Turkey talk: Roasting the perfect holiday bird



If you choose not to buy a fully cooked bird for the holidays, chef Richard McPeake will teach you how to cook one. - FLICKR/CLAUMOHO
  • flickr/claumoho
  • If you choose not to buy a fully cooked bird for the holidays, chef Richard McPeake will teach you how to cook one.

I had roasted holiday turkeys only twice in my life before I had my epiphany: The best turkey dinner you can ever get is the one served in restaurants.

At least for me, who roasted the turkeys in much the same way that Lucy Ricardo might have done on I Love Lucy - utterly incompetently. There are rules for defrosting a big bird, you know, and then keeping the turkey moist through the cooking process by brining - now there's a chore - or injection. So much work! I once considered deep-frying a turkey but quickly came to my senses; I would have probably burned down the house.

Richard McPeake, the former executive chef for the Gilbert/Robinson restaurant chain and now a culinary instructor at Kansas City, Kansas, Community College, says he's not a big fan of fried turkeys anyway: "Most people overcook them, and the meat is far too dry."

In fact, that's the problem for most home cooks, even the ones with years of experience roasting a fat turkey in their own ovens, McPeake says. "Almost everyone overcooks their turkey."

That was the inspiration for McPeake's "Let's Talk Turkey" class, offered Sunday, November 17, at the Culinary Center of Kansas City (7920 Santa Fe Drive in Overland Park, 913-341-4455). It's a four-hour class, held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and McPeake says that's almost not enough time to explain the best techniques for roasting, grilling or smoking a turkey.

It's the defrosting issue that has always intimidated me, and McPeake says he'll give the class his "three-day game plan" for properly thawing a frozen turkey at home. "But I really suggest using a fresh turkey whenever possible. There are more stores offering them, and there is a difference in flavor."

McPeake will explain all that - as well as techniques for air-drying a turkey, whether to brine the bird or go with the injection concept (which McPeake prefers, using maple syrup and orange juice), cooking temperatures, safety, how to make turkey stock, and a recipe for the best dressing he has ever tasted.

The class is priced at $65 and hasn't sold out yet. For more information, call 913-341-4455.

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