Turkey often comes under fire around the time of Thanksgiving. Was Thanksgiving only created so people would buy turkeys? Possibly. Does turkey deserve the crown for Thanksgiving’s best dish over ham or other roasts? Debatable. Turkey can be extremely average and can quickly become less desirable based on how it is cooked. This article does not debate which meat to eat for Thanksgiving; instead, in this article, I will detail which way to cook the bird stereotypically associated with Thanksgiving is the best: deep-fried versus oven-roasted.
When speaking with people around campus, turkey has been described by most as bland, dry, and ordinary. Nine times out of 10, this is the cook’s fault. With the proper procedures, seasonings, cooking temperature, and time, the turkey should be flavorful. My family made two turkeys for Thanksgiving, and there were only a few differences between them besides the way they were cooked.
Both turkeys were brined in salt and brown sugar along with peppercorn, rosemary, and garlic solution for a day. They were both taken out and allowed time to dry in the fridge before cooking to allow for crispier skin. Then, the oven-roasted turkey was stuffed and coated with a layer of mayonnaise. It was placed in water in the bottom of the pan and cooked at 350 degrees for 20 minutes per pound. This year, it took about five hours to complete cooking.
For the deep-fried turkey, it was a lot more straightforward. It is absolutely necessary to make sure the turkey is at room temperature before you place it in the hot oil so you don’t end up with a flying turkey. I set up a large burner and pot with a basket outside. I had to buy three gallons of peanut oil to cook the turkey in. First, you bring the oil up to 350 degrees, then put the turkey into a frying basket and carefully lower the turkey into the hot oil. I kept the temperature at 350 for about five minutes to get an initial layer of crispness on the skin but then kept the temperature around 340 for the rest of the time to avoid the turkey getting too dark. The cook time for this turkey was 3.5 minutes per pound plus five minutes. It finished cooking in 45 minutes. One benefit to the deep-fried turkey is that the cooking time is a fraction of the oven-roasted method, but you get very similar results. There was a very little splash from the oil, and it didn’t make much of a mess at all.
Both turkeys were allowed time to rest; however, this is where I made a big mistake with the deep-fried one. Instead of properly tenting the foil over it, there were some areas where it touched the turkey, causing the steam that condensed into the water to drip onto the skin. This caused the turkey’s skin to lose crispiness in some areas. Overall, I have to say the oven-roasted turkey was the winner. The meat throughout was very good and not dry at all. The skin was crispy all over and had a great texture. It was very consistent in taste throughout as well. However, it is worth mentioning that the best piece of turkey I had was from the deep-fried one. The deep-fried one just lacked consistency, which may have been entirely my fault.