Doc Parsley’s Secret Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe
Is the perfect Thanksgiving turkey really possible?
Now, the most obvious player in any Thanksgiving line-up is the turkey! And it's not just because of the tryptophan to help you sleep.
But what most people don't know is that it is impossible to perfectly cook a whole turkey.
“But Kirk,” you say, “my uncle deep-fries a perfect turkey,” or “my grandmother's cousin was able to figure out a way while basting and covering, uncovering, and broiling.”
To that I would say: “hmmmm...? Probably not.”
I'm not trying to discredit anyone's "lived experience.” I hear that "lived experience" is the latest rage these days.
I am instead defaulting to the uncompromising and highly reproducible tenants of science.
What most people were never taught is that perfectly cooked meat isn't actually dictated by the visual analysis and description, but rather by at specific temperature - which leads to a certain appearance.
For example, most people think of a "medium rare steak" as having a warm-pink centre with very little to no blood appearance with a small amount of brown above and below the center.
However, a medium rare steak is actually a steak that is cooked to center temperature of 130-135 degrees Fahrenheit.
Similarly, perfectly cooked turkey has a fairly specific temperature range, which depends on the cut of meat (AKA which muscle you’re cooking).
The specs on “perfectly cooked” areas of a turkey are:
- White meat: 157-165ºF
- Dark meat: 175-180ºF
The differences here are due to the individual structures and muscle characteristics of each type of meat.
How to get a close as possible to a “perfect” turkey
So, as you can see, it is nearly impossible to imagine how you could cook one structure (a whole turkey) in a single oven and get a nearly 20 degree temperature gradient across that structure (especially in the way you want that to occur).
This is why I always cook my Turkey in a Sous Vide water bath.
Yes, this takes longer, and requires some planning - but it is oh so worth it.
If you aren't familiar with this type of cooking, put it in google and prepare to have your mind blown.
Doc Parsley’s Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey Secret Recipe
1 Thanksgiving turkey (pick your size here and get it de-boned & separated into white / dark meat by the butcher)
2 sticks of grass-fed butter
Seasonings of choice - I typically go with:
- Garlic powder
- Italian blend
- Cayenne pepper (if you want a kick)
Ice water to cover the cooked & sealed turkey once it’s done
- Melt some butter, mix in your seasonings to taste and vacuum seal the white meat and the dark meat separately, both coated in the seasoned butter.
- Cook the white meat the night before Thanksgiving in the sous vide, and put it in ice water (still sealed) immediately once it reaches the optimal cooked temperature between 157-165ºF. Keep it in the refrigerator overnight.
- Cook the dark meat on Thanksgiving in the sous vide.
- Once the dark meat has reached its 175-180ºF goal, remove both meats from their vacuum seals and baste them with more melted butter and seasonings.
- Broil in the oven until all meats are cooked to a nice golden brown.
If you’re using this method, the sous vide that you purchase will have good instructions with it about how to best use this tool.
There are other great resources out there that explain the sous vide process in better detail, like this blog from Williams-Sonoma or this blog from Amazing Food Made Easy.
I’m not an expert chef, but I do trust science and believe me when science has only made my cooking better.
Be your family’s Thanksgiving hero this year
I have found that little else matters if the bird isn't delicious.
So, focus your effort here first.
In my next recipe installment, I will give up my recipe for my favorite appetizer: Bacon Deviled Eggs.
Yes, they’re just as epic as they sound.
And if you’re looking to catch up on some much-needed rest over the long holiday weekend, check out my Sleep Remedy Supplement.
It’s non-addictive, tastes great and is proven to help with falling and staying asleep.
Find out more about it here: