This year I was given the mission and responsibility of providing Thanksgiving dinner with its main attraction – the turkey. It was a great honor indeed that my friends believed in my cooking skills enough to trust me with such a task. But then I realized that I’ve cooked many birds in my life of many shapes and sizes, but I have never handled anything like a turkey before, and I have no idea how to cook something of its proportion in my oven…? What to do, what to do? How do I make sure I don’t screw it up? What happens if it comes out dry or, God forbid, undercooked? Thanksgiving will be ruined!
So I started researching roasting methods online and asking chefs that came through COOK’s doors. The result was that I became really confused. Everyone I asked had something different to say on the subject, with a different method that he or she swears by – frying, brining, stuffing, not stuffing, baking with vs. baking without…You get my drift, right? Too many options and too little time.
Then I found the answer to my dilemma. My friend told me that I could order a smoked turkey from “Percy Street BBQ” and if I haven’t tried it yet, it’s an absolute must! A smoked whole turkey is something I’ve never tasted before, and on top of that for every bird you buy, Percy Street will donate one to charity for you. Sounded like a great deal to me, and I was very intrigued by the process of smoking an entire bird.
So I called up Erin O’Shea, Chef at Percy Street, and she invited me to see them in action prepping a daunting 107 turkeys. This is Percy Street’s 3rd year in a row doing the “Turkey Drive,” and this year they truly outdid themselves compared to previous years when less than 50 birds were ordered. The donations this year were shared between two food banks in the city.
As you can see this is no easy task to do. All the turkey sat in a brine overnight before being rubbed with some TLC (salt and pepper, to be exact). Then into the smokers they go for a period of about 2 hours in 225° C. Yeah I was shocked as well that it doesn’t take all day to smoke a turkey, but that’s only if you have a giant convection wood smoker in your kitchen. Percy Street is blessed with two.
Even with the fancy equipment it’s a long and hard process to cook 107 turkeys. Each bird weighs in between 14 to 16 pounds, and the smokers only accommodate around 9 turkeys at a time. And as you can see they’re being carried from the kitchen downstairs to the smokers upstairs, so imagine doing that 100 times over.
The smokers are powered by wood, which means someone has to constantly be there to monitor them and make sure they don’t go off mid-smoking. After they’re out of the smoker the turkeys get chilled and rewrapped. If you ordered a turkey, it came along with cranberry sauce and gravy on the side and instructions on how to warm it and get it ready to serve .The smoking process of all of the turkeys with all the steps I just described takes about 3 days, give or take. The staff of Percy Street worked hard all week to make sure we receive a perfectly executed product and indeed it was! In my opinion it was one of the best tasting gobblers I have ever had, and I highly recommend you don’t miss the opportunity to order one next year.
Thank you, Erin O’Shea for exposing me to the wonders of tasty smoked goods, and next year you can put me down for two turkeys.