ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Grandpa Al’s Turkey - A Great Recipe For The Big Bird

Updated on February 25, 2010

The Tasty Combo

A Big Turkey Like No Other

My father-in-law, Albert used to wait tables at a Chinese restaurant up in Harlem, New York when he was young. He was such a nice character even the chefs there liked him. This is unusual, because cooks always deem themselves superior over the waiters and scold them whenever there is a chance. But Albert was different. With his smarts, energy, charm and English skill (a big deal amongst blue-collar Chinese workers), he actually won the respect of those once snobby chefs. So every Thanksgiving and Christmas, much to the delight of my wife and her siblings, Albert was able to bring home a very tasty turkey complimentary of that Chinese restaurant.

As you know, turkey itself is not very tasty; and its breast meat may be tough to some if you don’t cook it right. Perhaps that’s why people make stuffing and other condiments to make the feast more enjoyable. Grandpa Al’s turkey is different. The chefs mixed several kinds of unique Chinese goodies as marinade to make this bird like no others out there.

Albert had since retired, but the tasty Chinese flavored turkey never stopped being served. Grandpa Al was now the chef. The marinade sauce was the same or perhaps improved, and the cooking and serving methods remained somewhat unchanged – he would place the bird on a rack in a large roasting pan with a small amount of water on the bottom; roast it at 350oF for four to five hours; baste the turkey with the juice that has dripped down into the pan; make gravy with the juice; and dip the meat in the gravy before serving, etc.

The family was growing when I joined them years later. Perhaps because I had shown enough interest and a certain amount of talent in cooking, Albert decided that it was time to pass the torch and showed me all the stuff.

For a couple of years, I tried some different variations, such as using a variety of herbs instead, but quickly got vetoed. The family loved Grandpa Al’s turkey – no contest!

By now, this family had grown to around fifteen hungry mouths and counting; a big bird no less than 20 pounds was always necessary to feed them. The sheer size of the turkey posed a challenge for me trying to keep the white meat tender and juicy. Using the normal roasting technique would expose the big bird to high and dry heat for hours, risking drying up or even burning the breast while leaving the inside of the thighs uncooked.

After some research, I figured out a different approach. I love vegetables and wouldn’t consider a meal complete without some. So veggies were what I wanted to put in the mix. I lined the bottom of my very large roasting pan with the most common items: onions, celery, potatoes, carrots, etc., plus some dried Chinese black mushrooms for extra flavor. Then I laid the 20-plus pound turkey – covered with Grandpa Al’s marinade, inside and out, top and bottom – directly on the bed of veggies. Finally I sealed the whole pan tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil before leaving it in the refrigerator overnight ahead of the big day.

This method yielded an unexpectedly pleasant result: it cut the cooking time almost in half! Concerned that the heat might need an extra push to penetrate the aluminum foil, I initially set the oven temperature to 450o and lowered it to 400o after half an hour. Two hours later, I was surprised to see that the internal temperature of the bird, as indicated by the inserted meat thermometer, had almost reached the recommended level of 180o F. So I unwrapped the pan, lowered the oven temperature back to 350o and basted the turkey with the very rich gravy from the bottom of the pan for the next 30 minutes until the big bird was done.

That was an instant success. The turkey looked good, and it was all cooked.

“This is actually pretty good!” declared one brother-in-law, who had never been a fan of turkey.

“So tasty! How do you do that?” inquired another brother-in-law, an Italian fellow who has tasted many a turkey in his day.

And a guest who came for Thanksgiving begged for a doggie bag...

Of course, it had to get approved by the master. “It’s so moist and tender” was the judgment. The torch was officially passed.

Every now and then I asked: “How do you guys want the turkey this time?”

“Just make it exactly the same.”

Grandpa Al’s turkey is that good.

Now, in case you are interested, I am writing the recipe down so you can try it for yourself. You may need to visit an Asian grocery store for some the ingredients.

Grandpa Al’s Turkey

Guaranteed to Be Juicy and Tasty

The Bird

A large turkey, 20 pounds and up preferred

If frozen, make sure to thaw in refrigerator 4 – 5 days prior to marinating

The Marinade

Hoisin (or Hoy Hsin) Sauce 1 jar (appr. 15 oz)

Ground Bean (or Black Bean) Sauce 1 jar (appr. 13 oz)

Fermented Bean Curd 1 jar (appr. 12 oz)

Ginger Root (fresh) 10 oz

Garlic (fresh) 2 large bulbs

Scallion (fresh) 2 bunches

Chop and mix all ingredients in food processor, remove to large bowl and set aside.

The Veggie Bed

Carrots 4 medium

Celery 8 outside stalks

Onions 2 large

Potatoes 4 medium

Chinese Black Mushroom 1 handful

Thoroughly clean and cut all veggies into desired bite size, mix and set aside.

The Roasting Pan

16”L x 14”W x 4”H or larger, non-stick preferred.

The Preparation

  • Line bottom of roasting pan with veggie mix;
  • Thoroughly rinse turkey, remove excess fat, pat dry with paper towels and place on veggie bed;
  • With hands, rub marinade onto turkey, back side first, then cavity and breast side. Try to get as much marinade under skin as possible. Make sure entire turkey is covered with sauce. Allow turkey to partially submerge in veggie bed but not touch pan;
  • With heavy-duty aluminum foil, tightly cover turkey and roasting pan;
  • Insert meat thermometer into inside of thigh, toward center of turkey;
  • Leave turkey in refrigerator overnight.

The Roasting

  • Preheat oven to 400oF, place roasting pan in oven and set timer to 21/2 hours;
  • Check thermometer during last half hour as cooking speed may vary;
  • Remove turkey from oven when it reaches 170oF, carefully remove aluminum foil and replace turkey in oven;
  • Lower oven temperature to 350oF, periodically basting turkey with gravy from veggie bed for next half hour or until thermometer reading reaches 180oF.

The Carving

  • Use sharp knife;
  • Remove wing and drumstick sections first;
  • From side, cut into breast meat horizontally along thigh level;
  • From top, cut down vertically along breast bone. Both breasts will come off easily.

The Serving

  • Place each whole breast on serving plate and thinly slice meat against grain. Keep slices in form;
  • Lace cut meat with gravy yielded from veggie bed and serve;
  • Garner vegetables from veggie bed and serve as side dish;
  • Cut dark meat off legs and thighs, etc. and serve as desired.

There you have it, Grandpa Al’s turkey! Remember that this is home cooking, and I always advocate flexibility in home-cooked meals. Nothing has to be exact, that is. So use your imagination, use alternatives wherever you see fit, and more importantly, surprise yourself and your guests!


Click thumbnail to view full-size


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)