Can you make an entire Thanksgiving turkey in the sous vide? The answer is 100% yes, AND we would definitely do it again.
This is not the typical turkey most of us are used to getting at our Thanksgiving dinner. You know, the kind while being asked if it is too dry, you shake your head NOOOO and say, “it’s perfect.” Meanwhile, you are secretly strategizing how much gravy you can pour on without taking the whole boat.
This is nothing like that turkey. This sous vide turkey is moist, tender, juicy, and sure to be a party pleaser.
Our aim was to have a semi-traditional whole turkey that we could carve at the table. Of course, you can get better results if you were to separate the turkey (white and dark meat) and cook it at the desired temperature for each. But that’s not what we’re going for here. Combining our previous experience, we decided to go with a spatchcock turkey (to avoid filling the cavity with liquid, thereby saving time), dry brined overnight, and sous vide the day of.
We finished our bird in a hot oven. However, it could probably be finished in a deep fryer … for those of you who are allowed to try by your significant other.
For the full video and the recipe to a smashing sous vide cranberry sauce, check out Kind of Cooking on youtube:
Time and Temperature
We found that cooking the bird at 65.5C/150F for 6 hours is the perfect combination. Leaving the bird in for 6 hours results in an extremely tender turkey. Also, cooking it at a temperature of 150F is the sweet spot for juicy, delicious Thanksgiving turkey. Just make sure you have a reliable sous vide that accurately regulates the temperature of the bath or your results may vary (check out the Anova or Joule). If you want to explore other time and temperature options, check out our cooking guide here.
How to Spatchcock the Turkey
Spatchcocking is a preparation method that involves removing the backbone of the turkey from tail to neck so that the bird can be opened out flat. This method results in a shorter, more even cook.
The first step is removing any innards that come inside the turkey. Next, use kitchen shears to cut out the backbone, from tail to neck. Remove the wishbone – this helps with carving later. Last, flip the turkey and press down on the chest to flatten the bird. Check out a step by step guide here.
If you don’t feel comfortable spatchcocking the turkey yourself, your butcher will be happy to do it for you!
Dry Brining the Turkey
Dry brining is the process of using salt to draw in water to the turkey, providing moister meat during the cooking process, with added flavor.
To dry brine, first separate the skin from the meat using your fingers, or other blunt utensils. Try your best to not break or tear the skin, you can make small incisions with a small sharp knife if necessary. The most important part is the breast, we recommend to do it with the thighs and drums as well.
Dry brine the turkey by salting between the skin and the meat all over. Use your hands to rub it into the meat. Once salted, place the turkey onto a wire rack over a baking sheet and dry brine uncovered in the fridge overnight.
Sous Vide Machine – This one is obvious. To cook sous vide, you’re going to need a device to precisely regulate the temperature of the bath water. The two best sous vide machines in the game right now are the Anova Precision Cooker and the Breville Joule.
12-quart Container – Given the sheer size of a 10 lb turkey, I highly recommend buying a large plastic container for this cook. I recommend a 12 quart Rubbermaid container, as it is BPA free, sturdy, and large enough for just about anything you will be cooking.
Container Lid – If you are going to buy a plastic container, I highly suggest buying a compatible lid for it. When you sous vide for a long duration, the heat of the water causes evaporation. With a lid, it eliminates a majority of the evaporation so you can cook for hours care-free.
FoodSaver Rolls – Finding a bag that can fit a 10 lb bird is not an easy feat. The best solution we found was to use the FoodSaver Expandable Rolls. You’ll still want to double bag since there may be sharp bones that could pierce the bags.
Baking Rack Pan – Having a quality baking rack pan for this recipe is essential. Setting the turkey on the baking rack is key because all the juices and drippings fall down into the pan, which allows the bird to get an excellent sear in the oven. USA Pan offers the best quality and price, which is why it is our favorite pan brand.
Check out our full list of recommended gear here.
Foolproof Sous Vide Thanksgiving Turkey
- 8-12 lb turkey, spatchcocked and dry-brined
- Kosher salt for dry brine, approx. 1 tbsp per 4 pounds
- 1/4 cup fresh sage leaves
- oil or melted butter (enough to cover turkey)
7 hours prior to your planned meal time, set the water bath to 150F.
Brush off excess salt from the dry brine, and place the turkey into an expandable vacuum bag. Make sure the skin side is against the smooth side of the bag. Add sage leaves to the bottom side of the turkey, then seal the bag. It’s best to double seal and double bag as there may be sharp bones sticking out.
Cook in the water bath @150F for 6 hours.
Preheat oven to 500F.
Remove bag from bath and immediately transfer to an ice water bath to shock chill the turkey.
Remove the turkey from the bag, saving the juices for gravy or stock. Place on a wire rack, brush with oil or melted butter, then into a preheated 500F oven.
Cook turkey until golden brown, approximately 30 minutes. Rest for 10 minutes, then slice and serve. Enjoy!