What is it about Thanksgiving that makes some folks think they have to experiment when it comes to cooking up our favorite wattled fowl?
It seems every year somebody comes up with a new method to mangle a family tradition. What’s wrong with a nice, oven-roasted bird sitting proudly on a platter in the middle of your campground picnic table?
I know what you’re going to say: Not that many RVs have an oven capable of cooking a 20-pound bird. But just because there are a plethora of weird alternatives doesn’t make it right to stray away from the norm.
Let’s turkey trot through a few of my least favorites:
I’ve been known to imbibe in my share of smoked meats but adding heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons to your Thanksgiving dinner seems a little over the top. If you must go smoked, you don’t need to feel too guilty. (Just don’t make a habit of it if you want to stay healthy.) To make this method even more unappealing, I recall the time I saw a campground owner smoking a Thanksgiving bird in a galvanized (but new) garbage can. American ingenuity at its finest.
Check around the table to be sure there aren’t any aunts and uncles on a low-sodium diet before you start soaking the bird in brine. Also, keep in mind that a lot of store-bought turkeys already are injected with saline to keep ’em juicy.
This method makes it a sure bet that your guests will be fighting over that last piece of skin. Again, adding processed meats to the festivities also adds a lot of calories, fats, and salt. If you regularly add bacon to your breakfast menu, you might want to give your turkey a pass.
I know this one is very popular with the camping crowd, and more than a few of you have already invested in a giant propane cooking pot and enough peanut oil to launch one of Elon Musk’s starships. Frying will certainly cut down your cook time, but you’ll also be adding more calories and making that darn unhealthy turkey skin irresistible again. If you’re a rookie with this method, watch the compilation video below of the disasters caused by these cookers and for God’s sake, don’t fry it under your awning.
This option, while handy for many RVers, can be tricky. Gauging the cooking time on a grill for a large bird is difficult, as is temperature management if it decided to snow. You could end up with a perfectly crisp-skinned turkey, or a done-on-the-outside, raw-on-the-inside mess. I’m not even going to discuss the “shove a beer can up its butt” method for the grill.
This one is the Frankenstein of Thanksgiving turkeys. What can you say about a chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a turkey? How do you really begin to even know when it’s done cooking? It’s also one of the least-healthy alternatives since three ounces of turkey has about 135 calories, chicken has 142 calories and duck comes in with 171 calories. Now roll that all up into one messy package and you’re really gonna need a nap.
Ah, the traditional oven-roasted turkey
There’s just nothing like that three-hour-long smell of a roasting turkey. Not to say traditional roasted turkey hasn’t taken a few odd turns of its own over the years. You don’t have to search deep into the internet to find unique roasting methods such as roasting the bird in a brown grocery bag (complete with toxic fumes from glues and inks). And who can forget the dishwasher method? Just pop your turkey into 2-3 cooking bags and put it on the bottom rack. Devotees claim you’ll end up with a tender bird that mimics the sous-vide cooking method. But it’s just plain weird.
There’s also the “spatchcocked” roasting method. Basically, you butterfly the entire bird, taking out the backbone and laying it flat on the roasting pan. If you are going for a picture-perfect table centerpiece turkey, you might want to skip this step. A spatchcocked turkey ends up looking a bit splayed out. It’s not an attractive look for any species.
If you find yourself alone or with just your partner this Thanksgiving, you can choose to pre-cut your bird and just roast up your favorite parts, saving the rest for a later day. Better yet, just tell the butcher what parts you want and tell him to keep the neck and giblets. If oven size – or a lack thereof – is still a problem when cooking turkey parts, you can turn to your trusty slow cooker. We know every RV has one of those as standard equipment.
So, there you have it. One guy’s take on the traditional Thanksgiving turkey. I know this will likely upset more than a few holiday chefs out there, so feel free to defend your favorite cooking style in the comments below.