Your Pizza Stone is Perfect for Cooking Thanksgiving Turkey!
With Thanksgiving fast approaching, it’s time to put your Cast Elegance pizza stone away for the time being, right?
Hold on. Not so fast.
Your pizza stone could be your key to success this holiday season. In this short article, we explain how your Cast Elegance pizza stone can once and for all tackle the age-old problem of a dry bird.
The Old Dry Bird
While some of us would rather forego turkey this time of year, for many others, Thanksgiving just isn’t the same without a huge crispy golden-brown bird at the center of the table.
It’s as traditional as your blinged-out Christmas tree with shedding pine needles: You’ve just got to have it, regardless of the fact you’ll need to vacuum daily, if not hourly, as the dog brushes against your tree. Besides, Grandma just doesn’t want rare roast beef with green bean casserole. She wants turkey—never mind that it is almost impossible to cook a whole bird of monstrous proportions with moist breast and thigh meat and delicious crispy skin.
The people around your table might consider a home-baked apple or pecan pie the centerpiece in the ultimate delicious feast. But almost certainly you, the cook, who will have many fewer problems turning out a flaky crust and tasty filling than you will with getting the turkey perfectly done. It seems the appearance of a great looking bird comes hand in hand with dry—I mean, seriously dry–turkey breast. And after all, Thanksgiving comes just once a year. Surely a moist piece of meat is not too much to ask for on such a day.
Numerous techniques for turning out the ideal turkey have been tried. Most have failed because the goal is usually to turn out the biggest bird that will feed the five thousand. No wonder the result, more often than not, is a dry bird.
For perfectionists who love to cook, you wonder how Grandma manages to chew (much less enjoy) the dry breast meat when you know yourself that the breast meat is as dry as rice cake sawdust, tasteless, and made palatable only by the addition of sugary cranberries and mass amounts of gravy.
Chefs from Julia Child to Chef Ramsay have offered recipe upon recipe about how to keep your bird moist. You might have tried ideas like blanketing it with bacon or massaging it with a pound of high-cholesterol butter in well-meaning but futile attempts to get a cooked bird that’s moist enough to eat.
Of course, you could spatchcock … but that would deprive you of the of presenting a photogenic masterpiece. So how do you achieve the nearly impossible feat of cooking a moist bird?
Believe it or not, your pizza stone is the answer. So, let’s talk turkey and explain what is wrong with your turkey roasting equipment.
First off, let’s do a reality check. How many people are you trying to feed, when the chips are down? The answer should be a key factor in your cooking plan.
I have absolutely no tips for roasting a whole venison, lamb or pig unless you use a spit and a barbeque. And yet time and time again, cooks try to cook the biggest bird they can, hoping in vain for it all to be cooked perfectly. Talk about setting yourself up for failure.
Bigger is not better when it comes to a turkey. If you are inviting 24 people for dinner on Thanksgiving, then you will definitely need a large bird. But honestly, how many people are visiting your home? And stop to think: who’ll want to eat the leftovers for days on end?
Chef Ramsay and his other British counterparts, such as Jamie Oliver, recommend a turkey around 14 pounds maximum. And it’s best not to aim much bigger if you want perfect results. You can certainly consider cooking two 14-pound birds if you’re expecting a large crowd. Another alternative is to serve a roast of beef, lamb, or ham alongside your already huge centerpiece turkey.
Bear in mind an average chicken weighs around 4 pounds and will easily feed 4 adults. So, a 14-pound turkey will easily feed 12 hungry people, especially when you factor in all the trimmings. A bird of that size will also be big enough to impress Grandma.
Prior to becoming your Thanksgiving dinner, your unpardoned turkey was (ideally) running happily outdoors.
It was using its legs to get around, which made the flightless bird’s leg and thigh meat more muscular than the breast.
Home economists know the muscle is connective tissue. As you’ve learned with other cuts of meat, it’s important to treat various parts of the animal differently. For instance, while you stew legs of lamb and beef slowly, you can quickly fry or grill more tender parts such as the fillet.
Yet with a whole turkey you are attempting to cook the whole bird in one piece—a mission all but doomed to failure. Breast meat, which is best cooked at a lower temperature, will dry out fast. Thigh meat, in contrast, needs a slightly higher temperature to tenderize the fibers.
What you want to achieve with turkey is moist breast meat and thigh meat and delicious golden-brown skin.
If you eat turkey in a high-quality restaurant, the chefs will rarely have roasted the bird in its entirety. Instead, they will have cooked you turkey breast and served you the moist meat. Even with their huge ovens and technical skills, professionals will rarely take on the task of roasting whole turkey carcass.
And your roasting pan does you no favors in this undertaking. It stops the convection currents moving around the bird and its sides shield the thighs, allowing the exposed breast to get even drier.
Believe it or not, your Cast Elegance pizza stone can help you achieve the almost impossible. Here’s how.
The Setup for Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey
- Your Cast Elegance pizza stone
- A baking tray lined with foil to collect the juices and fat from the bird
- A “V” shaped roasting rack
The tall metal sides of a roasting pan are a nightmare for your turkey as they block the radiation. Using a baking tray, on the other hand, fully exposes the turkey legs to the heat of the oven. This way the legs cook faster, which shortens the amount of time your turkey breast cooks—and prevents the breast from drying out. The “V” rack also allows air to circulate all around your turkey, so you also get crispy skin all over.
Step 1: Preheat Your Pizza Stone
Place your Cast Elegance pizza stone on either the lowest rack you have or on the bottom of the oven (after checking that your turkey is going to fit). Then turn your oven on to the hottest setting to get your pizza stone super-hot.
Step 2: Place Turkey on Pizza Stone
After around 45 minutes to an hour you can place your turkey in the oven in a shallow roasting pan with a V-rack to hold the turkey.
Step 3: Reduce Heat and Roast
Now reduce the oven temperature to around 300°F (150°C). As your turkey roasts, the pizza stone will release the energy it’s stored up through the baking sheet to the underside of your turkey. Cook the turkey as long as required. The amount of time required will depend on the size of the bird. Be sure to use a good meat thermometer to ensure the bird has reached the ideal temperature per safe cooking practices.
The legs and the back of the turkey will take the heat where it is needed most. The breast meat will cook more gently. Voila! The result: Perfect turkey with juicy-moist breast meat, tender legs, and crisp skin.
The Cast Elegance Perfect Turkey Gravy
The setup also produces the most amazing drippings to make the perfect gravy. The pizza stone intensifies the heat, so the juices are reduced, salty and delicious.
When your turkey goes into the oven, start making the broth. In a small sauce pan, add the neck and the giblets and cover with water or unsalted broth. Simmer until needed for the gravy, several hours later.
Collect all the juices from the turkey roasting pan making sure to scrape the tray as well. Rinse the pan with some of the reserved stock to capture all the brown bits of glorious flavor. Then use a fat separator to separate the turkey fat from the juices. Reserve the fat and the drippings for later.
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, heat ½ cup of turkey fat and ½ cup of flour to make a roux: Sprinkle the flour into the pan stirring constantly until the flour is a nice dark-tan color. Add all of the remaining drippings along with some chopped carrot, onion, and poultry seasonings or herbs for added flavor. Cook over medium-high heat until for five to ten minutes or so until the vegetables have released their flavor. Continue stirring while adding the reserved broth and ½ cup of white wine; allow the gravy to simmer and thicken a while. Strain out the solids and adjust salt, pepper and other seasonings if you wish.
The result — perfect deep flavorful gravy in record time.
A smart tip for crispy skin and juicy turkey is to rub your turkey with baking powder and salt the night before you cook it.
Turkey Dinner Pizza
Chances are you’ll have some leftover turkey. Why not bring out your Cast Elegance pizza stone once again and create a stunning Turkey Dinner Pizza using those delicious leftovers? Sure to be a crowd pleaser, this puts an adventurous spin on leftovers and beats sandwiches any day.
What you’ll need:
- One quantity of pizza dough (check out our recipe from our Step-by-Step guide to grilling Pizza).
- Pizza sauce (approx. 12 ounces—your choice of cranberry sauce, pesto, or garlic & olive oil)
- Shredded turkey (1 – 2 cups)
- Left over stuffing (1 – 2 cups)
- Turkey gravy (approx. 1 cup)
- Mozzarella (1-2 cups)
Preheat your pizza stone in the oven or grill on the highest setting for 20 to 30 minutes.
Roll out your dough on your generously floured pizza peel so it’s ready to be slipped onto the hot pizza stone.
Spread a pizza sauce on the dough. Experiment with using either cranberry sauce, or a nice pesto sauce or even a slurry of garlic mixed with olive oil for a white sauce. Sprinkle the turkey and stuffing over the top of the pizza sauce. Then drizzle lightly with your turkey gravy.
Finally, top with mozzarella and bake in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the crust is crisp, golden brown.
There you have it: Perfect turkey pizza! Best enjoyed in the company of family and friends. Don’t forget to invite grandma!