Vacuum Pack Your Thanksgiving Turkey



How to vacuum pack and sous-vide cook the perfect Thanksgiving Turkey



The feast

Before you start reading, this is a bit of a long post, but it’s about the most important food holiday of the year, so we better get it right.


The celebration

Time flies and we have reached November again, the Halloween costumes have left the scene and we are looking forward to our national food day, also known as Thanksgiving. The last Thursday of November is food lover’s day.


If you love to cook this must be your favorite day of the year. If you love to eat, no difference, if you love both, you’re most probably drooling for the next few weeks.


Fact is: Food lovers love Thanksgiving!


We may watch a game of football as well, but the celebration which is by tradition saying, ‘Thank You’ to God after a good harvest, has all and everything to do with good food.

George Washington made it a celebration of gratitude to independence and the ratification of the constitution, but feasting on food during Thanksgiving never changed.


So, when it’s cooking time, even only once a year, we make the best of it.

The vacuum pack equipment

The best tools to help you with just that are your vacuum sealer and your sous-vide immersion cooker.

You will make an unforgettable turkey with these two pieces of equipment that you can find here:


Elite vacuum pack sealer  for USA and for Canada.

Sammic Portable Sous Vide Circulator Machine

The vacuum pack method

You may be aware that the conventional method of pan-searing or grilling a whole piece of meat heats the meat from the outside to the inside. This means that the outside section of the meat is cooked while the inside is still raw.

By the time that the inside section of the meat reaches the temperature required to be cooked, the outside section has been exposed to more heat than it needs to cook and is thus overcooked.


This may not be too big an issue for smaller pieces of meat that are suited for pan-searing, but when it comes to bigger sized meats, like a whole turkey, it is.

If you cook a whole or parts of a turkey like legs, breast and wings, at an even controlled temperature, you have the perfect method for a perfect turkey.


We also know that breast meat cooks differently from leg meat, so if we cook them separately from each other, we must be able to achieve perfectness.


This is not all rocket science, it has been tested many times, but too many of us think that a turkey has to be seasoned, roasted in an oven and carved.

Once done so, it looks goods but when served we see a dry overcooked breast part and the sides of the legs completely hardened up. The experience of having a whole bird on the table is undeniable there, but there is no divine eating experience. How nice would it be when these two could go together.


Sous- vide cooking makes the perfect bird for you, the whole bird or parts that are later combined into a magnificent dish.


The crispy golden brown crust we love is no issue and will be created after the bird is perfectly cooked, but first things first.


First of all, we need to separate the legs from the crown and this no easy task. Ask your butcher to do this for you and while he is at it, ask him to remove the leg bones as well. Your bird is almost ready to go.


Because we are talking Thanksgiving, I will describe a 14 pound bird here which is sufficient for 8 adults.


We have a crown with wings and two de-boned legs. Brining the breast meat is good as it keeps the breast meat nice and juicy. What we are looking for is juicy meat and a crispy skin.


Some brands supply turkeys that are factory brined, check the packing or ask so you don’t double brine. Brining is nothing more than injecting some salt water in the breast meat and if you use an un-brined bird, you will need water, salt and a syringe to inject. The ratio is 500 ml water and 25 gr salt, mix this well so the salt dissolves, pump the brine at various spots in the meat from under the skin.


To get the skin crisp, we need to dry is first, pull the skin as tight as you can around the meat and place the crown in the fridge, leave it there overnight.


vacuum packed roulade


The roulade:

  1. Now the leg roulades, turkeys have very strong and though tendons at the end of the drumsticks, carefully remove those with a sharp knife.
  2. Place a leg with the drumstick side pointing to the right on a chopping board.
  3. Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the legs followed by a filling of herbs, (sage, parsley, thyme) or any other filling you like, but don’t make the layer too thick.
  4. Roll the legs length-wise into rolls, transfer the rolls onto a piece of cling wrap, roll the leg rolls in the cling wrap and tighten the rolls by making knots on both ends, this will give you a nice round shape.
  5. Place the rolls in the fridge and allow cooling, the cooling will firm up the legs.


The next day:

  1. Pre-heat your water bath to 151F and an oven to 250 F
  2. Place the leg rolls in two different vacuum bags, leaving the cling wrap in place, vacuum seal the rolls, sous-vide cook for 3 to 6 hours. 3 hours will give a nice juicy texture with bite and 6 hours will give a more ‘braised like’ texture. Either ways or anything in between will be great.
  3. Meanwhile place an oven rack on top of an oven tray, place the crown on top of the rack and bake in the oven to an inner temperature of 145 F, this will take around 2 to 3 hours.


We are using two cooking techniques here, oven baking and sous-vide cooking.

For one will this make the dish even more special and secondly the crown is quite big and many may not have equipment that is big enough to accommodate the crown.

If you do have the possibility to sous-vide cook the crown, vacuum pack the crown and cook at 151 F for 3 to 6 hours also.


thanksgiving 2            thanksgiving 3


The finishing:

  1. Remove the roulade from the water, open the vacuum bag and remove the roulade.
  2. Cut the knots, made on the cling wrap away with scissors, slide the roulade out of the wrap.
  3. Pat-dry the roulades and allow resting for 5 minutes.
  4. If the crown is oven baked, baste the crown with juices, collected on the tray a few times, about 10 minutes before the crown is cooked.
  5. If the crown is sous-vide cooked, remove from the water and the bag, allow resting for 5 minutes also.
  6. Heat an oven to 475 F
  7. Heat 2 or 3 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet to medium heat, add the roulades and fry golden brown and crisp in 4 to 5 minutes rolling them around the pan.
  8. Brush some melted butter on the crown and bake for ten minutes in the oven.
  9. When the roulades are brown and crisp, allow resting for another 5 minutes.
  10. Remove the crown from the oven and allow resting for 5 minutes.
  11. Carefully remove the two breasts from the crown, slice them and return the slices to the carcass
  12. Slice the roulades and arrange around the crown.
  13. Serve with side dishes made while the bird was cooking


It all takes a bit of time and effort, but then again it for the most important food holiday of the year and believe me, it’s worth it.

For CHEFTALK:   Marinus Hoogendoorn



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