Wednesday, November 15, 2017

From Freezer To Table In Less Than Eight Hours

So last night at 10:30 p.m. I got a phone call from my oldest nephew:

"Hey, Aunt Salena!  Are you guys still in town?"

"Yeah, we're still here.  What's up?" I said.

"I have a favor to ask," he said.

"Sure.  Whadya need?"

"Well, I was wondering if you can help me cook two turkeys."

"Two?" I said.  "When do you need them?"


"Thursday??  Um, do you have the turkeys?" I asked.


"Are they frozen?" I said.


"How much do they weigh?"

"One is 19.2 pounds and the other one is 18.5 pounds." He said.

"What are they for?"

"The FCC alumni dinner," he said.

"Okay, well, takes like four to five days to defrost a 20-pound turkey.  And you need it Thursday.  Okay, hmm, okay, well.  Can you bring the turkeys here?"

"Yeah.  I'm with my FCC friends.  Is it okay if I bring them too?" he asked.

"Sure, no problem.  Bring them and the turkeys.  Ed and I will start Googling."

So by eleven o'clock, I had my nephew, six of his friends, and two turkeys standing in my kitchen.  Well, the turkeys weren't standing, but you know what I mean.

I was perplexed.  Because we don't have time to fridge defrost, and doing a water defrost means immersing the turkeys in their wrappers in cold water that needs to be changed every thirty minutes.  A 20-pound turkey, using the cold water thawing method, would take ten hours.  I was not staying up for ten hours to babysit a bathing turkey.  And in Tucson, the cold water out of our tap is 70 degrees, which isn't cold enough for a safe thaw.

So we decided to cook them from their frozen solid state.  And the only place big enough for two turkeys was Ed's smoker.
We couldn't smoke them because the low-and-slow heat wouldn't work for a bird of this size, frozen or not.  The meat would not be able to be brought to a safe temperature for cooking.  So Ed set the smoker temperature at 325, like an oven, put the two birds in, and closed the lid.

Three hours into cooking, the birds had thawed enough for me to reach in and pull out the neck and the giblets.  Ed stuck each bird with a digital temperature probe and we monitored the birds from inside the house.  As we got closer to both the time and temperature, I started to brush them with the herb butter mixture I made.  The skin was getting crispy and they started to smell delicious.
 We had them in the smoker for seven and a half hours, and according to all of our temperature probes - including my very expensive, America's Test Kitchen-approved digital thermometer, the Thermapen MK4 - the turkeys were cooked to a safe internal temperature, indicating doneness.   
We all tasted a little piece of wing meat that fell off the bone when we transferred the birds to pans for transport - oops - and it was amazing.  I was dying to rip off a piece of crispy skin and reaaaally wanted to taste a slice of breast, but the bird had to go.  Hungry college kids were waiting.
In addition to the turkey, I made gravy with the pan drippings and also threw together a pan of Roasted Rosemary Potatoes and three pans of Cinnamon Swirl Cakes to add to the bounty.  I figured one can never have enough potatoes or crumb cake.   
I was thrilled to be able to help my nephew.  I love when he comes to me with something I can actually help him with.  Usually, he needs computer or gadget help, and that's Ed's department.  But the cooking questions are totally me.  And I was so happy to oblige.

From what I was told, the turkeys were a big hit.  Delicious, they said.  I stalked the Instagram accounts of his friends and saw several pictures from that night - one of them included several of the guys standing around the turkeys, carving with smiles on their faces! 

After we packed the food in my nephew's trunk and sent him on his way, Ed and I high-fived each other on our success.  We cooked two mother-clucking turkeys from a frozen solid state!  We had no room for error.  We had no backup plan.  And it's not like you can just go buy a cooked 20-pound turkey anywhere.  

I actually liked this method.  No defrosting turkey in the fridge.  No disgusting juice dripping out of the bag on the floor, my shoes, the counter, the sink.  And since I don't brine a turkey and I never cook stuffing inside the bird (I like my stuffing on the dry side, not wet like a newborn baby), the cooked-from-frozen method might be my future go-to method. 

The USDA approved it as safe, and several other websites we checked - The Kitchn, The Spruce, Williams-Sonoma - all had instructions on how to do it properly.

We'll probably be on the road for Thanksgiving this year so I won't be making my own turkey, but I'll definitely be keeping this little secret in my back pocket just in case I come across anyone else who needs an emergency turkey.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Blade Runner

2015: Goodnight 'Bama
2014: No Fear
2013: A Cozy Little Dinner With My Favorite Bird
2012: Western Winter Sky
2011: Men At Work
2010: Everyone Is NOT A Winner
2009: Text Me
2008: Going The Way Of Astatine*
2007: Picture Perfect Pilot
2006: Not Falling For Winter Yet
2005: I Miss You Already

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