Roasting a turkey in a reflector oven on the hearth is remarkably easy and fuss-free. The bird needs to be trussed, then fixed on the oven's iron spit. Positioning the turkey with the breast side down will help keep the white meat moist, as juices drip down and are captured in the bottom of the demi-barrel.
You'll notice that salt and pepper are optional here; Smithsburg, Md., farmers Sally and John Waltz do not season their Thanksgiving turkey (for health reasons). We tested it that way as well and found the bird was flavorful enough without it.
For this recipe, you'll need kitchen twine and a traditional (not gas) fireplace.
We used a colonial-style tin reflector oven designed to cook meat, made by Backwoods Tin and Copper Co. of West Bend, Wis. (414-463-8042).
Servings: 12 - 14
- 16 to 18-pound turkey bacon (giblet packet removed)
- 1 large rib celery, cut crosswise in half
- 1 large carrot, cut crosswise in half
- 1 medium onion, cut in half
- Kosher salt (optional)
- Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
Use well-seasoned firewood to build a medium fire in the fireplace, allowing some of the logs to burn long enough to turn into embers and hot coals. There should not be full-on flames, as that will cause the turkey's skin to get too browned.
Meanwhile, loosely stuff the cavity of the bird with the celery, carrot and onion. Season with salt and pepper to taste, if desired.
Use kitchen twine to tie the wings and legs so they are close to the body. Insert the oven's iron spit into one side of the oven, then slide the trussed turkey to the middle of the spit, using the two adjustable spit forks to anchor the bird securely. Insert the other end of the spit into the far side of the reflector oven (there's a slot); turn the spit as needed so the breast side is facing down.
Position the reflector oven about 10 to 12 inches away from the fire, with the open side of the oven facing the fire. Roast for 4 to 5 hours, checking for browning as needed by opening the hinged back door of the oven. The turkey is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into a thick part of the thigh (away from the bone) registers 165 degrees; the skin should be evenly crisped and golden brown, and you should be able to easily move the legs and wings at the point where they connect to the body (once you've discarded the twine).
Dislodge the turkey from the spit and transfer to a cutting board to rest for at least 30 minutes before carving. Discard the vegetables in the cavity. Pour the juices from the bottom of the reflector oven into a fat separator cup; discard the fat. Serve the juices, warmed, at the table, or use them to make gravy.
From Smithsburg, Md., farmer Sally Waltz.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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