Roasting a Turkey High Heat

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From a story originally published in 2006 by Deven Black and Jill Rovitzky Black in The Journal News.

turkey_highheat

Many people regard the obligatory turkey-roasting as one of the more onerous chores of Thanksgiving, mainly because the designated turkey chef faces hours of babysitting the bird.

We’ve embraced an attractive alternative: cooking the bird at very high temperatures, about 200 degrees hotter than is standard, and for far less time. The only special equipment you need is a clean oven (more about that in a minute) and an oven thermometer, and you can probably get away without that.

Cookbook author and food authority Barbara Kafka is the source of this technique, which sounds like a math problem gone awry. Her cookbook “Roasting” (Wm. Morrow & Co.) caused a bit of a furor in the food world when it was published in 1995, because it recommends cooking a whole array of foods at improbably high temperatures. All we know is, it works very well for turkey, yielding a tasty, moist, and well-bronzed bird in just a couple of hours or less.

Here’s how you do it. Start the day before with a pre-emptive cleaning of your oven. Otherwise, any crumbs or stray drippings on the oven floor will turn to acrid smoke. Even with a freshly cleaned oven, you might get some smoke using this method, so turn on the exhaust fan or open a window while roasting.

On Thanksgiving morning, take your bird out of the refrigerator, pull out the neck and giblets (saving them for stuffing), and rinse the turkey inside and out. Dry it thoroughly and let it come to room temperature, then clip the wing tips. Sprinkle the outside with freshly ground black pepper and leave the inside empty except for a few peeled and slightly cracked cloves of garlic.

What about the stuffing? Cook it after you take the bird out of the oven. Unstuffed turkeys cook faster and more evenly and your stuffing doesn’t run the risk of giving your guests a nasty case of food poisoning.

Put your oven rack on the second level from the bottom and preheat the oven to 500 degrees. (That’s where the oven thermometer comes in. Use it to confirm the temperature.) Place the turkey in a roasting pan just large enough to hold it, breast side up. When the oven is hot, put the pan inside, legs first. About 20 minutes later, open the oven and move the turkey around a bit with a wooden spoon or spatula to keep it from sticking to the pan. (Note: consider removing any metal jewelry before this step, because it will heat up remarkably quickly when you lean over that oven door.) After that, leave the bird alone. No basting required. Just look in once after about an hour to make sure the top of the breast or the legs are not getting too dark. Covering them loosely with aluminum foil will help.

A 15-pound turkey should be done in about two hours, possibly less. Whatever the weight, the turkey is done when the leg joint near the backbone wiggles easily. This turkey will hold temperature for a very long time. Give it at least a half hour of rest before carving, but you can let it sit an hour or more and still get hot meat. That will give you plenty of time to bake your stuffing before putting the pies in to warm.

So if you’re intrigued by the method but loath to leave the shelter of the kitchen, consider this: Roast the bird, take it out, and use your time and the now-available oven space to make something else. Roast some squash, bake some pies. Read a book in there. No one needs to know you roasted a turkey in a couple of hours. It’ll be our little secret.

Who would do it? People who want to break the tedium of basting or just want to get out of the kitchen faster.

Why it’s good: There are potentially two upsides to this high-heat technique: You get a really good bird and you get out of the kitchen faster, allowing you to mingle and catch up with friends and family. Of course, if you have any ambivalence about the mingling and catching-up portion of the day, blast roasting robs you of your socially acceptable excuse, “Sorry, love to chat, but I’ve got to go baste the turkey. Yes, again.”

Tips: Make sure your oven is c-l-e-a-n or you’ll be hearing the smoke alarm all afternoon. Also, check the oven temperature. Ovens sometimes run hot; it won’t hurt the bird but it might cook faster than you expect.

Barbara Kafka's Quick Roast Turkey

Barbara Kafka's Quick Roast Turkey

From "Roasting, A Simple Art"

Ingredients

  • 15-pound turkey, thawed if necessary, and at room temperature, wing tips removed and reserved for gravy, along with giblets and neck.
  • Keep the liver for stuffing.
  • Freshly ground black pepper.
  • 1 cup water, chicken stock or turkey stock.

Instructions

  1. Place the oven rack on the second level from the bottom of the oven.
  2. Heat the oven to 500 degrees.
  3. Rinse the turkey inside and out. Pat dry.
  4. Sprinkle the outside with freshly ground pepper.
  5. If stuffing (not a great idea, cook it separately instead), stuff the cavity and crop, securing with long metal skewers. Lace them, but do not truss.
  6. Put turkey in an 18-by-13-by-2-inch roasting pan, breast side up. Put in oven legs first.
  7. After about 20 minutes, move the turkey around with a wooden spatula to keep it from sticking. Roast until the leg joint near the backbone wiggles easily, about two hours.
  8. Remove the turkey to a large platter.
  9. Let it sit at least 20 minutes (and up to an hour) before carving.
  10. Don't let all those good things in the bottom of the roasting pan go to waste! Pour off the grease and put the pan on the top of the stove. Add water or stock and bring to a boil while scrapping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, loosening the crisp bits in the bottom of the pan.
  11. Let reduce by half. Serve on the side in a sauceboat, or add to giblet gravy to boost its intensity.
  12. Yield: 15 servings with leftovers.
http://food.lohudblogs.com/2014/11/06/roasting-a-turkey-high-heat/

Barbara Kafka’s Quick Roast Turkey (from “Roasting, A Simple Art”)

15-pound turkey, thawed if necessary, and at room temperature, wing tips removed and reserved for gravy, along with giblets and neck.

Keep the liver for stuffing.

Freshly ground black pepper.

1 cup water, chicken stock or turkey stock.

Place the oven rack on the second level from the bottom of the oven.

Heat the oven to 500 degrees.

Rinse the turkey inside and out. Pat dry.

Sprinkle the outside with freshly ground pepper.

If stuffing (not a great idea, cook it separately instead), stuff the cavity and crop, securing with long metal skewers. Lace them, but do not truss.

Put turkey in an 18-by-13-by-2-inch roasting pan, breast side up. Put in oven legs first.

After about 20 minutes, move the turkey around with a wooden spatula to keep it from sticking. Roast until the leg joint near the backbone wiggles easily, about two hours.

Remove the turkey to a large platter.

Let it sit at least 20 minutes (and up to an hour) before carving.

Don’t let all those good things in the bottom of the roasting pan go to waste! Pour off the grease and put the pan on the top of the stove. Add water or stock and bring to a boil while scrapping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, loosening the crisp bits in the bottom of the pan.

Let reduce by half. Serve on the side in a sauceboat, or add to giblet gravy to boost its intensity.

Yield: 15 servings with leftovers.

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About Author

Liz Johnson is content strategist for The Journal News and lohud.com, and the founding editor of lohudfood, formerly know as Small Bites. As food editor, she won awards from the New York News Publishers Association, the Association of Food Journalists and the Associated Press. She lives in Nyack with her husband and daughter on a tiny suburban lot they call their farm — with fruit trees, an herb garden, and a yardful of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, shallots, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, cabbage, peppers, Brussels sprouts and carrots and four big blueberry bushes.

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