How To Keep Your Turkey Juicy

by zesty on November 23, 2011 · 37 comments

Three years ago ( WOW – I cannot believe it has been that long ) I wrote this post on a few tips I have learned on how to keep your turkey juicy.  With Thanksgiving tomorrow for the folks in the United States, I thought I would share some turkey tips again that I have used in the past and present.

Most turkeys become dry for two basic reasons.

  • The first is that the bird is being overcooked. All meat, fish, and poultry dries out if it is cooked too long.
  • The second cause of dry turkey is the way it is prepared and cooked.

What I would like to go over in this next section are some ways that will ensure your turkey stays juicy the next time you fire up your oven.  I think I am about to go against a lot of traditional techniques, so by all means feel free to comment and tell me that I am losing my mind.

  1. Create a bed for the turkey in the roasting pan – I like to use carrots, celery, onion (slice them large and create a flat surface for the turkey.  Place a rack on the vegetable base.
  2. Flavor the bird. When you buy turkeys they do not come seasoned!  Use your favorite seasonings on it  – flavoring the cavity is a great tip and I also like to throw an apple in the neck cavity.  It keeps it juicy as well as adds a nice flavor.
  3. Use a roasting pan three inches deep or less and a rack for even roasting. If the bird sits on the bottom of the pan, or the pan’s sides are too high, the heat cannot penetrate the bird uniformly. Turn the roasting pan at various intervals to further facilitate even roasting.
  4. If you stuff the turkey with a good moist stuffing, the juice from the stuffing will penetrate the bird from the interior and help prevent drying.
  5. For the first 20 minutes, I like to cook the bird at a really high heat (450 degrees).  This will allow the skin to brown on the outside and lock in the juices.
  6. After 20 minutes reset the oven temperature to 325 degrees, and turn the turkey upside down so the breast is on the bottom and add 1/4 cup of low sodium chicken stock flavored with black pepper (this will act as a basting mechanism for the turkey. Since the breast cooks faster than the dark meat and needs less cooking, situating it on the bottom( breast side down) exposes it to less direct heat.
  7. Do not truss the bird. The dark meat will cook faster unfettered and thus reduce the chance of the breast overcooking by the time the dark meat is done.
  8. Don’t bother basting. The meat, covered by the skin, will not absorb the juices. Also by opening and closing your oven too many times you are losing valuable heat.
  9. DO NOT go poking the turkey with a knife or fork to check for done ness.  You will lose valuable juice.  Some folks like to use the pop up meat thermometers which are fine when they work.  I like to use the leg check technique.  If the leg when you wiggle it is very easy to move and the skin breaks the bird is done.  You can also use the 20 minutes per pound rule for no stuffing and 25 minutes per pound for a stuffed bird.
  10. The last step you need to remember is that once the turkey has reached the proper temperature, remove the turkey from the oven and allow it to sit 20 minutes. This is another step that will help keep the meat moist. If you carve the meat immediately, all the juices will run out and the meat will not be as moist as it could have been.

Well that sounds like a lot of tips and alot of writing for zesty.  I hope you like these tips and as I said earlier – they are just my practices and techniques.  I would love to hear all your turkey roasting techniques so readers can get some great ideas in preparation for the holidays.

Have a great Wednesday and a happy holiday.  Take Care!


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