You're going to need a bigger pot.
The first thing you have to do, if you want to cook a Thanksgiving turkey the way chef Jacques Pépin thinks you ought to cook it, is to reach way back into your kitchen cabinet and haul out the sort of caldron you might use to steam lobsters.
Next, adjust your expectations.
We understand if your first instinct is to resist. But proceeding with his recipe will yield a bird with an incomparable balance of crispness and moistness; we're talking about white meat so moist that it stays tender even after a few days encased in Tupperware in the fridge.
So, yes, you're reading this right: Pépin wants you to steam your turkey. He wants you to put that bird in that big pot (you can buy one for about $40 at a kitchen supply store, or use a large covered roasting pan), where hot vapors will melt off its fat. Slicing deeply at key joints — between the drumsticks and thighs, and between the wings and breast — will help ensure that the meat is cooked through.
Then he wants you to roast it, letting the oven burnish its golden surface. Oh, and he'd like you to give it a glaze that combines the tang of vinegar with the subtle fire of Tabasco.
We know: It sounds a little weird. But once upon a time, the notion of lowering a turkey into a fiery lake of oil sounded weird, too, as did the idea of slow-cooking poultry in a plastic bag suspended in a warm bath. Today, though, deep-fried turkeys are a fixture on the American landscape, and high-end kitchens have immersion circulators for sous-vide cooking.
You may feel a temptation to forgo the glaze and opt, instead, for basting the shell of the turkey with copious brushings of melted butter. We mentioned this idea to Pépin, and it seemed to vex him.
“I don't see the point of adding more fat to it," he said. “The glaze works out better."
A central purpose of the steam phase is to drain fat from the turkey so that it collects in the water and can be transformed into gravy.
“I like to leave some fat in the gravy," he said. “It gives some richness to it, but not too much."
Then again, perhaps you're among those who believe that “too much" is one phrase that should never be uttered when it comes to fat, butter and Thanksgiving. If so, carry on as you wish.
The same goes for gravy. If you don't want to let go of your grandmother's revered approach, then opt for what's familiar. We're guessing that Pépin won't be in the kitchen to stop you, and the beauty of this cooking technique is that it matches well with gestures both old and new.