Steaming a Whole Turkey

Joined Oct 27, 2015
I'm looking for tips or first hand experience when steaming a whole turkey, or other ideas on how to cook a whole bird. I am expat living in South Korea and sadly have no sizable oven (or BBQ for that matter).. This will be my second time hosting Thanksgiving dinner and I would love to see if anyone has any fresh ideas. Last year, I steamed a whole 16lb turkey on the stove top (yes I have a giant pot!) and it turned out pretty decent, though I now know it doesn't take very long to steam an entire bird. I'm looking for ways to enhance the flavor as last years bird was pretty bland. I'm open to trying just about anything!

Let me repeat, I have no oven or access to a large oven. While I plan on steaming it, I'm open to other possibilities as well. I have stove top burners, a microwave, and a small small small convection oven that fits about 4 cupcakes. I plan on using the small oven to cook sides, so that pretty much leaves me with the stove top. 

I've done a fair share of google searches, but the vast majority of them use an oven at the end. Any and all help is very appreciated, thanks in advance!


Staff member
Joined Jun 11, 2001
Salt the water for one.  Create a sauce for the turkey?
Joined Apr 3, 2008
If you can nix the idea of cooking the turkey whole you can have a lot more flavorful options besides steaming.  Even if you create the most aromatic steaming liquid possible, chances are it's not enough to really penetrate the bird.  And serving steamed turkey for Tday doesn't sound all that appetizing to me, even if it turned out flavorful and even if you use a blow torch to give the skin a golden color.  

You could deep fry it as is customary for many americans but doing this indoors could be very dangerous and catastrophic.  

Personally if I was in your position I would not attempt to cook the bird whole.  I don't even know why this is so desirable because it cooks so much faster and more evenly when it is cut into parts or spatchcocked and if you google "carved turkey platter presentation" you'll find some beautiful ways to present a carved turkey.

Anyway, keep the turkey in parts and then you could fry them like fried chicken, or make a turkey coq au vin.  You could even cook it whole in a dutch oven if the bird is small enough and you turn it a couple of times.  

Alternately you could buy a roasting oven that sits on the countertop but these tend to be just as expensive as a real stove and not as good.
Joined Aug 21, 2004
How heavy of a construction is your steamer pot? Could you use it without water on the stove top in which case it would basically be an oven? Or same principal to become a smoker for the day?
Joined Jul 28, 2001
I think if all I had was a stovetop I would definitely smoke the bird. Put some foil in the bottom of the pan, then add your woodchips and other ingredients if you like. Tea, star anise, spices etc. Then lay another piece of foil over that to catch the drippings. Then use any type of grate to lift the bird whole or cut up. Put it on the stovetop and secure the top with foil so smoke can't escape. Just turn the heat on under it. Smoke it for a half hour or so. To finish cooking the bird I would replace the chips and spice with water to steam until cooked. Maybe even repeat the first smoke after it has steamed for a darker skin and wonderful flavor. Just google some wood, spice, fruit blends.

Just me though.


Joined Jul 5, 2013
There are many options out there for countertop cooking appliances that perform multiple tasks from toasting bread, to baking, making pizza and rotisserie functions.. A pressure cooker might be another option, or a newave (?) Appliance.


Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
Pepin likes to steam his bird before roasting, so there's probably something to learn from his technique.

Rather than roasting to the finish, maybe steam to completion then give it some grilling for surface color and flavor. 

For a steam then grill finish, a whole bird is problematic. I'd do the bird in parts, then lay them together for presentation to mimic a whole bird.  Cut out the back bone, remove the legs intact. This leaves you three peices which have different cooking needs anyway so you can remove them legs when they're done and the breast when it's done. They'll also fit on small grills nicely for the final browning stage. 

Deconstruction instructions here:

You can watch them do it as well for the deconstruction and the plating to mimic a whole bird (mostly)

Joined Oct 30, 2015
I tried a goose last year instead of a turkey and was blown away by how amazing it was.  It beats a turkey for flavour, palatability and juices.  It was only size where it lost out but now I always go for quality over quantity.  I got it fresh from Great Clerkes Farm and loved every mouthful.
Joined Jul 22, 2015
At the risk of being a little sacrilegious with respect to Thanksgiving turkey cooking methods, would you consider poaching it ala Singaporean Chicken Rice ? The turkey will be moist albeit a little bland, but nothing a decent chili-lime-garlic sauce won't fix, and you'll have a 'soup' (the poaching liquid) to serve it with. Easy to do ahead of time, which is handy when people are over, leaving you time to do plenty of side dishes.
Joined Oct 31, 2012
Brine the turkey first. Coat the bird with spices you like, under the skin too before steaming.

You can also poach the turkey. Add aromatics and spices to the water.
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