghee with the herbs and vegetables, and place the mixture inside the turkey cavity, then trestle (tie the drumsticks together with string) the turkey.

 Adjust the oven racks to the lowest position and preheat to 400° F.  

Brush the turkey with the remaining ghee.

Place a cup of water into the roasting pan and start roasting the turkey breast side DOWN for 45 minutes. 

When the 45 minutes is completed pull the turkey from the oven and flip it, using paper towels. Then return it to the oven breast side UP for about an hour, or until the breast registers 160° F and the thighs read 175°F. 

Remove turkey from the oven & onto a carving board, tipping it cavity side down into your roasting pan, so any juices in the cavity run into the pan. Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes, and finish the gravy.   

After that, carve, serve, and enjoy!! 

The Home Cook's Guide to Buying a Turkey

Turkey Buying Guide | Home Again Creative

Most of us purchase a turkey once or twice a year, usually for friends and loved ones on a special occasion, so it’s important to get it right. I’ve spent a lot of time reading and experimenting with these birds and have gotten results that range from a bird with the texture of chalk, all the way to really darn good.

With all the failures along the way, I have figured a few things out and would like to share what I have learned and continue to learn (this post will be updated and reposted annually). In the spirit of ongoing education, I invite you to share your tips and tricks in the comments below.

WHAT KIND OF BIRD TO BUY?

I’ve tried several types of turkeys and have classified them below. Statements are true for whole turkeys and breast a like.

Before we begin, a sidebar: I know there is a movement regarding ethically raised food that I do tend to prescribe to. However, I’m not a scientific researcher, so I have deemed that this forum is not the place for that discussion. Also, hunting — which I partake in — is mentioned in the post. I know many have huge opinions about hunting pros and cons. We could talk for days on the ethics regarding to-hunt or not-to-hunt, but again, I’m not a professor of ethics, so...not the place. My blog, so I get to delete comments that are not respectful or on topic.

Here we go! First thing that needs to be said is, you should buy the best quality bird YOUR money can buy. Everybody has a budget and I don't think anyone should be putting a feast on credit. Also, it's been my experience that the most expensive birds aren't necessarily the best birds.

First up are what I call "Supermarket Turkeys” and are what is most commonly available. The pros of these Toms is the price per pound, and I have had good results with them. They are a great choice for many families. The cons are that these birds are usually very lean as they are bred to be broad-breasted, which means they are dryer than other turkeys and are sometimes “pre-basted.” Personally, I have found that pre-basting causes the meat to be soggy, and washed out, so I typically skip the pre-basted guys.

If you choose this type of turkey be sure to check out our salting & brining method, in How to Salt & Brine Poultry,  if it ISN'T pre-basted. If it's pre-basted, skip the salt or brine, but be sure to air dry the bird as outlined at the end of the blog post.

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Supermarket Turkeys come with a lot of labels.
Below are some of the most common explanations, curtesy of the USDA.


FREE RANGE
or
FREE ROAMING

Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.

Key words here are "demonstrate" and "allowed access." Basically it means that the birds are allowed to roam around a warehouse and can go outside if wanted. It does not mean that they get to be natural birds foraging around for insects and such.


FRESH

"Fresh" means whole poultry and cuts have never been below 26 °F (the temperature at which poultry freezes). This is consistent with consumer expectations of "fresh" poultry, i.e., not hard to the touch or frozen solid.


NATURAL

A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed.

Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as "no artificial ingredients; minimally processed").


NO HORMONES

Hormones are not allowed in raising hogs or poultry.


NO ANTIBIOTICS

The terms "no antibiotics added" may be used on labels for meat or poultry products if sufficient documentation is provided by the producer to the Agency demonstrating that the animals were raised without antibiotics.


YOUNG

Turkeys of either sex that are less than 8 months of age according to present regulations.


KOSHER

"Kosher" may be used only on the labels of meat and poultry products prepared under rabbinical supervision. I won't expand on Kosher, because I'm not Jewish, would get it wrong, and possibly offend some people with my ignorance. For my purposes, Kosher means it's pre salted. Kosher birds are a good compromise between natural and self-basting birds.


I couldn't find an explanation on this from the USDA, but my research tells me it basically means they weren't fed slaughter house byproducts, or in other words...other chickens. This sounds horrifying, but in truth, chickens are omnivores, readily eating bugs and small animals when available, so I'm not sure a forced vegetarian diet is a good thing or even possible.

However, what I was able to find was vegetarian feed is becoming popular in industrial chicken farming because it reduces the risk of animal diseases being spread through poultry feed. This is a particular concern to industrial chicken farmers because the conditions in which animals are raised makes them more susceptible to disease. Thus, it's definitely bad for birds to eat sick birds that were used in the feed.

VEGETARIAN FED


USDA CERTIFIED ORGANIC

To sell organic poultry meat, birds must be fed and managed organically from the second day after hatching. All agricultural components of the feed ration, including kelp and carriers in feed supplements, must be 100% organic. All poultry must have access to the outdoors. (There's that key word: ACCESS.)

Organic poultry producers must establish preventative livestock health management practices. Medical treatment cannot be withheld from sick animals or flocks to maintain the birds' organic status. The use of growth hormones, antibiotics, genetic engineering, and animal cloning is prohibited, as is the feeding of slaughter byproducts. All organic poultry production and processing operations must be done by USDA-accredited certification agencies. Detailed records of all feeds, medications, and transactions must be maintained. Organic integrity must be protected by preventing organic birds and poultry products from coming in contact with prohibited substances or being commingled with non-organic products.


WATER CHILLED

This means the turkey is dunked in a clorine bath during processing causing it to retian moisture, this washes out the flavor of the turkey. Most turkey's in the supermarket are water chilled, so try to find an "Air-Chilled" Turkey.


PRE- or
SELF-BASTED

This pretty much means the bird was injected with a solution of one or more of salt, oils, broths, spices, sugars, preservatives. I have always found these birds to be spongey and washed of true turkey flavor.


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Beyond the adjectives that they can throw on the label of any bird, regardless of the variety, there are also some distinct types of turkey:


BONE-IN TURKEY
BREAST

Most groceries offer two types:

  • Regular / True Cut Breast will include the breast with ribs, a portion of the wing, and a portion of the back, and neck skin.

  • Hotel / Country Style Breast is the same as the True Cut, but also include the wings, neck, & giblets, all of which is essential to making gravy or sauce for the turkey.


WILD

Wild Turkeys are exactly that: you go out and hunt and harvest them yourself. You never know what you’ll get with these guys. Some are the best you’ll ever have; some are stringy & awful. Wild Turkeys are are nomadic animals, so you just never know where and what they’ve been eating. Due to the unpredictable flavor of wild turkeys, I don’t recommend them for dinner parties.


HERITAGE

Heritage Turkeys are direct descendants from wild turkeys, and bred to be...not wild, meaning farmers got tired of chasing them all over the woods, so they bred the nomadic characteristics out of them. They are typically treated like royalty; pampered, fed a very high quality all vegetarian diet, and are free to roam. While, I have certainly found some very tasty heritage birds...them birds are expensive and I mean expensive, and I’m not convinced they are worth the price. 


LOCAL

Local Turkeys are probably the best turkey you can buy. This is the type of turkey where you meet the people that raised the bird and they give you personal guarantees. These people make it or break it on their honesty, so they have an incentive to be straight forward about what they are raising. Not to mention the positives of spending money in your local community, etc.

 

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FRESH OR FROZEN?

Unless you are buying a turkey from a local farmer, fresh isn't best. As mentioned above, a "fresh" turkey can be chilled all the way to 27 degrees fahrenheit & still be considered fresh. Turkey's freezing point is 26 degrees, but the moisture, from processing, can still crystalize and damaged the meat. Then during transport the bird may be introduced to a higher temperature thawing the crystals, then be reintroduced to extreme cold and form again, and further damage the meat, resulting in the proteins not being able to retain moisture during cooking. When serving, the result will be tough, chalky meat.

Frozen turkeys on the other hand, are blast chilled, which eliminates crystals from forming, and is not introduced to temperature fluctuations. The least amount of damage to the poultry is done by blast freezing.  

SIZE OF TURKEYS

I don't recommend buying a turkey over 14 pounds, as I have had better results with smaller birds. Rule of thumb is you'll need 1 pound per person. If you're feeding more than 14 people, I would recommend getting or borrowing a portable roaster oven and cooking 2 smaller birds rather than 1 giant one. If this doesn't work for you, just go as small as you can.

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Now that I have bored you to tears with all the nuances, here's the quick and dirty of my experiences:

• I don't purchase pre-based / seasoned birds.
 

• If a knew someone who raised local Turkeys I'd go that route, but like most folks, I don't.
 

• First Pick for my budget is Organic, Frozen, Young birds.
 

• If my budget is a bit tighter, and sometimes it is, I go with All Natural, VegEtarian Feed, No Hormone, No Antibiotic, Frozen, Young birds.
 

• Finally, AS a compromise, I'd pick a Kosher bird.


I hope this helps clear the muddy waters when it comes to selecting a Turkey! Please let us know if you have something we missed — best way to learn is from each other. Be on the lookout for our upcoming posts on how to cook up that perfectly selected bird! 

Thanksgiving Turkey

It's Turkey Time! This month I am going to share a few of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes starting with the turkey.

Here's what you'll need for Ole' Tommy

  • 1 roasting pan large enough to accommodate your bird.

  • 1 turkey baster

  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

  • 1 head of garlic minced

  • 3/4 cup lemon juice

  • 3/4 cup of butter softened

  • 1 tbsp of ground Paprika

  • 1 tbsp of salt

  • 1 tbsp of ground black pepper

  • 1 Gobbler 8-10lbs; giblets removed, rinsed and patted dry

Here's what you'll need to stuff Ole' Tom

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onions

  • 1/2 cup chopped celery

  • 1/3 cup butter

  • 4 cups bread cubes; I pick up a nice multi-grain from Panera and cube it.

  • 1/8 tsp pepper

  • 2 eggs, beaten

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped rosemary

  • turkey or chicken broth

Here's how you make the stuffing

Saute the onion and celery until soft. Combine the onion, celery, butter, bread cubes, pepper, beaten eggs, salt, and rosemary. Add broth a little at a time until mixture is moist. 

Here's how you prep Ole' Tommy 

First preheat the oven according to the instructions on the birds package. If you bought a farm fresh turkey, or if for some other reason you don't have instructions follow the USDA Guidelines; http://www.fsis.usda.gov/FACTSheets/Lets_Talk_Turkey/index.asp.

In a bowl combine all the ingredients, minus the gobbler, and mash together until a well blended.

Next, loosen the skin on the bird.
Then, rub the bird all over, including under the skin and inside the chest cavity.

Then stuff Tommy. Finally, place the bird and 1 cup of water into the roasting pan stick Tommy in the oven and baste every 30-45 minutes. Cook following the instructions that came with the bird, or follow the USDA website above.

Photo Credit: Little took all photos where both hands are busy, or any hand is dirty. 

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I hope you will enjoy this turkey for Thanksgiving.

Word to the Wise; I suggest you try anything first before serving it at a dinner party. I know I have made that mistake before.

Remember food is only good for you if you can eat it. -Nate  

Additional Note: After you are finished with Thanksgiving dinner most people carve up the bird and throw away the bones leaving about a pound or two of meat. We boil the bones using the bits of picked meat for soup. I don't have an exact recipe for soup, but generally I use:

  • For broth I use the water that the bones were boiled in

  • All the meat that came from the bones.

  • A head of celery

  • Onion or two

  • Few pound of potatoes chopped very small

  • Pound or two of carrots minced

  • Creole seasoning

  • Salt to tatste

  • Add whatever sounds good to you