Sous Vide Turkey: Once you’ve gone sack, you’ll never go back!

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There is nothing more the centerpiece of a traditional American holiday meal than roast turkey with all the trimmings.  I recall in my childhood, my grandmother rising at 4 am to begin the preparations for our Thanksgiving or Christmas feast.  Roasting the big bird for these special meals holds an almost sacred place in our family’s traditions and I have dutifully followed the footsteps of my fore bearers every year.  This one being no exception, except that this year we received two birds.  My husband and son played in an annual golf tournament the week before Thanksgiving, called (appropriately enough) the Turkey Shoot, for which participation each of them received a nice turkey.  We were having a larger than usual crowd at our table for Thanksgiving dinner, so I decided to cook both of them.  I would roast one turkey the traditional way and prepare its twin brother in my SousVide Supreme.

It would be a turkey throw down!

Here’s the timeline:

Five days out:  Thawed both birds in the refrigerator.

Two days out:  Made about a gallon of an 8% brine (80 grams salt/liter water or 5 T plus 1 tsp salt per quart of water) to brine one bird whole and the other in pieces by removing both leg quarters (thigh and drumstick) and both breasts.  Made turkey stock from the remaining carcass, herbs, and seasonings.

One day out: Rinsed the birds in clear water.  Refrigerated the whole turkey overnight in a plastic bag. Vacuum-sealed the two leg quarters and two breasts each in a separate food-grade, plastic pouch along with about 1/4 stick of butter (cut lengthwise) and a good sprinkling of poultry seasoning.

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Refrigerated breast portions immediately.

Turkey Breast Sous Vide Ready Blog size

With the SousVide Supreme preheated to 176F/80C I cooked the dark meat portions for 8 to 10 hours, then quick-chilled them in an ice water bath for 1 hour and refrigerated them until the big day.  (Sounds like a lot of time, but it’s almost completely mindless, hands-off time.)

The day before:  I heated the SousVide Supreme to 140F/60C and cooked the breast portions of the turkey for 2- 1/2 hours, then quick-chilled them in an ice water bath for 1 hour and refrigerated them overnight.

Cooked Turkey Breasts Blog Size

While they were chilling, I cranked the SousVide Supreme temp up to 183F/83C and cooked my veggies for an hour:  cauliflower pieces in one pouch with butter, salt and pepper and butternut squash pieces in another pouch with butter, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and just a touch of Splenda 1/2 brown sugar (about 1 tablespoon for 2 squashes, designed to feed 10 people.)  Afterwhich, I pureed the perfectly cooked vegetables, let them cool slightly, and put them into casserole dishes, covered, in the refrigerator. (Sorry, no pictures of these.)

On Turkey Day:  Hours ahead, I pulled the whole bird from the refrigerator, patted him dry, stuffed his cavities with fresh sage and thyme from my herb garden, whole cloves of garlic, and a quartered Maui onion.   I trussed his legs and brushed his breast with melted butter and settled him snugly, breast down, onto the roasting rack and into a 400F/204C oven, which heated up my kitchen mightily.

After 45 minutes, I pulled him out of the oven, turned him on one side, wrapped his wing tips with aluminum foil to prevent their charring, brushed him again with melted butter and returned him to the oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, I pressed one button to turn on the SousVide Supreme to preheat to 140F/60C.

When the timer dinged for the oven, I pulled Tom out again, but by this time, my granddaughter had gotten to the house and in my slight distraction, I managed to burn the side of my hand pulling the roasting pan out of the oven, which doesn’t even really require the distraction of a granddaughter when handling a large bird tipped on its side.

I burned my fingers trying to flip the bird to its other side, when I remembered that my sister had sent me a pair of turkey lifters, which I got out and used.  Now sitting with his other wing in the air, I brushed him all over with butter and returned him to the oven for another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, the SousVide Supreme has reached its target temperature, so I dropped the four pouches containing the cooked leg quarters and breasts into the rack of the machine to gently reheat before searing..

When the oven timer dinged again, I pulled the roasting bird out of the oven again, turned him breast side up, brushed him again with melted butter, and only burned the side of my hand slightly trying to get him back into the 400F/204C oven for his last 45 to 60 minutes of roasting, while keeping one eye on the progress of the football game going on.

Meanwhile, the vegetable casserole dishes went into the other oven at 375F/190C to warm.

About 15 minutes before the roasting bird was due to come out, I pulled the pouches of turkey from the SousVide Supreme (with just my fingers and no burns at all) and let them cool slightly in the tray lid. Then opened their pouches, pulled the pieces out, and patted them dry on the surface with a paper towel.

When, at last, the glorious roasted bird was cooked to a golden brown perfection–and he was lovely for sure–I brought him out to rest under a tent of foil for 15 to 20 minutes while I attended to last minute duties:  pop the rolls into the oven and brown the sous-vide turkey legs and breasts under the broiler for about 5 to 10 minutes.

Browned Turkey sous vide blog size

Cooked Sliced Turkey Breast blog size

Moist, tender, juicy, flavorful — in short, delicious! Nothing like the dry, slightly stringy breast meat that gives turkey its bad rap.

But back to the throw down.  The comparison of effort and ‘tending’ time stacks up something like this:

Traditional Turkey: 2 slight burns, 3-1/2 hours of closely choreographed trussing, stuffing, tending, flipping, basting, and timing.

SousVide Supreme: 0 burns, maybe 15 minutes of prep and 10 minutes of broiling

Our Thanksgiving guests were treated to comparision platters of traditional roasted turkey and turkey a la SousVide Supreme.  The verdict was unanimous — the sous-vide turkey was the hands down winner!

Here are some of the rave reviews:  The most succulent, flavorful turkey ever…More like delicious ham than turkey, which I’ve never liked much…The white meat was even better than the dark meat! This turkey is so good, I wouldn’t mind having it more often than holidays!  And from a finicky six year old: I’d like more! SousVide Rules!

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This recipe is perfect for the SousVide Supreme!

Would you like to try cooking this recipe? Learn more about our water ovens by visiting our site. The world’s first water oven designed specifically to bring the gourmet sous vide cooking method into home and small restaurant kitchens.

23 Responses to Sous Vide Turkey: Once you’ve gone sack, you’ll never go back!

  1. Pingback: DIY sous vide | The Blog of Michael R. Eades, M.D.

  2. Pingback: Austoon Daily » Sous Vide Turkey: Once you’ve gone sack, you’ll never go back!

  3. Pingback: Some Things I Made » Cooking: Sous-Vide Thanksgiving Turkey

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