Dry turkey is unfortunately a common result when roasting turkey. But it can be easily avoided so that your turkey is moist and delicious!
While there are many methods for avoiding dry turkey, there is one thing everyone needs to do and you probably didn’t know:
Leave it alone after it is done cooking. DON’T CUT IT OPEN right away!
Chefs know to let meat rest, but the rest of us don’t think about it. Your turkey should rest without poking or cutting for 30 minutes to an hour. I know you think that you need to serve it hot, but moist is better and it will still be warm enough.
Cooking your turkey to perfection requires achieving the right internal temperatures. A “must-have” tool is a digital probe thermometer with dual probes.
This handy tool is a life saver. You put one probe in the breast and one in the thigh and each probe has a long metallic wire that will withstand the heat of the oven. Just plug the wires into the thermometer on the counter and it constantly monitors the temp of your meat.
That is the must-do for every turkey. Beyond that, there are many more tips and ideas for avoiding dry turkey, but you first have to understand why turkey is so apt to dry out: Roasting a whole turkey is like roasting two different kinds of meat. The white meat cooks faster than the dark meat.
When people complain of dry turkey it is because the breast meat is dry. Dark meat takes longer to get done and by the time it is up to temperature, then the white meat has cooked too long and will be dry.
If you prepping for Thanksgiving and are wanting to plan ahead for moist turkey, here are some ideas to “google”:
- Brine it to add extra moisture
- Bacon Baste
- Roast it upside-down
- Roast inside a bag
- Foil cover dark meat
- Pre-ice the breast
- Cut off the thigh/legs to cook separate
- Salt under the skin
- Butter on or under the skin
What you need to remember with every idea here is that while they return a more moist result, some of these techniques have other outcomes that you might not love.
- Brining meat can change the texture of the meat.
- If you bacon-baste the breast you will not have a “presentation bird” for the table with a beautiful browned skin
- Cutting off the thigh/legs also ruins the presentation
J. Kenji Lopez-Alt writes a Q&A on turkey-making in this very informative post: The Food Lab’s Definitive Guide to Buying, Prepping, Cooking, and Carving Your Holiday Turkey. We find him to be a reliable food scientist, but with a great writing style that you will learn a lot from!
The best course of action is to always rest the turkey after roasting, and to try other methods until you find something that works for you and makes the meal a wonderful memory for your family!
We get right to the point here at Home Cook FAQ…so you can get back to cooking!