There's more than one way to cook a bird
November 23, 1996
Web posted at: 5:00 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Linda Ciampa
(CNN) -- In olden days, the settlers might have cooked their
turkey on a spit, over an open fire. Your mother probably
popped her mammoth bird into her harvest gold Hotpoint oven,
and basted it like crazy for the next six hours. How will
you cook your Thanksgiving turkey? There may be as many ways
as there are chefs.
Food writer Scott Peacock suggests roasting your turkey in an
old-fashioned rotisserie, his favorite method. "It has a
great taste. It's very connected -- it's a great way of
connecting back to a time when the holiday originated," he
After Chef Peacock soaks the bird in brine, he rubs on a
mixture of citrus, thyme and butter, then hangs the turkey in
a tin kitchen or reflector oven. "It's a rotisserie," he
said, but one side goes down. The contraption he uses is as
unlike those typically available in Macy's as a microwave is
to a cast-iron stove.
It sits on the ground, right in front of your open fireplace,
and you turn it by hand -- every 15 minutes, Peacock says.
He finds cooking in a fire hard but satisfying. "You sweat,
and you burn yourself," he explained. A 10-pound turkey
cooked this way will be done in about three and a half hours.
Another challenging but satisfying way to cook your turkey is
on the grill. Food writer Ric Rodgers says not to buy
anything larger than a 12-pound turkey if you want to smoke
it for Thanksgiving. Anything larger will take too long to
As it is, 12 pounds can take up to six hours. "Every 45
minutes, I'm going to want to add live coals to keep the fire
inside of there smoldering," Rodgers explained as he stoked
Rodgers prefers to use fresh birds for smoking. He says they
simply taste better than frozen. But if you want to buy a
frozen bird, look for one injected with the least amount of
"If you choose a brand that's minimally processed and has
something just like turkey broth, then you know you're going
with a good brand. That's the one to get," Rodgers said.
If you prefer to use an oven, but you want to cut your
cooking time in half, crank it up to 500 degrees and take a
lesson from Barbara Kafka. "I don't think it's so special,"
said the author of "Roasting." "But everybody else seems to
think it's special."
Kafka's somewhat special way of cooking turkey is quick and
simple. A rinsed bird goes onto a heavy roasting pan and
into a 500-degree oven. "I stick the turkey in there, and
after about 15 minutes jiggle it, take a nice big wooden
spoon and just jiggle it around so it doesn't stick, and then
depending on the size of the turkey, this kind of turkey is
about an hour and a half to roast," she said.
A 20-pound turkey will cook in only three hours. While it
may seem you're blasting the bird with heat, Kafka says the
bird will be moist, not burned or dried out.
"It did not roast that long, did it? An hour and 20 minutes,
when other people put it in there for two, three, four hours.
It's a whole different thing," she said.
No matter which way you choose to cook your bird and your
stuffing, make sure everything is well done. "You want to
stick the meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh,
not touching a bone," said Rodgers. When it's done, the
thermometer will read 180 to 185 degrees F.
The stuffing, if placed in the bird, should reach 165
degrees, enough to kill any bacteria.
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