Sous Vide Turkey
I have been cooking my Thanksgiving turkeys “Sous Vide” for over 10 years now, and I’ll never go back to the traditional roasting method. The turkey comes out moist and tender GUARANTEED! No over-cooked, dried out breast. Make the brine days before the holiday to ease your last minute prep and this method frees up your oven and stovetop for other items. As an extra bonus, there is no roasting pan to scrub at the end of the meal. Watch the video at the bottom of the page for step-by-step directions. Happy Thanksgiving!
Although it would be possible to “Sous Vide” a whole bird, it is impractical. I break the bird down into 4 large pieces; 2 breasts with the wing bone and 2 thigh/legs with the thigh bone removed. The carcass is then free to make a stock for gravy and/or stuffing. When it comes time for carving the turkey, it is so simple with this format. In the video below you can follow me through each step in the process of breaking down the turkey, brining it and cooking it Sous Vide. See my post “Sous Vide 101” for the basics of sous vide cooking.
Apple Cider brine has been my “go-to” brine for the past few years. Last year I pressed my own cider for the first time (8 gallons) and this year the yield was even better coming in at 11 gallons. See my post on pressing apple cider. See my post on pressing apple cider. The brine is simple to make and can be made days in advance. I add some Granny Smith apples (puréed) along with aromatics and salt to create a flavorful foundation to season the turkey within. Three hours in the brine is all it takes for these cuts and with a quick rinse, they are ready to go into the circulating bath.
Twenty-four hours in the circulator (65-degrees C. or 149-degrees F.) and the turkey comes out so moist and tender. I am using a bus tub for the water bath and I cover it with plastic wrap to retain the moisture, especially needed for long cooking times like this. The turkey can be finished (browned) on a hot grill, hot smoker or on the stovetop in a sauté pan. In the video you can see that I use a torch to get a nice browning all around each piece.
The Joule Immersion Circulator is my choice of all of the brands currently on the market. You are required to download the “App” to control the device, which is extremely well laid out and useful, but it may not be the choice for technically challenged individuals.
Sous Vide TurkeyCourse: EntreeCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Medium
One 12-15 pound turkey
2 Granny Smith apples
1/2 gallon apple cider
1/2 gallon water
3/4 cup Kosher salt
1 large head garlic
4 bay leaves
2 teaspoons all spice
1 Tablespoon black peppercorns, whole
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 sprigs fresh parsley
1/4 cup brown sugar
- Break down the turkey. Remove the neck and giblets and reserve. The wings have three sections; the tip, center wing and the main wing bone attached to the breast. Remove the wing tip and the center section by finding the joint and working the knife through the flesh and between the bones.
- Rest the turkey on a cutting board with the breasts facing up. Cut off the leg and thigh section by gently applying pressure down on the leg and following the seam with a sharp boning knife. When you reach the bottom of the seam, tip the bird on its side and apply some pressure against the thigh to break the thigh bone from the carcass. Continue the cut between the bones, separating the leg/thigh from the carcass. Repeat with the other side of the turkey.
- Remove the breasts by cutting on either side of the breast bone and following the bones down the carcass. Once the breast lies flat on the cutting board, continue cutting between the wing bone and the socket to release the breast and wing from the carcass. Repeat with the other side of the turkey.
- To make the brine, core the apples and cut them into a small dice. Place the apple pieces in a small tall sided container (I use a 4 cup liquid measuring cup) and add 2 cups of the apple cider. Blend the apples with an immersion blender until smooth. Alternatively, you can use a blender to purée the apples and cider.
- Combine the puréed apples with the rest of the apple cider and the remaining ingredients in a large sauce pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Cool the brine and strain out the solids. Discard the solids. Add the turkey breasts and thighs/legs to the brine, cover and refrigerate for 3 hours.
- Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse each piece under cold water. Place the turkey pieces in either 1 gallon vacuum seal bags or heavy duty “freezer” ziplock bags. Remove excess air from the bags with either a vacuum sealer or by displacing the air (ziplock bags) in a water bath.
- Heat a large water bath to 65-degrees C. or 149-degrees F. Submerge the bags in the water bath and cook for 24 hours.
- Remove the turkey pieces from the bags, drain off excess liquid and pat dry. Brown the turkey pieces on each side, either over a hot grill, hot smoker or in a large sauté pan over high heat with a little canola oil.
- Slice the turkey and serve.