Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Dutch Oven Roast/Braise Turkey

I’ve enjoyed cooking turkeys for celebration for a long time. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, etc... One thing I really like about turkey is that there are so many ways to cook it. Roasted, deep fried, smoked, etc, there are a million ways. I was surprised, then, to hear about another, different, way to do it in the Dutch oven. A roast/braise!

A braise is where meat is cooked in a certain amount of simmering liquid. It’s usually done in smaller pieces. In this case, I did the entire turkey, and combined the techniques of roasting and braising.

14” Dutch oven

14-16 coals below
16-20 coals above

1 10-12 lb turkey
garlic powder

4 cups apple juice (with no additional sweetener)
juice of 2 lemons
4 cups water or stock

zest of the lemons
4-6 potatoes, sliced
4-6 stalks celery, diced
3-6 medium onions, diced or sliced
2-4 sweet peppers, diced
3-5 cloves garlic, minced

I started out with the turkey, thawing it overnight. Usually, I’ll brine a turkey by putting about half to 3\4 of a cylindrical package of salt into a drink cooler, along with a 16 oz pac of brown sugar. I put in a little hot tapwater and dissolve it, then add a lot of cold water, enough to float and cover the turkey. Then I’ll soak that overnight, thawing and seasoning the bird.

I did that this time, but, because of the braising, I’m not sure it’s totally necessary to brine. It does need to be thawed, however.

The next day, after lighting up some coals, I drained the turkey and patted it dry. I also pulled out the neck and giblets. Usually, I save these for stockmaking.

I got out the Dutch oven and put the turkey in, resting it right on the base of the oven. I sprinkled on pretty liberal amounts of the seasonings and herbs listed above, and rubbed them into the skin. I put the lid on and set the Dutch oven to the coals.

Much of the effort in cooking this dish is maintaining the heat. It was cold out, so I spent much of my time indoors. I used a timer set for every 20 minutes to remind myself to refresh the coals on the oven, and replenish the coals in the chimney.

Once the oven was heated up and cooking, I prepared the braise. I started by zesting the lemons, because it’s very hard to zest a squeezed lemon. Then I mixed the apple juice and lemon juice. I mixed gradually, tasting along the way. I wanted a good balance between the acid and sweet. Once I’d found it, I poured it into the Dutch oven and added the water. You could use stock, but I found the cooking turkey turned the liquid into a pretty rich stock anyway.

After about 2 to 2 1\2 hours of braising and roasting, the turkey was at about 150 degrees. I chopped up the veggies in the next set of ingredients, stirred them up, along with the zest, and added them to the Dutch oven on either side of the turkey.

Adding in all those veggies will, of course, throw off the cooktime. After about another hour, the turkey was approaching 160. That’s getting close to done, but I find that I’m more certain of done-ness at about 175 or even 180.

Here’s where the full braising comes in. I took the bird out of the Dutch oven (carefully, to keep it intact) and did a very basic carving. I cut off the legs and the thighs, and separated them. I sliced the breasts off in chunks. I took off the wings, too. I could see, as I was carving, that the meat was juicy, succulent, but not quite fully done.

That was fine, because the final step was to lay the meat back in the Dutch oven on top of the broth and veggies to do a full braise.

At that point, it’s a good idea to start setting the table, because it will probably only need another 30 to 45 minutes to get to full doneness.

Oh, let me tell you, when you serve up the sliced meat in a bowl with the veggies and the flavored broth, it is incredible!

And you can use the bones and remaining meat with the neck and giblets for stock.

Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.


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