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Lunch break

Next week, as you may have heard, is Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a nice holiday marred by the tradition of eating turkey, which is probably the least tasty of all meats. Think how much more thankful you'd be if you were eating pork belly! Worse, the turkey is generally cooked terribly, the whole thing shoved in the oven despite the fact that the different cuts cook at radically different rates. Here, Anthony Bourdain explains how to cook turkey right, if indeed you must cook turkey.

By Ezra Klein  |  November 20, 2009; 12:34 PM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Wow, I thought our dear blogger was a vegetarian. Somehow he's been informed of the unending wonder of pork belly!

We had maybe the best pork belly ever at Animal Restaurant here in Los Angeles a couple weeks ago. Highly suggested if any of you are local to the area, or if you're a person of considerable means and want to fly here you wont be disappointed.

No I'm not being paid for any of this, I'm sort of a radical about lionizing great meals.

Posted by: zeppelin003 | November 20, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Did you see the size of the pan he used for the stuffing?!?!

Posted by: user435 | November 20, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

I thought everyone knew Ezra wasn't a vegetarian?

Anyway, on the topic of flesh eating,
(1) It seems that Foer did a live chat this the wapo, and I missed it.

Also, there is a wonderful little book entitled The Thanksgiving Turkey Pardon, the Death of Teddy's Bear, and the Sovereign Exception of Guantánamo. The longest title for the shortest book. You can download the pdf from the publisher here

Posted by: thescuspeaks | November 20, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

There is nothing better than a deep-fried turkey. I don't think I would ever bake one again.

Posted by: donhalljobs | November 20, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Not a vegetarian! Don't eat much meat, but no claim to purity.

Posted by: Ezra Klein | November 20, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

I understand the turkey-related angst, but I will say that a well-cooked turkey is really, really good. It's difficult to do so (salinating, range-browning the sides to get the harder-to-cook parts up to temperature, heating the stuffing to proper temperature so it doesn't throw off the cooking process, etc), but the payoff is really nice.

Another trick that I've come up with is to make an herb-butter mix and generously slather the entire bird with it. The butter cooks quickly, making the skin crispy, which both creates some nice convection action, but keeps most all of the moisture in the bird, so when you carve into it you get a satisfying crack and then a deluge (seriously, I did this on a cutting board the first time and the entire counter got drenched with turkey juice). Injecting the stuff under the skin is nice, but it has two disadvantages: you can't use coarse-ground spices (which work best in my experience), and the coverage isn't very good (which screws up the convection/moisture retention).

So yeah, if you're not willing to deal with the precision and mechanics of roasting, then make something different (like braised turkey parts), but if you have the patience, roast turkey is a gem of a food.

Posted by: Fnor | November 20, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Contra Bourdain, I think butterflying is a better choice than cooking legs/breast separately... it's mainly the vaulted chest cavity that causes are the cooking problems, so if you remove the backbone and flatten it out you are good to go... and you still get to carve it at the table, which is a big part of the show for many.

Posted by: JWHamner | November 20, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

I've cooked whole turkeys in a roasting pan in the oven almost every year for the past twenty-five years and they all came out beautifully. Roasting a whole turkey is one of the easiest things to do. You just stuff it, put it in the pan on a rack, and roast it at 325 degrees (or whatever it says on the turkey wrapper) for an hour or so for every 3-4 pounds of turkey. Baste once or twice an hour; cover the breast with foil to prevent it from overcooking. Check breast temp to 162-170 degrees and it's finished.

The reason turkey is so popular for holiday dinners is because it's so easy to prepare for a larger than usual family/friends gathering.

Posted by: NealB1 | November 20, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

If you want to be vegetarian, that's all fine and good. Just don't slander the good name of turkey.

Delicious, succulent turkey.

Posted by: adamiani | November 20, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Ditto what donhallijobs said above. No matter how carefully you cook a turkey, no matter how well you preserve its moistness, you will be a convert if you just deep-fry one once.

Cookers run about $49 to $69, and most require you to buy a propane tank for another $25. Well worth it. And since the bird cooks in an hour, you'll be encouraged to use it more than once or twice a year (Super Bowl party, anyone?). Plus, the apparatus is good for home-brewing beer as well.

Downsides: 1) The burner and fuel tank pose a storage issue; 2) I don't know how an apartment-dweller would use a turkey fryer without a balcony or fire escape to put it on, and even then, most complexes with balconies now ban cooking on them because of the fire risk. Are there turkey frying apparatuses for the stove-top?

Posted by: Rick00 | November 20, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

I had a long post in yesterday's Lunch Break about this year's Top Chef. Seems to have died an ugly death in Review Purgatory.


Ezra: Top Chef comments on the last three weeks and looking foward to a Final Four with the four we all had hoped for but looked like we might not get with Jennifer's three week run of poor performances and the Brothers so-so performances this week.

We know you watch it, and this is The Best Season Ever of it. You've gone awfully quiet about the show in recent weeks. :P


Posted by: toshiaki | November 20, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

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