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When it comes to cooking Thanksgiving turkey, don’t do this… or this… or this…

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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:

Smoked turkey

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.

Brined turkey

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.

Bacon-wrapped turkey

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.

Deep-fried turkey

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.

Grilled turkey

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.

The “Frankenturkey” method for turducken.

TurDuckEn

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.

##RVT1027

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33 Comments
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Cheryl V Clark
10 days ago

I’m a fan of the traditional oven roasted turkey, too.

Gary
10 days ago

Another swing and a miss article.

Capt. Jim
11 days ago

Once again I will be going with a spatchcocked turkey on my Traeger pellet grill. Takes about the same time as an oven roasted bird. No brine, but it gets seasoned butter under the skin and a nice spice rub. Even after three hours it does not get overly smoky.

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
10 days ago
Reply to  Capt. Jim

That sounds delicious, Capt. Jim. I did have to look up “spatchcocked,” since I had never heard that before. For others who may not know, it’s another term for “butterflying” the turkey, or removing the backbone and flattening the bird. Have a great spatchcocked Turkey Day, Jim. 😀 –Diane

David V
11 days ago

Sorry Mike G. but the Frankenturkey (Turducken) is the pinnacle of deliciousness!!! I’ve ordered one, numerous times, from Louisiana. With Cajun stuffing! Pricey but absolutely great! Never had an issue getting it properly cooked. Most of my diet is essentially healthy so Thanksgiving is ‘no holds barred’.

Suru
11 days ago

Shortly after I got married, hubby and I went camping with some friends in San Felipe, MX for Thanksgiving. Our friends all had big Class A motorhomes and all we had was a teardrop trailer with a tiny sink and a 2 burner stove & no oven. As it turned out, I was responsible for the turkey. I had received an electric rotisserie cooker for a wedding present so I buttered & seasoned my turkey, wrapped it in foil and impaled it on the rotisserie thingy, plugged it in and sat it outside on the picnic table to cook. You could smell that turkey cooking a mile away. It actually turned out really well.

John H.
11 days ago

I have to say I have tried most of the methods described. If you can, the traditional method still seems the most satisfying experience in the end. I don’t know if it’s the memories of prepping and cooking as a youngster or the satisfaction of a well executed presentation. I have a smaller cooking area and not feeding many so I got a stainless steel meat saw blade and will try a half bird this year. . . hope everyone reading these comments has a Happy Healthy and safe Holiday season this year, whatever method you choose!

Dan
11 days ago

Kind of a Debbie Downer article. Don’t fry your turkey. Don’t smoke your turkey. If you must roast your turkey, don’t use bacon. C’mon it’s a holiday meal. A feast. We’ve had roast turkey, fried turkey, smoked turkey, sweet oozy glazed ham, along with a dozen different sides and desserts. All at one family gathering. One of our daughters lectured us on the unhealthy aspects of the feast. The next time, we fixed her a plate of carrots, celery and sugar free lime jello. We can fix one for you too.

Steve Barnes, Kamloops, BC
1 year ago

We cut a frozen turkey in half. Often turkeys are seasonal so halving spreads out the enjoyment. We use a cordless skillsaw. Your partner should use 2 spiked blocks of wood to hold turkey while you saw. Avoid mixing partners fingers with turkey parts.
An option, many butchers will cut the frozen turkey for you.

Gary
1 year ago

For the past three years, our most enjoyable turkey has been a deep fried turkey which we purchased from Popeye’s. Just thaw it out and heat it up. No muss, no fuss.

Thom R
1 year ago

We’re at Black Meadow Landing on Lake Havasu. This year I brought along the rotisserie for the (charcoal)Weber kettle. My favorite method for turkey or prime rib.
Now if the wind would just quit blowing…

Wolfe
1 year ago

While less likely to be done in an RV, the best turkey I’ve made (considering I hate turkey) is to pressure cook the bird until mostly cooked, and then dunk it in the deep fryer. This makes the meat very moist (for once!) but anemic looking, followed by giving it a nice browned skin. Best of both worlds for flavor, worst of both worlds for convenience.

Ray
1 year ago

I’ve fried turkeys for over 20 years. Peanut oil has gotten expensive and was always a mess and hassle to dispose. Frying produces great turkey but this year I’m trying something different. I’m using one of those air fryers that I’ve pre-seasoned. Preparation, injectate and seasoning will be the same as before and I’m coating the bird with peanut oil at the start of cooking. We’ll see how close it gets to the real deal. Fingers crossed.

Lindalee
1 year ago

Don’t know if this is true or not! I’ve “heard” that cooking the stuffing inside the bird is a big no-no but I grew up every Thanksgiving AND Christmas with my mother making dressing and cooking it inside the bird! Sometimes she’d have some that wouldn’t fit (smaller bird) so she’d bake that but, nobody wanted it, they wanted the bird-cooked stuff! The question is, WHY is it bad to make the bird stuffed with dressing? Beats the heck out of me!

Gary
1 year ago
Reply to  Lindalee

I THINK the concern is the stuffing doesn’t get heated thoroughly. Ignoring the hundreds of thousands of turkeys fixed just that way with no ill effects.

Wolfe
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary

Gary is correct. The theory is that the bird will “leak” its “precious bodily juices” into the spongey stuffing, which will in turn not reach the same temperature as the outer meaty excuse-coating for the stuffing. In other words, you’re eating raw turkey blood. In reality, roasted for 3-8 hours, it does turn out acceptable because there’s a lot of paranoia about undercooked meats — while GROSS, you can safely eat a raw egg off a raw chicken sitting on a raw pork platter 99% of the time. Trichinae and salmonella are actually rarer than the media makes it sound.

Wolfe
9 days ago
Reply to  Wolfe

Another comment a year later… I always made HOT stuffing — it goes into the bird having been combined and cooked down somewhat on the stove. IF you’re starting with COLD stuffing, I could see a greater risk. But I still stand by the media over-blowing the risk.

Lindalee
1 year ago

My roommate and I (he is male and I am female) are getting a 1/2 Honey Baked Ham for Thanksgiving again this year! We get sides and a pie so we have the full traditional Thanksgiving dinner AND we have leftovers for the next few days, too!

Gary Sain
1 year ago

Ah yes, the annual tradition of the local fire department slam dunking a frozen turkey in a pot of overheated oil and going ‘See!!! Its dangerous!!!’ when the ice hits the oil and causes an immediate overflow of fire. As one of the printouts in my stack of recipes says-“Don’t try frying a turkey if you’re exceptionally clumsy or stupid.” Disregarding the improvements to the gene pool of course. I’ve been frying turkey’s for over 20 years. Its a favorite of the family, to the point I had to put down an insurrection from the kids when I tried one of the infrared cookers instead. That went the way of Craigslist immediately afterwards.
Here’s the deal. Turkeys fried are delicious and they can be done safely. If you want to try it see my follow up note.

Gary Sain
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary Sain

Along with the fryer, get a set of the silicon gloves that extend up to the elbow. When you remove the turkey from the brine-yes I do that too, so there- drain, and dry it. Bring your oil up to 350F, and here’s a radical idea, TURN OFF THE BURNER. Using the gloves and the handle that came with the fryer, slowly lower the bird into the oil. Either have the fryer over ground or on cardboard, it’ll still splash. As the last of the moisture boils off, the oil will settle down and you can restart the flame. The oil temp will have dropped like a rock, flame or not. You can then recover the temp up to 325F and follow directions from there. You’ll successfully cook a delicious bird, and enjoy disappointing all the naysayers waiting to say I told you so.

Wolfe
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary Sain

I’ll mostly agree with you, although I admit I haven’t turned off the flame on the giant outdoor fryer — what I do is simply BE IN CONTROL. I lower the turkey into the oil SLOWLY, with the full ability to also lift it back out if the oil gurgles too much. Never had one boil over, and I’ve cooked 20 years of turkeys, and about 150 chickens INSIDE with an electric fryer. You don’t stand across the room and lob the bird in like grenade — control!

Last edited 1 year ago by Wolfe
Charlie Sullivan
11 days ago
Reply to  Gary Sain

One of the things you didn’t mention for the novice turkey fryer is how much oil to use. A foolproof way to determine the amount of oil is to place the turkey in the pot and fill with water to cover the turkey. Then pull the turkey out and observe the level of the water. That’s the level of oil to add. That way, when you lower your turkey in the pot, the oil will not overflow and catch fire.

John Koenig
1 year ago

People who suffer from Gout (a high level of uric acid in the bloodstream) often have a “trigger food” that causes gout attacks. Many people are NOT aware that an enzyme in WHITE MEAT TURKEY can be the trigger that causes a painful Gout flare up. Some Chinese restaurants use white meat turkey in place of chicken (I’m guessing the turkey was cheaper at the market that day) and, FAIL to tell customers of the substitution. Dark meat turkey IS safe from these enzymes so, I can have a drumstick or thigh meat. To be safe, I avoid any gravy / sauce made from a turkey.

Gary F Broughton
1 year ago

Prime rib this Thanksgiving.

Wolfe
1 year ago

I’m SOOOO totally with you! Unfortunately, I have been unable to convince my family to eat something that tastes good for Thanksgiving, AND I’m the only one I trust to operate the giant turkey fryer safely. I get revenge Christmas and birthday when I “make” the family “suffer” through prime rib, poor dears.

Tommy Molnar
1 year ago

The local shot gun club had a turkey cook several years ago. They deep fried it on the porch of their clubhouse. Somebody screwed up and the deep fryer caught fire. That in turn lit up the clubhouse, which in turn started lighting up all the ammo stored inside. Projectiles going everywhere! When the fire department showed up, they stood back until it sounded like all the ammo that was going to go off, went off. Luckily nobody was hurt, but the ‘chef’ had some hurt feelings.

John Koenig
1 year ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Years ago, SAAMI (Sorting Arms And Ammunition Industry) ran a test where they loaded a wooden shed FULL of ammunition and then set the shed ablaze and filmed the conflagration. I saw the film when I was an active member in my local volunteer fire department. As long as the ammo was NOT CHAMBERED in a firearm, the powder simply flashed and the bullet just popped off the case with no real force. Granted, safety would dictate a “surround and drown” attack (as opposed to attempting early entry) but, it’s NOT the disaster many media sources would like to portray.

Tommy Molnar
1 year ago
Reply to  John Koenig

Interesting john. This is what the local news reported, perhaps for some sensational ‘reporting’.

Wolfe
1 year ago
Reply to  John Koenig

Correct… although “stupid” and “wasteful” (especially at current prices!!!), Boy Scouts used to constantly throw 22LR and occasional larger caliber ammo into the campfire as firecrackers… doing so wasn’t even loud enough to bother, and totally safe.

John H.
11 days ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

The “projectiles” was probably more about the sound, and the majority don’t understand that it is more like popcorn. lotta noise, not a lot of force. . . glad no injuries, just a story that will live forever!

JoAnn Burke
1 year ago

I just buy a bone in turkey breast and cook in the InstaPot. Takes about half an hour!

Ellen L
1 year ago

We are going to the pot-luck dinner here at the RV park. The resort is supplying the turkey and ham. Friends, food and fun. That’s something to be thankful for!

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