The 90 Minute Turkey

There is no real secret in cooking a whole turkey in 90 minutes. It doesn't require a tub of boiling oil or other special tricks. All it takes is a small turkey, a covered baking pan, some water, a meat thermometer and a standard oven. 90 minutes is a short enough time to allow a real turkey to be cooked even for a regular weekday dinner and is a cheap and filling meal as well.

If you want to feed a large crowd, then a 9 or 10 lb turkey won't do. You will need a 20 lb bird and you're going to have to wait hours for it to cook and by the time that the inside is done, the wings and legs will be almost incinerated. A 9 or 10 lb turkey is plenty big enough for a small family and there will still be leftovers enough for everybody to get sick of. A small bird can indeed cook in 90 minutes, or even less, provided that it is prepared properly.

Select a small turkey, the smallest that you can find. Be sure to select one WITHOUT stuffing. If you get one this way, clean the stuffing out and discard it. If the turkey is frozen, be sure that it is completely thawed before cooking. 3 days in the refrigerator is enough, be sure to leave the turkey in its original wrappings.

Prepare the thawed turkey by removing and discarding the neck and giblets (unless you want to do something else with them). Cut away the flap of skin that covers the neck opening and discard it too. Then wash the whole bird and place it on a flat rack in the bottom of a covered baking pan. If you don't have a covered pan, you can use a baking bag but be sure to seal it up before it goes into the oven. If you don't have a flat rack (like one used to allow cookies to cool, then wad up a bunch of aluminum foil to place the turkey on. The object is to keep the turkey out of the water that will be placed in the baking pan or bag. DO NOT STUFF THE TURKEY.

Place the turkey in the pan or bag. Be sure that the body openings are not obstructed. Pour about 2 cups of water into the pan or bag. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast. Put the covered pan or sealed bag into a conventional oven set to 350 degrees. You might want to throw some potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil in the oven too. They will also take about 90 minutes to cook. Set a timer as a reminder to check in just one hour. It might be nearly done by then. This is a good time to start preparing some side dishes. When the thermometer reaches AT LEAST 160 degrees F, the turkey is done. If you don't have a meat thermometer, you'll have to guess and it might be a good idea to cook the turkey a little longer. The turkey will probably be done when the meat has fully pulled away from the leg bone.

The whole concept here is to allow heated air and water vapor (which carries a lot of heat) to circulate around and INSIDE the turkey to allow it to cook from both the inside and outside. The small turkey won't have really thick meat so that the heat doesn't have far to go. It is important that the turkey be fully thawed. If it is still frozen inside, it will take much longer to cook. If the turkey is stuffed, the water vapor cannot circulate through the inside of the turkey and the stuffed turkey will take much longer to cook.

The water is very important. The high vapor pressure of the water vapor inside the pan tends to prevent the internal moisture from baking out of the turkey so that it won't tend to dry out while cooking. The thermometer is important too. It allows you to determine the earliest time when the turkey is actually done so that it doesn't have as much of a chance to dry out from overcooking. When you THINK that the turkey is done, it is a good idea to stab the turkey in a couple of other spots with the thermometer to see if there are any other cooler spots. If the lowest reading isn't 160F, then you need to cook it longer.

When the turkey is covered during it's whole cooking cycle, it won't have that nicely browned skin. However, that never bothered much because I'll be ripping the skin off anyway because the skin carries much of the fat. There also doesn't seem to be much need to pat the turkey down with oil, butter or other seasonings because that will all go right into the trash with the skin too.

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© 2006 George Schreyer
Created 2 Sep 2006
Last Updated November 19, 2006