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Turkey Cooking Equipment ...

What You Need to Prepare Your Perfect Turkey

Choosing Equipment:

The turkey cooking equipment you need will depend on the method of preparation. Lots of cooking gadgets are on the market, but many aren't necessary and some may actually degrade the bird.

One problem is that some turkey cooking equipment and techniques have been handed down and followed for generations without question. It's like the guy who pasted cotton balls to his screen door because that's how you keep flies out - never realizing that his parents filled in small tears in the screen with cotton balls which actually did keep flies out.

The practice of "trussing" for example - pulling legs and wings close to the body with twine or skewers - makes sense for a bird being cooked on a spit. It prevents wings and legs from flapping around and burning.

If the turkey is being roasted in an oven on a v-rack, trussing is not only not necessary, it can cause problems. Trussing will pull the legs too close to the body so that the inner thighs (which take the longest to cook) will take even longer to cook.

Essentials for Oven Roasting a Turkey:

The most common preparation method is oven roasting. Essential turkey cooking equipment includes a reliable oven, devices to measure the temperature of the bird as it cooks, a good pan to hold and contain the turkey while it is roasting, and a sharp knife with cutting board for carving and serving.

Thermometers for Temperature Control

It is essential to control the heat throughout the roasting process and we believe in using thermometers to verify and confirm temperature readings.

How many cooks check the accuracy of the temperature readings in their ovens with an oven thermometer? The day of the big feast is not the time to find out that the oven's temperature sensor is not accurate.

Recent surveys claim that only half of the cooks preparing turkey have a thermometer on hand. This may help to explain why poultry is often over-cooked and dried out as there may be a tendency to overcook it just to be safe. And the old adage - to cook until the leg joint moves freely in its socket - does make sure that the bird is done, but it can lead to overcooking. Of the cooks who do have thermometers in their turkey cooking equipment arsenal, many are not using them correctly when taking temperature readings.

In your set of turkey cooking equipment, we recommend that you have at least the first two of the following three thermometers:

1) oven thermometer - provides inexpensive peace of mind - is my oven temperature accurate?

2) instant read thermometer - moderate to expensive peace of mind - has it reached safe temperature?

3) probe thermometer - will answer the question - is it done yet?

Oven thermometer: An oven thermometer measures the temperature of the oven. Most modern ovens are fairly accurate, but an oven thermometer is inexpensive and it ensures that you are roasting at the temperature that you intend. It is best to know your oven is accurate before you have a house full of hungry guests. Many factors can throw off the final cooking time of a large turkey. Oven temperature is one factor that can be firmly under your control. We have looked at lots of models and are very satisfied with the Taylor 503 Connoisseur Series Oven Thermometer.

There are less expensive oven thermometers, but the reviews they get are not nearly as good as this one. Negatives pointed out about this one is that although it registers as high as 600 F it is not recommended to use it above 450 without the possibility of discoloring.

We actually don't leave this thermometer in the oven all of the time. We have used it to test our oven so we know where to set it to achieve a precise temperature, and we use it for baking. But, once you know where to set your temperature there is no need keep it in the oven. Do know that it does take a while for the thermometer to reach the oven temperature. Actually it takes a while for the oven to reach cooking temperature even after the oven air has been preheated.

Probe thermometer: A probe thermometer continuously checks the internal temperature of the bird. The probe is inserted into the breast, and the readout is outside of the oven so that you can monitor it without opening the oven and losing heat. Many of these thermometers send an alarm when a preset temperature is reached. We love this concept, but we don't have a thermometer that we can recommend. We have purchased several probe thermometers and they have all quit working. It seems to be the probe and cable that is the point of failure.

If we discover one that works consistently we will put that information here, but for now we do not have one to recommend.

Instant read thermometer: This piece of turkey cooking equipment can be used to check the temperature in several places (breast and thigh) to be sure the final temperature is safe.

Most instant read thermometers do not register temperatures instantly. They take some time (a matter of seconds) to heat up after being inserted. The more expensive ones are much quicker (perhaps 3 to 4 seconds) at displaying the internal temperature. Another advantage to the more expensive ones such as the Thermapen is that the temperature is actually measured at the tip of the probe, rather that in the middle of the probe.

The Thermapen is not inexpensive, but it is a piece of equipment that you will use daily, so it is worth considering.

But, you can get away with a much less expensive instant thermometer. Another very good model is the Super-Fast Pocket Digital Thermometer.

If choosing another model look for NSF certification.

Roasting Pan with Rack

We need to place the turkey in a container while it's cooking to catch the juices for gravy, and we want to keep it raised so that hot air surrounds the bird during the process.

The roasting pan should be big enough to hold the turkey but still fit in the oven. Really! We have seen protruding handles, curved outward from the roasting pans,prevent the turkey in the pan from fitting in the oven. Avoid surprises - measure. You also do not want handles that lie flat against the pan because they can be hard to grasp.

You need a roasting pan to catch the juices, to radiate heat, and to even out oven hot or cool spots. A good roasting pan is a thermal mass that can reduce the temperature swings during roasting. This piece of turkey cooking equipment should also be able to go to the stove top for deglazing (scraping the browned cooked pieces from the bottom of the pan and mixing with a liquid). Some cooks prefer a roasting pan that is not dark in color so that the caramelized juices are easier to see, others prefer the somewhat easier to clean, but darker colored, anodized pans.

We do not recommend non-stick roasting pans because the nonstick surface eventually wears off. A rack in a nonstick pan can and does slide around unpredictably causing spills. Also, the turkey juices won't stick to nonstick pans and don't brown very well, so there is nothing to deglaze for making gravy or sauce.

If you don't have a sturdy roasting pan, disposable aluminum roasting containers are sold as turkey cooking equipment. But, they are not as safe or effective as a regular roasting pan. They can collapse while you a carrying a large bird. They cannot be used on the stove top to create gravy. If you need to use disposable aluminum pans, use two; put one inside of the other to give the container some added strength.

The rack raises the turkey above the roasting pan so that hot air can reach the bird from all sides. It keeps the turkey from stewing in its own juices and it provides room for vegetables to cook underneath. Although we don't recommend non-stick roasting pans, a non-stick rack does work well and is easier to clean.


Turkey cooking equipment most people consider essentials for cutting and serving.

In the kitchen or at the table you need:

A Carving Knife: All you really need is a good knife.

If you have a carving set that is fine, just don't stick the turkey with the fork tines any more than necessary. Press down with the flat side of the fork to keep the turkey from moving. Many carvers prefer to steady the bird with a clean hand, or a towel.

A good sharp carving knife makes the carving process go much easier and it makes the slices look nicer.

Here I recommend investing in a knife that you will enjoy using until it becomes part of your kids inheritance. You don't need many knives, so the ones that you have should be great.

A Carving or Cutting Board: There will be juice so a dedicated carving board with a groove around the edge is a very nice piece of turkey cooking equipment. Otherwise, any large sanitary cutting board will work. Avoid carving the turkey while it rests on a serving platter because the rim of the platter will get in the way and dull your carving knife. (Note: That is why steak knives are serrated, so the cutting part doesn't come in contact with the plate.)

Essentials for Other Methods:

Poached Turkey

To poach a bird you need a large pot - large enough to completely submerge a turkey in boiling water with a few inches to spare at the top. If you have a deep frying kit for turkey, you already have a big enough pot. If you intend to use the propane (part of the frying kit) as the heat source, you need to do this outdoors.

Open-Hearth Cooked Turkey (on a string)

There are several ways to roast a turkey at a hearth. One of the oldest and most interesting is a method called "string roasting". You need a string (thin - natural fiber), a hook (on the ceiling or mantle), and two skewers. The turkey is hung vertically in front of - not over -the fire. It acts as a vertical spit. The cook touches the turkey from time to time giving it a gentle turn. Drippings go into a pan placed under the bird.

More Good Stuff:

Turkey cooking equipment would not be complete without a few gadgets. We find the ones described below particularly useful.

Turkey Turner: Yes, they sell turkey turners so that you can turn your turkey over during the cooking process if you choose. CLICK HERE for one you can make out of kitchen twine that works just as well.

Fat Separator: This relatively inexpensive cup-like device saves time when making gravy and sauces.

Reusable Ice Packs: These are used to cool down broth or stock pots without watering it down. They not only bring down the temperature of the stock quickly, they also keep all of the other food in your refrigerator from being warmed up by the stock pot. You can make these by partly filling an orange juice or milk container with water and freezing it.

The do it yourself versions is just milk or orange juice containers partly filled with water and frozen.

Dish Towels: You will need extras. Dish towels are great for handling the bird through various stages of preparation. They are also great for turning over a large, hot turkey without puncturing it.

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Copyright © 2009 - 2019 The Perfect Turkey
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