I hope you all had a terrific Thanksgiving with lots of great family time and lots of fantastic food! I know Lee and I did, we spent the week in Fort Wayne spending time with her family and we prepared the entire Thanksgiving feast. This was also the first year I have ever been given the opportunity to prepare the Turkey. So, to fit with the typical Happy Valley Chow standards, I didn't do the turkey in a traditional way...I decided to sous vide the entire bird!
The problem with cooking an entire turkey or even chicken for that matter, is that different parts of the bird cook at different times. It's not as apparent in a chicken, but in a Turkey it plays a big factor. The thighs and legs (Dark meat) need a lot more cooking time than the breast since the dark meat contains a lot more collagen that needs to be broken down. By the time the legs and thighs are cooked via the traditional roasting method, the breasts are pretty much fried and dried out. So, if you ever have extremely dry white meat...it's not your fault! It's just the nature of the beast.
A lot of people counteract this issue by brining the meat. Which definitely helps keep the meat juicy, but brining does have it's drawback. While it does impart juiciness to the bird, the juice isn't flavor full. Especially if you use just plain water, you'll just bite into a "soggy" bird. I did end up brining the bird over night in a very basic brine, but the reason I did this is because I found that whenever I sous vide poultry, sometimes I get a mealy texture and brining seems to help.
As most of you know, I am a huge advocate for sous vide cooking and it's benefits. I will be preaching about this cooking technique until the day I die, because I love it that much. Slowly but surely, it's starting to make its way into the home kitchen with more cost conscious models on the market. Here are my Pros and Cons to cooking your Thanksgiving Turkey sous vide.
- Perfectly cooked meat that doesn't need to be saturated in gravy (even though I still do because I love gravy)
- You don't have to use your oven...AT ALL! Which gives you a lot more flexibility with cooking all the other goodies.
- You can cook the whole bird, days before hand, chill them in the bags and then simply reheat them about an hour before service. Which gives you even MORE flexibility for planning your meal.
- Since you are cooking in a bag, you can infuse your turkey with all those wonderful aromatics (Sage, thyme, garlic, etc.) instead of stuffing them inside the bird and burning the bejesus out of them which does nothing.
- It makes carving the turkey MUCH easier, since the turkey is completely broken down. But, since you have to break down the entire turkey anyways, you still have to have decent knife skills.
- You lose the whole nostalgic aspect of carving the turkey in front of the family. People love their traditions...
- Your kitchen won't smell like pure ecstasy while the turkey is roasting in your oven.
- Not everybody has sous vide equipment readily available, even though they should...especially after reading my blog ;)
- You do have to break down the entire turkey before cooking, which can be tricky if you aren't comfortable with a knife. Or don't own a decent knife.
Most of the cons are more geared towards the aesthetic and tradition side of Thanksgiving. But, I would much rather have a perfectly cooked turkey loaded with lots of flavor...make a new tradition! So yes, I am Thankful....I am thankful for sous vide cooking and of course for my Family and Friends :P