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In November of 2014, I ran a cooking experiment. This was a test to see what would happen when the tried-and-true recipe for Skillet Roasted Chicken was applied to a much larger bird: a twelve pound turkey. It seems to be a rite of passage for these amateur YouTube cooking videos to do a Thanksgiving turkey video. I could go into the reasons for it, but why bother – it's really about the fun of cooking a Thanksgiving turkey, and sharing your favorite tips on YouTube. Now, I've had a passion for cooking in cast iron, and I wanted to do a turkey video that was a little…different. The result was a delicious and juicy turkey that roasted in only one hour and five minutes!
Pans needed: A cast iron skillet large enough to fit your turkey. For a twelve-pound bird, I used a Lodge 15-inch (14SK) cast iron skillet.
Preparing this turkey for cooking is very easy, but there are a couple of things to consider. It's possible the weight of this heavy cast iron pan with a twelve pound bird could collapse your oven rack, so you may have to substitute or reinforce your oven with a heavy-duty oven rack.
This is a simple, no-frills recipe. The turkey must be completely thawed in advance, however you do not have to brine the turkey. It's as simple as unwrapping the turkey, washing it off, and patting it dry with paper towels. It can be cooked as soon as you remove the packaging and any additional items included with the bird (giblet bag, neck, plastic brace, pop-out thermometer).
Do not oil or grease the skillet in advance. Simply place it in the oven, dry. Heat the oven and the pan to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
While the pan heats up in the oven, prepare an easy rub for the turkey. I've used a dry rub consisting of:
Any poultry rub or marinade would work here, so be creative!
After drying off the outside of the turkey, completely coat the bird with your rub. Don't stuff the turkey, as stuffing will require a longer cooking time. Don't truss or tie down the bird: leaving the legs free will allow more surface of the bird to contact with the hot metal of the cast iron pan. This will apply extra cooking to the dark meat of the legs, thighs, and underside.
When the oven is at 500 degrees, use heavy gloves or oven mitts to take the cast iron pan out, and place it on a trivet or your stovetop burner. (Be careful – the iron is very hot!) Take the turkey and place it in the skillet, breast side up, so that the legs and underside are laying directly on the hot metal surface. The turkey will immediately begin to sizzle and sear. Place the skillet and turkey in the oven at 500 degrees, and roast it for about five minutes per pound. That's it – you don't have to baste or turn over the turkey, just wait for it to finish cooking.
When the turkey comes out of the oven, check the temperature to make sure the white and dark meat reach 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
Now, I fully admit this is a very basic turkey recipe, with no trimmings or fancy dressings at all; and that was was all I wanted to do here. I'm not going to start telling anyone to abandon their tried-and-true turkey methods and switch to this high-heat roast. This was a lot of fun and it did produce a very good turkey, and I'm glad I did it. It might even be something you would want to try if you have a spare turkey you want to make for dinner for family and friends, but you don't want to spend the entire day preparing and cooking it. If you're in a situation where you need to have a turkey ready – FAST, FAST, FAST – and you still want a delicious turkey that everyone will love, then this is certainly the way to do it: in CAST IRON.
(Although this bird cooked down to the bone, I would suspect a turkey larger than that would start to burn on the outside, while the inside would remain undercooked. I would probably not recommend this method for poultry larger than 12 pounds. A slower roasting method would be more reliable for thoroughly cooking the inside without overcooking the outside.)
A more traditional recipe for slow-roasted turkey (in a cast iron pan) can be seen here: Roast Turkey in Cast Iron