In our Nov. 3 issue, we asked readers to tell us via e-mail their Thanksgiving Day tactics for lifting the turkey out of the roasting pan. Their answers were too entertaining to keep to ourselves. Here are edited excerpts of some, though we don't necessarily endorse them all:
I roast the turkey on a nonstick rack with removable handles. (The handles have a tendency to slide off the rack when you lift the turkey, so you have to be careful to keep them in place.) Once the turkey is ready, do the following:
1. Put all the dogs and cats outside.
2. Place the platter on which the turkey is to be served on the kitchen floor. Place a wooden chopping board beside it.
3. Remove the roasting pan with the turkey from the oven and place the pan on the wooden board.
4. Select the least-inebriated adult from the living room and ask him to kneel by the platter with either oven mitts or two dish towels.
5. Lift the turkey using the handles on the rack. As soon as it clears the pan, slide it onto the platter. Have your helper keep it from sliding off the platter, using the oven mitts or dish towels.
6. There will be a few succulent pieces of turkey on the bottom of the pan, which have fallen through the rack. These are for the cook -- it's the only hot thing you're going to get by the time you have served everyone.
We usually have a 24-pound bird, and I cook it. At my 100-pound weight, it's not easy getting it in and out of the oven in the roasting pan, so we have two people put the roaster in and bring it out. We've dropped the bird a time or two. But with the five-second rule and plenty of wine no one has minded; it's family, after all. Dad once picked it up by its tail (with the metal thingy that tied the legs and tail together), and it went splat as the metal thingy snapped off. Then there was the time he tried to move the turkey by himself -- turkey, pan and Dad ended up on the floor.
So now we use three people (it helps having a center island to do this so people can stand on opposite sides or adjacent corners). As an engineer I have it all figured out now.
Person 1 (me) uses big, wide five-pronged forks on neck and tail ends.
Person 2 (usually Dad) stands on the other side with large spatulas on the sides of the breasts (under the bird, not sticking into it).
Person 3 pulls the roasting pan out from under the bird when we clear the pan so we can put the bird on the platter next to the pan without one of us burning our arms on the hot roaster pan (been there done that too, and have the scar).
Personally, this year I think I'll get two new pairs of heavy-duty garden gloves. Then Dad and I will just lift it out with our gloved hands. But we'll still need person the to move the roasting pan.
TOM AND DEB HENDERSON,
We've used the following method for several years: Put hands in oven mitts, then put hands with mitts in plastic bags (we've even used Post delivery bags turned inside out!). Lift turkey from roasting pan to platter (or cutting board), then dispose of bags. Ta-daa -- turkey safely moved, hands and other various body parts not burned, mitts clean.
Our twentysomething children decided Thanksgiving 2003 was the year to try deep frying our turkey. The dilemma of lifting the bird and slowly lowering it into a hot kettle of oil was solved by my husband. He has the tool or part for nearly every purpose in his wood shop. As we were cooking our turkey outside on our lower patio, it was easy to hook up a pulley system to the edge of the deck above in order to slowly lower and raise the turkey in and out of the hot oil.
We had a fire extinguisher at hand, but we didn't need it, thank goodness!
I use two oven mitts and simple brute strength. I first use a spatula to make sure that the turkey is free from the rack. Then I just more or less straddle the roasting pan, take firm hold of the bird with the mitts and heave it up onto the platter. Speed and confidence are key -- you can't be tentative for this maneuver to succeed. The oven mitts go into the laundry. I've transferred 20-plus pounders using this method.
My step-mom uses a strange little cloth sling with handles -- it almost looks like a facial mask from the operating room, only much larger. One must remember to put the bird on it in the roasting pan before it first goes into the oven. Works quite well.
Not having a sling, I use a pair of the large, double-tined metal turkey lifters with excellent results.
Suggestion for turkey lifting:
1. Cut a piece of fabric about 45 inches long and 4 inches wide. The fabric should be sturdy and plain, such as cotton or canvas.
2. Tie the ends together.
3. Drape the fabric in an oval or cradle shape across the sides of the roasting pan; the knot should fall in the middle of one side.
4. Place the turkey in the pan and make sure the fabric is spread out under the turkey so you can lift it once it's cooked -- about one-third of the turkey length from each end but also accounting for where the weight will be. (This is your last time to make "adjustments" before it's hot and dripping with juice!)
5. Gather up the fabric on each side and tighten a square of aluminum foil over each end. (When the foil is removed after the turkey comes out of the oven, this will give you a "clean" handhold that isn't covered in turkey drippings. Stuff the covered ends into the pan, next to the turkey, on each side.
6. To lift the cooked turkey, remove the foil coverings at each side, be sure the fabric is acting like a cradle underneath and lift away to the cutting board or platter. Then you can cut away the fabric and pull it out.
Since I gave up stuffing my turkeys years ago, an empty cavity greatly enhances one's ability to move Tom to his place of honor on the serving platter as the roasting pan becomes my arena for crafting the gravy.
I ensure the turkey is relatively free from the rack (if used). I then use a large, heavy-duty, kitchen spoon inserted upside-down into the cavity. The convex shape of the back of the spoon adapts well to the breastbone at the top of the cavity. Steadying Tom with a carving fork, I simply lift him out of the roasting pan and onto the platter. I haven't lost one yet!
My turkey is in the pan breast-side up, on a rack.
1. Put on an apron that covers your torso.
2. Have a long fork (like a barbecue fork) in your dominant hand and a long spoon in your other hand. Have the cutting board next to the pan.
3. Insert the fork into the top of the cavity and start lifting.
4. When the turkey starts to come off the bottom of the pan, use the spoon to free it if needed.
5. Slip the spoon under the turkey and lift with both fork and spoon as you transfer it to the cutting board.
MARIE A. SHERRETT,
To make it even easier to lift the cooked turkey, I spray the baking pan with Pam. When the turkey is done, I use both a pair of tongs and a spatula to lift the turkey from the baking pan. With my left hand, I put one-half of the tongs in the turkey and the other half on top of the turkey. I put a spatula under the turkey with my right hand. With someone's help (if needed), I lift the turkey from the cooking pan, place it on a serving platter and wait for it to "set." Then it's ready for carving.
I grew up in an adventurous kitchen where a number of different cooking (and hence lifting) methods were tried. I came to favor a very simple method. I like to cook my turkey in a large brown paper grocery sack.
Then I drain the sack of oil and juices through a small hole and gently lift the entire thing, sack and all, from the pan and onto a cutting board.
I carefully slice the soggy bag lengthwise and slip it sideways out from under the bird. It's similar to the way cake decorators put waxed paper beneath a cake they are working on, and then remove it after they are done, revealing a clean cake stand underneath.
I use two big forks, the kind that are part of a carving set. I stick one in each cavity and lift the bird to the serving platter. Now if I could figure out the right kind of roasting pan. The heavy duty aluminum ones almost always spring a leak, but who wants to clean a huge messy roasting pan?