Why No One Cooks Turkey in the Summer

I send Happy Mother’s Day greetings to my mom, who will be glad to know that once again, as always, she is right.

This time, she’s right about turkey. She simply puts her roast turkey in extra heavy-duty aluminum foil and cooks on low heat. But instead of consulting my mother, as I should have, in my inaugural turkey-roasting, I turned to Cook’s Illustrated. They tell you to brine the turkey for 4- 6 hours, which is already too much work. (You’d think I’d have learned after last month’s Cornish Hen Incident.) But I soldiered on, brining the turkey, roasting it in a V-rack on unbearably high heat without foil in an uncovered pan, turning and basting about four times.

It was tender and tasted fine, and it did produce a crispy skin. I give it that. But emerging from the oven, the turkey sat there primly in its V-rack, viruously hovering over the unseemly fat lurking on the bottom of the roasting pan. My mother’s turkeys are earthier birds, lolling about indecorously in a sensual bed of grease. Grease you get to eat when you go to pick the meat off the bones. Grease I did not get to eat yesterday.

Probably just as well, as I could barely squeeze into my pajamas anyway.

5 thoughts on “Why No One Cooks Turkey in the Summer

  1. “lolling about indecorously on a sensual bed of grease” may be the best phrase in English I have heard all year. The whole turkey-cooking episode sustains an erotic undertone and thus becomes a commentary on America’s puritanical culture with its strong hedonistic compensations. You were faced with, if I may suggest, the choice of cooking as a patriarchally encoded polemic – witness the v-rack, the segregation of skin from juice and grease, and cooking as an organic outgrowth of your own narrative as a woman. Your mother’s turkey conveys a method of bypassing patriarchal coding and being honest about the place of grease and skin: in object-relations terms the Cook’s Illustrated bird is a false Turkey, symbolic of evasion and artificial presentation.

  2. Paul: You use heavy-duty aluminum foil and put the turkey in a roasting pan. You don’t wrap the turkey very tightly either, which vaguely resembles another method Cooks’ Illustrated recommends (tenting the bird with foil). And you cook it at about 325–so many minutes per pound, but I don’t remember how many. The skin is not as crispy as the bird I made, and a few days later I can say that in some ways the breast meat held up better than my mother’s. I’ll need to do a comparison fairly soon–but probably not till the fall.

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