sous vide turkey

The Secret to Sous Vide Turkey –Yes, Whole Turkey 

Are you tired of serving DRY turkey for Thanksgiving? Have you ever wasted countless hours slaving over a turkey only to serve turkey dry as the desert and bland as cardboard? You should try to sous vide turkey. Sous vide turkey can be the most tender, juicy, and delicious Thanksgiving dinner of your life. And yes, you can sous vide a whole turkey!  

sous vide turkey

If you’ve tried to sous vide turkey whole, you probably had some trouble. There are also some horror stories online and on Youtube about sous vide turkey ”disasters.” Some solutions proposed by others make it too difficult to sous vide the whole turkey. The bad solutions add too many steps, involve multiple sous vide cookers, and ruin the final presentation on your Thanksgiving table. But don’t worry! There is a simple TRICK that simplifies, saves time, and makes a beautiful presentation.  

What’s the Sous Vide Turkey Trick?  

You need to have a “spineless turkey.” This means that you need to spatchcock or butterfly your turkey before you sous vide it. This process is really easy. Any home cook can do it. All you need to do is cut down both sides of the turkey’s backbone. Remove the backbone. Flaten the turkey. And you have a perfect butterflied or spatchcocked turkey that ready to sous vide.   

Why is Butterflying the Turkey Needed for Sous Vide?  

sous vide turkey

When you butterfly the turkey, you correct all the typical problems with trying to sous vide the whole bird. The problem with trying to sous vide a whole turkey is the air cavity in the center of the turkey. I’m talking about the open space inside the whole turkey – the place where the stuffing goes. If you put a normal whole turkey in a sous vide bag it will not cook well because of this air pocket.   

Many people forget this fundamental part of sous vide cooking when it comes to whole turkey. For the sous vide process to work, the meat needs to be in a sous vide bag with no air. If there is air in the sous vide bag, the turkey will not heat at the right temperature and will not cook evenly. But you can’t remove all the air if there is that big cavity in the middle of the turkey. That’s why you need to butterfly or spatchcock the turkey before you sous vide it.   

If you flatten the turkey first, you remove this air pocket. This ensures that the turkey will cook evenly – inside and out, dark meat and white meat. This spatchcock method saves so much time too. If you remove that air cavity, you can cut hours and hours off the cook time. Depending on the size of your turkey, you can cook it in 6 to 8 hours. Other recipes for sous vide turkey whole call for 24, 36, or even 72 hours of cooking!

How to Butterfly a Whole Turkey  

To butterfly or spatchcock a turkey, you simple cut down both sides of the backbone. It can be done with a chef’s knife, kitchen scissors, or even an electric knife. Remove the whole backbone.  

Then, flip the turkey with the breast side up. Next, you will place hands in center of breast and push down firmly to flatten the turkey. You will be breaking the breast-bone. It will seem like you are doing really aggressive CPR on the turkey. Finally, tuck the wings back behind the turkey. Then you’re ready prep your sous vide turkey for cooking.   

How to Spatchcock a Turkey with a Knife:  

How to Spatchcock a Turkey with Scissors:  

How to Sous Vide Turkey Whole   

Ingredients:

Equipment:

Steps:

1. Butterfly (Spatchcock) the Turkey

Follow instructions on the video above.

2. Brine Overnight for Moist, Juicy Turkey

After you butterflied the turkey, you should brine it overnight. Brining will make your turkey more moist and juicier. This is a difficult idea to grasp for newbies. How can adding salt make the turkey more moist and juicier? When you brine your turkey 2 things happen. First, salt gets infused deeply into the fibers of the meat. Later this causes the meat to soak up any moisture around it. Second, the salt breaks down the muscle fibers of the turkey. Normally, when cooked these muscle fibers contract. This contraction literally squeezes water out of the meat, making for dry turkey.   

You have 2 choices here: dry brine or wet brine. We advise the dry brine. Gently separate the skin from the meat. You use your fingers mostly. Make sure to be gentle and not tear the skin. Once there is enough room between the skin and the meat, simply rub salt onto the meat itself – be fairly liberal, just ensure good coverage. You can then salt the skin as well.  

If you wet brine, combine 2 cups of sea salt with 2 gallons of water. Use a large container like a plastic tote or cooler. Place turkey in container and let sit overnight. Make sure that your container fits in your fridge. This can be tricky which is why we recommend the dry brine method.

3. Place Turkey in Large Sous Vide Bag

We recommend these large expandable bags.  

Typical sous vide bags will not be large enough. That’s why we love the expandable bags from Food Saver. Of course, you will also need a vacuum sealer, but most sous vide cooks have one already.  

You can add some aromatics in the bag if you like. And a pat or two of butter never hurts.  

4. Cook Sous Vide Turkey 

Set sous vide cooker to 150° F. Cook turkey for 6 – 8 Hours depending on size. For a 10 pound turkey, 6 hours should work very well. Add time for larger birds.  

5. Final Touches

After cooking, remove sous vide bag from the water bath and turkey from the bag. Be very careful, the turkey will be very tender. Place on baking rack.  

Now it’s time for the final touches to make the skin golden brown and crispy. We recommend using your oven, but there are a few other cool options here as well. If you use the oven, bring your over to 500° F. Butter the outside of the turkey with lots of butter – be generous, it’s Thanksgiving. Place turkey in oven for about 20-25 minutes. Keep an eye on the turkey. You are only trying to get the skin crispy. As soon as it turns that gorgeous, golden brown, remove from oven.  

Other finishing options include: searing with a sous vide torch or heat gun.   

6. Present and Serve

sous vide turkey

You will now have a tantalizing and tasty Thanksgiving turkey. Serve and enjoy!

Conclusion

If you want to sous vide your turkey whole, this recipe will deliver tender, juicy turkey that will be the hit of your Thanksgiving meal. There is one more benefit to sous vide your turkey – freeing up your oven. You won’t need to borrow the neighbor’s oven. You won’t have to cook your pies in a toaster oven or juggle your casseroles, when you sous vide your turkey.  

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