Thanksgiving. Although not a pure Man holiday, it has a lot going for it. A day full of roasted meats, festive libations, football, and the ceremonial unbuttoning of the top of the pants before passing out at 3pm in a La-Z-Boy – then waking up just long enough to get drunk for a second time and eat turkey sandwiches. It is one of the more cherished traditions here at MMG.
But let’s examine the roasting of the turkey itself. Does it not seem like something that could and should enjoy a jovial infusion of Manliness? Sure the image of Mom in an apron pulling a perfect bird out of the range is the traditional go-to image of Thanksgiving. But we here at MMG feel that there is room in there for some more Manly gastronomic fowl exploits. BBQ smoked turkey? Awesome, yes, but expected. Deep-fried? Also awesome, and also has an excellent element of danger, but now a little passé. No, we are talking about turkey cooking that will both produce fantastic edibles and solidify your reputation as a Manly prodigy. We have several options for you:
Beer Keg Turkey
If you’ve ever had beer can chicken you inherently get this one. You just need to go bigger. Procure one of those medium-sized mini kegs – Heineken is a popular choice. Cut several holes in or remove the top of the keg and quickly eliminate 1/3 of the beer. This initial step will likely involve bets with other, lesser Men and a rousing demonstration of your legendary epiglottal powers. Deposit six bay leaves (broken up) and two teaspoons dried thyme into the remaining beer in the can. The herbs will provide noticeable flavor and aroma while the steam helps keep the turkey moist during it’s long cooking process. The day before you will have hopefully located and secured a 30-40lb hormone-bloated bird. Impale turkey on keg, leaving the bird to sit supported upright — as you would with beer can chicken. Get the bird on a medium-hot grill set up for indirect cooking. If the turkey is too tall for your grill lid, find a way to prop open the lid and use heavy-duty aluminum foil to cover the gap that’s left. When the thigh meat reaches 160°F (71°C) (about 4-1/2 hours), prepare a simple glaze with two tablespoons brown sugar, two tablespoons ketchup, two tablespoons distilled white vinegar, two tablespoons beer, and two teaspoons of hot sauce. Brush the glaze onto the turkey and cover. After five minutes, brush on another layer of glaze and allow it to cook until the thigh meat registers 170°F (77°C). If you don’t have a thermometer, poke a hole in the turkey with a lightning-fast Bruce Lee finger strike to see if the juices run clear. If the fluid that comes out contains traces of blood, continue to cook the turkey. Unless the blood is from your finger – that really doesn’t tell you anything other than you need to work on your finger strike. Remove bird and keg and place in the dead center of the dining room table. With the deliberate slowness of a showman, slowly disgorge the keg from the bird — hold for applause — carve and serve.
Real Beer Keg Turkey
If MacGyver was stranded in a frat house for Thanksgiving, this is how that mullet-sporting Man-master would bust out a bird. This method utilizes an actual keg as your cooking vessel – making you look either like an out-of-the-box-Man-genius or an old-timey hobo. Gauge the room for which way that is going to go before starting. Next get a half-barrel of your favorite domestic lager. Drink all of it before 10 am. Break out an angle iron grinder, reciprocating saw with hacksaw blade, or a cutting torch. Laugh loudly and publicly as you casually discard your keg deposit and lop the top off the keg like the freakin’ A-Team. (Try and have as many amiable women or bros as possible watching this step – there will be a lot of Manliness on display and it should be shared). Lay three long sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil out on the grass to make a square about 3×3 feet. Pound an 18-inch wooden stake into the ground in the center of the aluminum foil. Place the whole thawed turkey onto the stake, legs down. Then turn the keg upside down and place over the turkey, piling lighted coals on the top and around the sides of the can. Cook for about two hours, or until coals go out. Do not lift can during cooking. Brush the charcoal off of the can, and lift off carefully as some heat may rush out when you lift the can. The internal temperature of the turkey should be at least 170 degrees F (83 degrees C) when taken in the thickest part of the thigh. Flip the keg upright and place the bird back into the keg. Take the entire aluminum drum into the dining room and rapidly invert the keg, depositing the turkey perfectly onto the waiting platter — hold for applause — carve and serve.
Primitive Clay Cooking
If you’re looking for the most primitive, Manliest possible way to cook a turkey, here it is. (Note: you may actually develop a hairy brow ridge and an uncanny ability to knap flint tools after using this turkey cooking method). You’ll have to dig a hole in your yard first for a fire pit – preferably the front yard to impress the neighbors. Get some river clay or clay that has a high sand content. Prepare your turkey on a basic wooden platform that will be sacrificed to the ancient meat gods during this process. After stuffing the turkey with as moist a stuffing as possible (apples, pears, sausage, herbs, bacon, Johnny Walker, the heart of your enemy, whatever), cover it in on all sides with a thick layer of wet clay. Get a fire going in the pit and place the platform with the clay-covered turkey next to the fire for a few minutes so the clay dries a little bit before it gets lowered into the pit. Next, lower the wooden platform into the flames. The platform will burn away as the clay hardens, and the turkey will cook inside the clay. Keep feeding the fire for around five hours. Use a shovel to remove the clay-covered turkey once it’s done. Bring the clay-encased bird into the dining room balanced on the blade of the shovel and place directly on the white linen tablecloth, right next to your mother-in-law’s famous cranberry relish. Then raise the spade above your head like an ancient Norseman wielding a battle-axe and strike swiftly downward, cracking open the clay bird vessel — hold for applause — carve and serve.
Stuffing the Manly way
The Manliness does not just have to be confined to the bird itself. Without question, stuffing could use an upgrade and we have just the ticket. Now, only dudes would actually eat this but it is, in fact, fantastic. Directly from the White Castle website, a stuffing that can actually be made while not wearing a frilly apron. 10 White Castle hamburgers, no pickles 1 1/2 cups celery, diced 1 1/4 tsp. ground thyme 1 1/2 tsp. ground sage 3/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper 1/4 cup chicken broth. In a large mixing bowl, tear the burgers into pieces and add diced celery and seasonings. Toss and add chicken broth. Toss well. Cram that mass of 2am drunken awesomeness up into the vacuous caboose of the bird. Makes about 9 cups (enough for a 10- to 12-pound turkey). Note: Allow 1 hamburger for each pound of turkey, which will be the equivalent of 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound. This recipe goes really well with the method where you have to drink a whole half-barrel. Cook with option one, two or three — hold for applause — carve and serve.
So Man it up this Thanksgiving and do honor to the hardcore pilgrims who inspired this auspicious holiday. Hearty souls that endured the hardships, peril, and near-death experiences that the new world promised – so that centuries later their descendants could know the joy of cooking a turkey in a keg.