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Old 11-26-2011, 11:50 AM   #1
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My worst turkey ever ...

This is the first year I've ever baked a "small" turkey (13 lbs). I've always done 20+ pounds. I've been doing turkeys for well over 35 years. Using "Joy" as my guide (since I rarely do it more than once or twice a year), I went to work. Using my trusty meat thermometer, it should have been perfect. I seriously think that this is the worst one I've done. The breast was dry and stringy, the wings and thighs (where I had my temp probe) inedibly raw. Since I am a spectacular gravy maker (if I do say so myself), the dried out white meat and legs were a great meal and no one complained (besides me!).

I have several friends who are experienced cooks and chefs.

Do not ask me why it did not occur to me to brine the darned thing. Roll of eyes.

One friend mentioned a method my mother always used, and I did in my early Thanksgiving years. Using an old towel/other kind of cloth as a cover and continually dampening it as you cook.

I mentioned to one of my pro friends that I'd one year accidentally put the turkey in breast side down (I'm sure booze was involved) and it looked ugly but was probably the most evenly cooked, tasty turkey I've ever cooked. She replied that when they had to do 25 turkeys, 24 would be cooked this way with one cooked to look pretty. Since I don't do the Normal Rockwell presentation any more, upside down would be fine.

Because, for us, the holiday is more about companionship than the food itself, the day was a huge success. But I was left with this question of why I can be successful at a 24 pound bird and not a 13 pound bird. I have my answers at hand (and, no, the too-rare parts didn't go to waste, immediately went into a stock pot). But I just thought it interesting, and some of you might think so, that I could cook, easily, a 22-pound bird, a chicken, a cornish hen, even a brace of quail, but somehow a 13-pound turkey defeated me.

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Old 11-26-2011, 12:29 PM   #2
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Blaming the victim??? C'mon Claire~

Was it a "cheap" turkey? Or a "Brand?"
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Old 11-26-2011, 12:31 PM   #3
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you know, it just might be the bird and not the chef. (especially as you found it to be stringy) No amount of brining would have helped. Sometimes you just get a tough bird, and size does not always indicate age.
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Old 11-26-2011, 12:38 PM   #4
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Everyone's entitled to a bad day in the kitchen. I always cook 12-13 pound turkeys and they cook up fine. Chalk it up to experience. You're a good cook who had a bad day.
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Old 11-26-2011, 04:55 PM   #5
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So funny, and so encouraging, all of you. Today I took the stock out from the fridge (I make the stock and refridgerate it, then take the fat off the top before using for soup or freezing. Guess what? No fat. No wonder the darned thing was so dry on top and raw on the bottom.
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Old 11-26-2011, 05:37 PM   #6
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Do not feel too bad Claire. The fresh 16 pound Tom, Shady Brook farm brand we had this year (~$1 per pound) was pretty beaten up (looked like it had been in a fight with Mike Tyson). The breast skin was torn, the part that goes over the fence last was deformed, there were several bruises, and there was no liver an little stomach included; but it was still quite tasty. We roasted, first, for 1/2 the time breast down and for the other half breast up. This year, at 330F, we had a nicely browned bird without having to tent it. To prevent sticking to the rack, we place parchment paper under the turkey while it's roasting breast down.
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Old 11-26-2011, 06:05 PM   #7
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Believe me, we were a congenial group and no one but me really knew or cared, it was all about fellowship. I just had never cooked a small turkey before, except one year when it was a wild turkey (another story entirely, but in some ways similar). Everyone was happy with the meal, because it was about companionship, and I make great gravy, which can smother all ills. Husband and I were probably the only people to notice that it wasn't exactly my best meal
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Old 11-26-2011, 07:25 PM   #8
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What brand was it?
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Old 11-27-2011, 06:02 AM   #9
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It was the less expensive of the two brands the local store sells. I don't opt for the butterball because the few times I have I had so much extra fat in the bottom of the pan that I couldn't use the drippings for gravy. It was the store's less expensive brand (I've lived here ten years so aside from the wild turkey foray, I've bought it before). Something with Jenny in the name. I've seen myriad of shows about overcooked white and undercooked dark, but seriously have never had it happen, even before I bought a meat thermometer. In old days we just wiggled the leg, if it was loose, it was ready to take out and rest while you dealt with gravy, rolls, mashed potatoes, sides, etc. I may have occaisionally (why can I never spell that word correctly?) had it a little red at the joints, I've never had completely inedibly raw thighs and wings.
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Old 11-27-2011, 08:13 AM   #10
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Jenny-o?

If so, that was the problem. Their products are horrendous.

Shadybrook farms are bad, too, but Jenny-O turkey products are awful.
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Old 11-27-2011, 08:22 AM   #11
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Jenny-o?

If so, that was the problem. Their products are horrendous.

Shadybrook farms are bad, too, but Jenny-O turkey products are awful.
Glad you're not criticizing Jennie-O
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Old 11-27-2011, 08:34 AM   #12
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The only thing I like that Jenny-O makes is their turkey ham. It looks like ham, tastes like ham, and is reasonably priced.
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Old 11-27-2011, 11:13 AM   #13
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I've been thinking all along, Claire, that the problem wasn't the cook, it was the bird.
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Old 11-27-2011, 11:15 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Zhizara
The only thing I like that Jenny-O makes is their turkey ham. It looks like ham, tastes like ham, and is reasonably priced.
I actually bought their turkey ham once because it was so cheap, sliced it and put it in baggies, and my bf never knew it wasn't real ham! It was good!
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Old 11-27-2011, 11:23 AM   #15
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I actually bought their turkey ham once because it was so cheap, sliced it and put it in baggies, and my bf never knew it wasn't real ham! It was good!
I keep some on hand all the time. The only time I ever buy "real" ham is if I find a Smithfield 25% less sodium at a reasonable price. Too many salty hams in my past.
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Old 11-27-2011, 11:27 AM   #16
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Glad you're not criticizing Jennie-O
I hate to saybad things about any Jenny but in this case ...
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Old 11-27-2011, 12:49 PM   #17
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I hate to say bad things about any Jenny but in this case ...
Sounds like Jenny gave you a Tom instead of a hen. They do tend to be tough and dry. I have found that Toms are only good for the stock pot after the dinner. I used to buy fresh turkeys, and made sure they were hens. So much better than the frozen ones.
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Old 11-27-2011, 01:22 PM   #18
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I assumed I'd bought them before. Next year I'll look further. I was just assuming it was the size, since I'd never cooked a "small" turkey!
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Old 11-27-2011, 01:34 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Addie

Sounds like Jenny gave you a Tom instead of a hen. They do tend to be tough and dry. I have found that Toms are only good for the stock pot after the dinner. I used to buy fresh turkeys, and made sure they were hens. So much better than the frozen ones.
Are toms usually smaller, by any chance? Is there any way to tell by looking at the package?
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Old 11-27-2011, 07:51 PM   #20
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I'd email the company, explaining the problem exactly as you did in your original post, and see what happens. I've had pretty good luck with that. I complained about air pockets in Oroweat bread and received several coupons, one for $4.00 off and three for $1.00 off each. The same thing happened when I emailed them that, to cut calories they were slicing their bread too thin and it would break when you tried to pick up a slice.

Land-O-Lakes went a step further. I buy Little Moos half & half for my coffee because they're premeasured and don't need refrigeration. I sent them a letter complaining that in my latest box, numerous containers were crushed and a few were open and I had to discard them. They sent me a check for $9.00, which is pretty much the cost of a 192 count box of Little Moos! After going through a few more boxes, I emailed them again, congratulating them on the quality control imporvement. They responded, saying how happy they were to hear from me again, and how they receive so few positive emails about their products.

Who knows, maybe you'll get some free turkeys.
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