Seifert’s Turkey Dinner

Bring the holidays aboard with this feast from bluewater chef Bill Seifert. "People and Food Online" from our October 25, 2007, CW Reckonings

October 25, 2007


Cooking turkey in a compact galley oven may require removing the bird’s backbone, a gory task Bill Seifert carries out with the ship’s hacksaw and a winch handle. Bill Seifert

With Thanksgiving less than a month away, cruisers–wherever you’ll find yourselves on November 22–may be wondering if it’s feasible to cook a traditional holiday feast on board. Sailor and chef Bill Seifert has always cooked a Turkey dinner on the second night of any passage, no matter what the time of year.

Seifert kept up this long-established ritual when he was chef on Despedida, a 50-foot Alden 49CB, in the Marion-Bermuda race last summer. “Despite contacting five food purveyors, I wasn’t able to find a large turkey in June,” he says. “Therefore, I had to settle for a 12-pound bird and a 12-pound breast instead of the 20- to 24-pound turkey I normally do. Height is always a problem on any boat oven, and I had to butcher backbones out to reduce height.”

If you can’t find a bird small enough, you can always cut out the backbone, too, “which is a laborious task,” according to Seifert, “generally involving the ships’ hacksaw and a winch handle.” Sound complicated? It doesn’t have to be. He recommends bringing a tape measure with you when buying the bird, so you purchase one that’s no more than 9 inches high.


Seifert also makes many customary side dishes, including stuffing and gravy. And if you’re under way while cooking and conditions are dicey, he has a couple of shortcuts to help expedite the process, outlined in his book Offshore Sailing: 200 Essential Passagmaking Tips ($28; 2002; International Marine, The recipe also includes a cooking tip on using apples and oranges to ensure succulent breast meat, and an amusing tidbit on critical carving instructions that Seifert received from a surgeon.

In addition to the 20 pages Seifert’s book dedicates to galley tips and recipes, it’s an invaluable tome to have on board before you embark on any passage. So wherever you are this Thanksgiving, have a warm and wonderful holiday.

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