Jimmy Schmidt's Turkey Secrets:
A Professional Chef's Tips
"It would be difficult to find a chef who looks, talks and cooks as American as Jimmy Schmidt."
To celebrate Thanksgiving, we sought out not just the perfect turkey recipes, but the ideal chef to prepare them. Jimmy Schmidt's Midwestern pragmatism, his sensibilites for using seasonal produce and his natural skills have made him one of America's most creative new chefs, earning him a James Beard Award. At a time when Americans give thanks for our bounty, we applaud his efforts to promote sustainable agriculture and global food issues.
Here, we present professional chef secrets from Jimmy Schmidt, whose Rattlesnake Club and other Detroit-area restaurants have proven his talent for making every meal a piece of art, simply but elegantly. Follow his advice for the perfect turkey, as excerpted from his latest book, "Jimmy Schmidt's Cooking Class: Seasonal Recipes From a Chef's Kitchen." Besides a traditional Roast Turkey, Chef Schmidt prepares a single Turkey Breast with Apple Cider to feed four, and a succulent whole Roast Turkey with Maple, Ginger and Bourbon flavorings—recipes that will make your guests wonder how you became such an excellent cook.
Top Turkey Secrets
Only a few times a year do you cook a bird as big as the traditional roast turkey, so even a good cook doesn't get to practice. I'll show you all the insider tricks for preparing a perfect bird.
- Why it tastes so good: The tender skin can be roasted to a golden crisp while the meat remains moist and fork-tender. The flavor of the bird is concentrated by the combination of initial high heat, necessary to develop the roasted flavor, and the low-temperature penetration necessary to cook the innermost regions delicately without driving out natural moisture.
- Tricks of the trade: There are a number of important techniques for producing the perfect bird, but the most important is the proper cooking temperature. It is essential to preheat the oven to 425—475 degrees F—the hotter the better—and to start the turkey at this temperature for about 45 minutes.
- Preparing the turkey of your dreams: Remove any parts from the cavity and use or discard them. Rinse the bird, inside and out, under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels. Season the cavity and truss the bird with kitchen twine for even cooking. Rub the skin with butter or olive oil.
- Prepare your glaze: Combine maple syrup and a dark alcohol for the best results. The maple syrup draws the moisture from the skin and helps develop a crisp skin. The brandy, bourbon, scotch or such contains caramelized flavor profiles that enhance the roasted flavor (the alcohol is driven off during cooking).
- Prepare your stuffing: Make your favorite stuffing, but I suggest you bake it in an oven-proof dish, not the bird's cavity. Filling the bird with stuffing causes irregular heat penetration; the stuffing may never get hot enough to kill bacteria, which may result in food poisoning. Cook your stuffing separately, adding any extra pan juices from the bird to the stuffing for moisture if you wish.
- Roast the turkey: Start the bird at 425—475 degrees F for 45 minutes, then lower the temperature to 375 degrees to penetrate and cook the bird thoroughly. Baste the bird with the glaze every 20 minutes or so. Cook until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 160 degrees and the juices run clear; the time will vary by the size of the bird. Remove the turkey from the oven and allow it to rest for about 15 minutes before carving. This allows the internal juices to stabilize.
Jimmy Schmidt's Turkey Recipes
- Roast Breast of Turkey with Apple Cider
- Roast Turkey with Maple Glaze, Pears & Bourbon
- Roast Turkey
- Top 10 Turkey Secrets
- About the Book: "Jimmy Schmidt's Cooking Class"
- About Chef Jimmy Schmidt
Jimmy Schmidt's Cooking Class:
Seasonal Recipes from A Chef's Kitchen
By Jimmy Schmidt
$19.95 / Paper
Ten Speed Press
Publication Date: May 20, 1996
Reprinted with permission
This page created 1996; modified November 2006