Tuesday, November 22, 2005

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A data point for frozen turkeys

One of the fiercest debates among the staff here at danieldrezner.com about the Thanksgiving holiday is whether the convenience of purchasing a frozen turkey days in advance outweighs the added taste of cooking a fresh, unfrozen bird.

Angela Rozas has a story in the Chicago Tribune that highlights a heretofore unknown value of the frozen turkey -- in an emergency, it can save lives:

Mark Copsy saw the smoke inside the car, and watched as the vehicle careered into a curb in Northlake on Sunday afternoon. It took him only a moment to realize the horror--the car was on fire, and there were people inside. Copsy and his 12-year-old son ran the half-block to help.

When they got to the car, Copsy, 42, said he couldn't open the door. Inside, he could see an elderly man in the driver's seat. A female passenger sat next to him, her face white. He tried to smash the glass with his foot, but couldn't do it. In his hands, he held a 20-pound frozen Norbest turkey he and his son had just bought for Thanksgiving.

"I said, `Hell, I'll just use the damn turkey.' And that's what I did," Copsy said. He yelled for the driver to cover his face, and used the turkey to smash out three windows.

By then, police and others had arrived at Wolf Road and North Avenue, and together they pulled the elderly driver out of the car.

posted by Dan on 11.22.05 at 10:05 AM


Finally, a really good use for a frozen turkey! As an avid cook I always wonder what the "convenience" of frozen turkeys is anyway--they take up an entire normal-sized freezer, displacing necessities (like chicken nuggets). You have to remember to move them into the fridge where they displace other important items, like leftovers that no one will ever eat, at least by Tuesday AM (there'll still be frozen spots on Thursday, which will contribute to the too dry/undercooked combo dilemma that plagues so many of us). They leak turkey blood all over the fridge (contaminating the moldy contents of the fruit/veg drawers which needed a good cleaning anyway).

Or--and please Drezner readers, do NOT do this--people defrost them overnight in a botulism-broth of warm water in the kitchen sink. Shoot me now!!

On the other hand, if you have the sense to pre-order a fresh turkey from a butcher shop or Whole Foods-type store, pick it up on Wednesday along with all the other FRESH ingredients of the feast, you have only to store it in the fridge one night (preferably in a nice salt brine to ensure moistness). It cooks quicker (be sure to use a meat thermometer, not the pop-up plastic crap) and more evenly--hey, it even has flavor! Who put the flavor in my turkey? Indeed.

posted by: Kelli on 11.22.05 at 10:05 AM [permalink]

Ahhhh, but the frozen turkey is free at the local mega-market when you have your clutch of reciepts. (Or the modern equivalent, the loyalty "supersaver" card) Mine's thawing quietly in the fridge, and tomorrow evening I'm deboning the beast, brining the flash in apple-juice and oranges, and roasting the carcass for an overnight stay in the stockpot. Then Thursday all I have to do is prep the stuffing and shove-both into the oven for a slow roast.

Once you learn the secret of deboning a turkey, you'll never roast a whole one again. Though your children may go screaming from the Kitchen if they catch you in mid-debone-mode. It's like a home-reenactment of the lunch-scene in Alien where the critter busts-out of John Hurt's chest.

posted by: Ted B. on 11.22.05 at 10:05 AM [permalink]

As the case on Long Island last year showed, any weapon that can be used for good can also be used for harm. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, a pack of wild teenagers threw a frozen turkey out of their car, which crashed through another car's windshield and nearly killed the driver.)

posted by: Devin McCullen on 11.22.05 at 10:05 AM [permalink]

I avoid the question altogether through the heretical step of skipping the Turkey. I really don't like whole Turkey.

Why did the pilgrims eat Turkey ? Because they couldn't get chicken. Why don't Americans eat much turkey (except as cold meats and in the occasional sandwich) much of the year ? because it tastes much worse than chicken.

Why do we have to spend so much time putting the turkey in brine, putting gravy over it, stuffing it ? Because its tasteless.

Strike a blow against mindless conformity !! Boycott Turkey and celebrate Thanksgiving with a nice tasty game bird instead !!

posted by: erg on 11.22.05 at 10:05 AM [permalink]

Indeed Erg. If I could persuade my wife that venison (which I believe the pilgrims ate at their Thanksgiving) was a suitable replacement for turkey I'd be a happy man.
Sadly, even if I were to offer to cook the entire meal (as opposed to just the desserts that I do now) she still wouldn't go along with the suggestion.

posted by: Mark on 11.22.05 at 10:05 AM [permalink]

What is so convenient about a frozen turkey? It seems to just add a step to the whole process, while leading to a worse-tasting meal.

posted by: Bernard Yomtov on 11.22.05 at 10:05 AM [permalink]

Such culinary snobbiness, it's unseemly. I've deep-fried frozen and fresh birds, and you can't tell the difference. I guess there are hierarchies in all walks of life, but to be snooty about turkeys seems especially pretentious.

posted by: rastajenk on 11.22.05 at 10:05 AM [permalink]

Mr. McCullen -- when will our government give up the frozen turkey control we so desperately need?

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