EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


November 18, 2011

Only like white meat? Try cooking just a turkey breast

If you are a white meat and turkey breast fan, you might want to consider cooking just the turkey breast instead of the whole turkey. It takes a lot less time to cook, is easier to handle and clean up, and will taste just as good. If you can, you will want to find what is called a hotel-style breast because that will include some of the extra parts you can use for gravy, such as portions of the giblets, neck, back, and neck. The hotel breast also often has whole wings attached and sometimes comes with at least some of the dark meat as well.

Preparing the breast for cooking can be done as you would a whole turkey. You can brine it, for example, or fry it as well. Brining pulls the skin together and allows the moisture to remain during cooking. There are many different brining recipes but a favorite of Julie Geary of Classic Cooks Catering in Gloucester is originally from Gourmet magazine. It is 16 cups water, 2 cups each of sugar and coarse salt, 5 cloves of crushed garlic and 1 tablespoon pickling spices. Heat the ingredients until they are dissolved and then let cool before using. Immerse the turkey completely in the brine and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. Note: When you are going to brine a turkey you should not buy a turkey that is labeled self-basting. A self-basting turkey or chicken has been injected with a salt and flavoring solution.

If you buy a frozen turkey breast or whole turkey remember to thaw it out far enough ahead of time so that it is ready to cook. Always use either the refrigerator thawing method (about 1 day of thawing for every 4 pounds) or if you have less time you can use the cold water thawing method. With the cold-water method you place it breast side down and immerse it completely in your sink filled with cold water. Allow about 30 minutes for every pound and change the water about every hour or so. (You can use a large cooler if you do not want to or cannot use your sink.) You should never thaw out a turkey on the counter or anywhere else at room temperature as bacteria can form in the process.

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