Every year around Thanksgiving season, the internet is flooded with tips and tricks on how to roast the perfect bird. From the best brine and herb butter spread to the perfect time and temperature, simply roasting a turkey on Thanksgiving seems like rocket science. And yet, while many believe that a 4am wake-up call is necessary to roast the perfect bird, this idea is that a turkey needs to roast Everyone Tag leads to the inevitable Thanksgiving faux pas – a dried-out turkey.
With so much thought and preparation behind roasting Thanksgiving turkey, why does it seem inevitable to eat dry, chewy turkey? Luckily, we asked a few experts for a simple fix so you can avoid that fateful Turkey Day disaster.
“The reason turkey dries out is because the dark meat takes longer to cook than the white meat“, says Chef Rob LevittHead Butcher of Publican Quality Meats.
Want to avoid unevenly cooked meat and roast the perfect turkey? Here are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure your bird is perfectly moist and flavorful this Thanksgiving. And for even more roast turkey tips, also avoid these 17 major ways you’re cooking a turkey wrong.
Methods for making a juicy Thanksgiving turkey
To ensure the turkey cooks evenly without drying out, Chef Levitt recommends these tips for avoiding a turkey travesty:
Spatchcocking your turkey will help it cook faster and more evenly. This is a cooking method that involves splitting up your entire turkey or chicken bird so it can lie flat on a skillet or grill. In fact, one of Ina Garten’s favorite ways is to cook a bird.
Cook the other part of the turkey meat separatelyby removing portions from your whole turkey as it’s roasting, depending on when each meat appears ready. If you separate parts of your turkey as you cook it, rather than waiting for the whole bird to get roasted, you might not get exactly the same “wow” factor on Thanksgiving as putting a perfectly golden turkey on the table. For that reason, however, Chef Levitt offers a third suggestion.
Take the turkey out of the oven before It’s done cooking. Because the turkey is so hot, it actually continues to cook on the counter after it’s removed from the oven. That’s why Chef Levitt – along with countless other chefs – advises that you give your turkey time to rest. To do this, Chef Levitt suggests removing the turkey when the thickest part of the breast reaches 150°; The dark meat will likely be around 155°, if not slightly higher.
Let your turkey sit on the counter for a while before carving it. Anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours is enough, giving you plenty of time to get those Thanksgiving pages ready. Some experts claim that it’s best not to cover the turkey with aluminum foil. Since the turkey is already hot when it comes over or off the grill, covering it essentially locks it in another makeshift oven until you’re ready to serve it. Covering it up can result in your turkey reaching a higher temperature than originally intended and drying out easily.
The type of turkey also plays a role
While the above techniques are good methods for avoiding a dried out turkey, it’s also important to keep the type of turkey in mind. While white turkeys are traditionally bought for Thanksgiving tables across the country, they’re not known for producing the juiciest cut of meat after roasting.
“Turkeys were bred to grow so fast that they now have to be harvested at a very young age to produce the 10-14 pound turkey that most people want,” says Paul Kelly, CEO of KellyBronze. “Being very young when harvested, they haven’t deposited the fat that would naturally keep the bird juicy.”
According to Kelly, a white turkey is typically harvested at 12 weeks, as opposed to a bronze turkey, which is harvested at six months. As the turkey ages, it produces even more intramuscular fat, which helps keep the meat moist as it cooks, rather than drying out.
“Turkey isn’t a very forgiving meat — and once it goes over temperature, it dries out very quickly,” explains Kelly. “A slow-growing bronze breed will cook faster than a fast-growing commercial breed simply because it has more intramuscular fat, which conducts heat through the bird faster.”
To ensure you’re getting the tastiest turkey imaginable, Kelly highly recommends keeping a meat thermometer nearby while you’re roasting your bird.