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Olive Oil and the Turkey

 

By Caroline J. Beck
11/22/2013

During the holidays, turkeys are often a challenge for the occasional cook. But olive oil offers numerous ways to help turn this dry bird into a moist marvel of the Thanksgiving dinner table.

We’ve received lots of customer questions about the best ways to use olive oil during the holidays, so we’d like to share a few of our own tips for making the most of this national tradition using our best extra virgin olive oil.

BRINING: Should I include olive oil when making brine for the turkey?

Any salt-based brine is designed to tenderize poultry meat. It is the salt that retains moisture in the meat by permeating the tough muscle membrane of the bird. The oil won’t necessarily be useful at this stage, so we wouldn’t waste it. It would be more effective to brine first and use olive oil at other stages in the cooking process to infuse flavor.

DEEP FRYING: If I use olive oil in a deep fryer, will I get a better flavor?

The simple answer is that there might be a noticeable, subtle difference, but probably not worth the expense in our opinion. Save your extra virgin olive oil when its flavor will matter more to the final dish. If you really want to experiment though, deep frying is typically done in oil heated to 350 degrees, so you will still be safely below the smoke point of olive oil.

POACHING: Can I poach turkey parts in a bath of olive oil?

You can and the resultant flavor is pretty amazing, but again it’s not terrible cost-effective. We are bigger fans of a modified modern-style sous vide technique because it lowers the expense of using the best olive oil while gaining all the flavor infusion.

If you want to try this sous vide technique, you can use a small amount of our best extra virgin olive oil, so you don’t have to use too much of a good thing. I’ve tried this technique with salmon and can attest the result is fabulous. The biggest difference is that you will need to maintain a low heat for longer as the bird will take more time to cook.

We’ve included three links to techniques and recipes about “home”-appropriate sous vide techniques. In a nutshell, a small quantity of our best extra virgin olive oil is added with separated turkey parts to a Ziploc-style/Food Saver bag and sealed tight without air. Then cooked at low temp in circulating hot water according to the recipe as Chef Maxime Bilet demonstrates in the second link. It will be tender and best of all incredibly moist. We have no experience with any of the recommended equipment from Willams-Sonoma, but the at-home techniques demonstrated by Maxime Bilet are inexpensive and work well.

http://modernistcuisine.com/recipes/sous-vide-salmon-in-the-kitchen-sink...
http://forum.chefsteps.com/discussion/464/method-cooking-a-whole-turkey-...
http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/voltaggios-sous-vide-turkey.html

BASTING: Is extra virgin olive oil useful in the basting process?

For most people, oven roasting a bird is the best way to prepare your Thanksgiving dinner. Extra virgin olive oil can be used in a variety of ways to infuse the bird with lots of flavor.

First, run your hand under the skin and next to the breast meat, gently separating the skin from the meat. Generously oil the area between the meat and the skin. You can take the opportunity to add sage leaves in a pretty pattern (they will be revealed as the skin cooks and turns translucent) or your choice of any herb mixture to add extra flavor to the bird.

Second, slather the outside of the skin with olive oil and sprinkle with salt before placing in the oven to roast. Continue to baste throughout the roasting process. This method will ensure a crackling, crisp skin and happy guests.