Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Wild Turkey Bacon

Turkey bacon is probably the worst invention ever. I don’t even understand it. I assume the reason behind it was that someone wanted to eat “bacon,” but was afraid it was bad for them, so they searched out a “healthier” meat. Turkey is super healthy, so it was a no-brainer. Then, to seal the deal on healthiness, they added about a wheelbarrow of salt per 10-ounce package, some laboratory-created chemical mixture that gives off a semi-bacon-like smell, and some nutritious coloring agent in order to dye it in a striped pattern, making it look just like the real deal.

Well played, health nuts. Well played indeed. After all that work, turkey bacon still tastes nothing like bacon, and has the texture of eating a linoleum sample. Next time you buy turkey bacon, just eat the plastic packaging instead. It will be less salty and it’s probably better for you.

Turkey bacon is obviously a horrible idea. Bacon on turkey, however, is one of the best ideas that mankind has ever had.

I have years of extensive and hands-on experience with bacon, because I am very manly, and manly men cannot survive without pork products. Bacon is the very thing that keeps us alive. That, and obviously beer. And nachos. Anyway… I am by no means an expert on turkey. I love turkey, but I don’t know very much (read: anything) about preparing one. Thanksgiving is held at our house now, but my mom still prepares and cooks the bird. Until recently, my closest interaction, besides eating it, was to be in charge of carving it.

Carving a turkey is not as easy as it looks, if you happen to have ever been around one of the four people in the universe who can make it look easy. The apron and carving knife were passed to me from my father the minute we started having Thanksgiving at my house instead of his. It was a moving ceremony, consisting of him saying, “Ha! Now you have to do it. Good luck, buddy!”

When I am finished slicing up an 18-pound Butterball, it looks a lot more like I used a hand grenade than a knife.

“Would you like one of these fist-sized chunks, a few of the pencil-shaped slivers, or a spoonful of the hash-looking stuff?”

Well, just the other day, which was in May, which is nowhere near November, I was forced into learning how to cook a turkey by one of my friends. He called me up and informed me that he had gone hunting and killed a turkey, and it was cleaned and plucked and waiting for me in his refrigerator. My first thought, of course, was, can you cook it for me?, but I didn’t say that out loud. I said, “I’ll be right over,” because I have a strict personal policy against refusing free food.

He wasn’t home when I arrived at their door, but his wife brought me the beautiful 13-pound bird. She is a great cook, so I saw a window of opportunity to gain some knowledge. I told her I had never cooked a wild turkey before, and asked if there were any special instructions.

“We always brine them beforehand, then just cook it like you cook your regular turkeys.”

I just smiled and nodded. “Sounds good,” I said. I didn’t mention that I had no idea what brine was, or what brining meant, and I had never cooked a turkey at all, regular or not. I was really hoping that she would hand me a detailed two or three page set of instructions along with the bird, but I guess that is what Google is for. Off I went with my new turkey.

I called my wife at work on the way home.
Me – “Hey, I just got a free turkey!”
Her – “Good luck with that. Gotta go.”


I called my mom.
Me – “Hi, how are you doing?”
Her – “Can’t talk right now… We’re babysitting your nephew… He never stops moving! Honey, you left the door open!! I have to go…”
Me – “Are you still there? I think you dropped the phone…”


I called my mother-in-law. She was not babysitting. She told me to stuff the turkey with apples and onions and put bacon on top of it.

Bacon, you say? You mean to tell me we can bring bacon into this equation? You are obviously a genius. Continue.

She said two or three strips of bacon across the breast would keep it nice and juicy as it cooked. I love my mother-in-law.

I Googled brining a turkey, which turned out to be a strange way of saying soak it in sugar/salt water overnight. I did that, and the next day I got the turkey ready, but I actually had a hard time pinpointing where the breasts were. Being only familiar with Thanksgiving turkeys, this one was puzzling. It turns out that wild turkeys have small breasts. I guess I should say, it turns out that store-bought turkeys have abnormally large breasts. A Butterball from the local supermarket is the equivalent of the skinny waitress/actress/model that used all her tip money to pay for 36DD’s, while the wild turkey is the super-fit lady at the gym who has her own standard-size breasts, and can bench press your car. Wild turkey for the win!

Once I figured out which side was supposed to be up, I stuffed his hoo-haw full of apples and onions and then it was time to apply the bacon. My mother-in-law had told me two or three slices across the breast. There were twelve slices of bacon in the package. If two or three is good, then twelve must be better, right? Right!

By the time I was finished with him, that turkey was wearing a pork burka. The only exposed skin was on his ankles, as I even spiral-wrapped the drumsticks.

The smell inside the house after the first half hour of cooking made you feel as though you had died and gone to meat heaven. After three and a half hours in the oven, he came out one of the most perfectly cooked turkeys we’ve ever had.

And the best part is, you have twelve strips of perfectly cooked bacon to snack on while he cools down. Perfection.

This has been your Just a Smidge cooking advice column for the year. Use it wisely.
To sum up:

Turkey bacon - Bad. Never use.
Bacon on turkey - Genius. Always do this.
Store-bought turkey - Good bird, appropriate for Thanksgiving.
Wild turkey - Better bird, however involves more work procuring than store-bought variety, unless you are me.
Wild Turkey - Store-bought Kentucky bourbon whiskey. Do not cook. Still pairs well with bacon.
Wild turkey wrapped in bacon – Best thing ever.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2014 Marc Schmatjen

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  1. Marc, Next time, assuming there is a next time, take the cooked bacon off the turkey for the last half hour or so and the turkey skin should crisp up so you can gobble on that, too :) Cheers! Laina

  2. Even more genius. This column might explode from the sheer magnitude of culinary genius being displayed! Thanks, Laina!