Welcome to our continuing popular Low n Slow cooking series— Turkey talk time! Not the husband kind, but the fowl kind. Let me re-phrase that… I’m talking about that big blob of flesh that just sits there, stuffed.
Oh, never mind! You know what I am talking about… the big bird you buy and stuff a few times a year for special occasions.
For many, this may present a particular challenge. Due to its size and generally bought frozen, a lot of time and preparation must go into it. If you add the Low n Slow method of cooking, then you might worry about the time it will take to cook.
Fret not, we are here to help. While it is true the Low n Slow method lives up to its reputation, it will produce some of the best turkey you ever had. Juicy and flavorful that will keep your guests saying ‘amazing’ instead of ‘Heimlich’ from your previous attempt at dried out turkey.
Good turkey is never a baste of time.
Yes, cooking turkey takes a looong time. Especially, if you forgot to take it out of the deep freeze. The best way to thaw it, if you are in a hurry, is to put it in the sink with running cool water. Or put it in a bucket with cool water and change the water every 30 minutes. We say use ‘cool water’, to avoid waking up bad bacteria and contaminating the meat.
There is another way to thaw your turkey – with the Low n Slow method. Put your frozen turkey in the oven or smoker (heat only, as the smoke will not penetrate and too much of it will stick to the outside) at 140-150F (60-65 C). Not much higher, as your turkey is frozen, remember? You want to avoid drying it out.
Fresh or thawed
This is the preferred method, of course. But you can definitely speed up cooking time with the Low n Slow method. How so, you ask? Easy, spatchcock your turkey. For those of you with your mind in the gutter, spatchcocking is another fancy term for ‘butterfly cut’ your bird. Basically, remove the backbone and open or ‘butterfly’ the turkey. This is what it looks like :
There are various YouTube videos on how to spatchcock a turkey. But if your never done it before, cutting the backbone with a knife can be scary. Here’s an easy solution, if you buy a fresh turkey, ask your butcher to spatchcock it for you. If this option is not available, buy a pair of sturdy ‘straight tin snips’ (they come right & left handed, get the straight ones). It’s a lot safer than mucking about with a knife. Besides, you may find your calling, and want to become a sheet metal worker!
The purpose of brining is to soak a large piece of meat in a saltwater solution to add tenderness, moisture and if you add spices and other ingredients to this mixture — flavor. This method is a must if you cook your turkey at a higher temperature.
The downside of this is, ruining a wonderful stock for your gravy as it might be too salty for deglazing. Try the Low n Slow on its own, without brining, and let the flavorful meat shine on its own! You will hardly miss the brine, and you can have your gravy and eat it too!
But, if you still want to brine, the salt to water ratio should be in the range of 6% to 9% solution — for ex. 9g salt per 100g water — that's 90g salt per liter. Then let it soak for 12 to 24 hours if you're soaking a whole bird. Be sure to rinse the bird after brining to wash-away excess surface salt.
This is a tasty way to slowly spread flavors by adding butter, herbs, and spices directly into the meat. Many wonderful injection recipes are readily available on the internet. You will also need a good quality injector available at your local WE LOVE FIRE dealer.
If you read some of my previous article about Low n Slow, you will know basting doesn’t do what you think it does [LINK]. It does not moisten the meat and every time you open the stove or smoker door you lower inside temperature and extend the cooking time. Just leave the poor thing alone, will you?
Of course, if you butterfly your turkey, you will not be able to stuff it. But frankly, most health experts do not recommend stuffing turkeys anyway. The reason for this is, stuffing the large cavity with a doughy mixture slows the cooking process and allows the stuffing to stay in the microbial temperature zone. But, what about gramma’s world-famous stuffing recipe, you say? You can still make gram-gram recipe and add the stock to it. No one will know any better. If anything, if you smoked the turkey, it will add that wonderful smoky flavor to it.
It’s all about the Gravy!
This is everyone’s favorite! One of the Low N Slow articles discussed the benefits of using a drip pan (LINK). But to recap, fill the pan with water, the turkey neck, trimmings, and the backbone if you butterflied. You can also add vegetables, spices etc. Let your imagination run wild! Especially if you smoked the turkey — I will eat my shorts if you do not find this is the best gravy you’ve ever had. Trust me, have I ever lied to you before?
Some people like to add fancy wine, expensive beer and even liquor to the drip pan. That’s up to you, but it is very unlikely you will be able to parse those expensive ingredients from the many aromas coming from the meat, smoke, injection, stock etc. Save your money and ship me those fine ingredients, and I’ll do a scientific comparative study on the relative merit of each ingredient. All in the interest of furthering humanity’s scientific knowledge, you understand…
One downside to cooking a turkey Low n Slow is that it will come out pale as a ghost who’s seen an apparition! The easy fix to this is put the turkey under your stove broiler, and you are good to go.
Final words of Wisdom…
- If you want your turkey to have a ‘done’ temperature of 165f (74 C), set your oven or smoker at 165f (74 C). This ensures all the meat will cook evenly and will not overcook.
- If you want a guestimate of how long it may take to cook a butterflied turkey with the Low n Slow method, go to this handy calculator Turkey Cooking Time Calculator (csgnetwork.com). Set the weight of your turkey, then set the cooking speed to ‘slow’. It will give you an approximation but is not a replacement for a good meat thermometer.
- DO NOT open the door to ‘check on it’ or baste. Just chillax and take care of your side dishes. Your turkey (not husband) is doing just fine without you messing around with it, thank you very much.
- Instead, get a remote always-on probe thermometer to monitor meat and oven temperature.
- If you do not have a fancy smoker that can keep its temperature steady for many hours but would still like the wonderful smell and taste of smoke; place your turkey in your BBQ (gas or charcoal) and use a smoke box or wood chips in foil. Then, keep the temps low for a couple of hours to allow the smoke to do its work. You can then place your turkey in the oven at a steady temperature.
- With this cooking method there is no need to foil or cover the turkey.
- You are likely to see a pink layer on your meat if you smoked it. Nothing to be concerned about. It’s called a ‘smoke ring’. And letting you know you’ve done a fine job.
If this will be the first time you try a Low n Slow turkey, please come back and leave a comment. I would be surprised if you did not find it one of the moistest turkey you every had and best gravy ever.
When it comes to turkey, Your WE LOVE FIRE, like to keep you abreast (see what I did there?) of the latest BBQ and Tools technology. Please come visit anytime, we love to share cooking ideas.