There are lots of tricks for keeping the meat moist, like brining and deep-frying. Both of those methods return a juicy result but are time-consuming or require special equipment and knowledge. If you’d like to roast a deliciously moist bird without the time or equipment investment, try these tips for an easier route to buttery birds.
Butter Up The Breasts. Some recipes call for brushing the breasts with melted butter or soaking cheesecloth in butter and laying it across the breasts for the duration of the roasting process. The trouble with these methods is that the butter bakes off the skin pretty quickly so the added fat, which is intended to moisten the meat, runs right off the breasts and ends up in the pan juices. I’ve found more merit in gently sliding several tabs of butter under the skin and directly onto the breast meat. It melts more slowly and bakes into the meat, keeping it moist.
Baste the Bird. Even with the added butter it takes some time for an average turkey to emit enough juices to give the bird a thorough basting. I use store-bought turkey or chicken broth for basting during the first couple of hours. After that time there’s always sufficient juice in the pan to give the bird, and any exposed stuffing, a good moistening. Frequent and thorough basting keep the breast meat juicy, so I make sure to saturate the turkey every 20 minutes using my turkey baster.
Give Him Shelter. Tenting the turkey allows the skin to turn a beautiful and crisp brown without drying the meat. I make a foil tent high enough so it rests above the bird without touching the breasts. I securely press the two sides down onto the roasting pan and leave the top and bottom open so air can circulate. I usually remove the foil during the last 30-60 minutes of roasting. I let the coloration and the touch of the skin guide my timing. If it needs more crisping, I remove the foil sooner.
Time Your Turkey. Following the package directions on temperature and timing is the best way to keep from overcooking and drying out your turkey. If you don’t feel confident that you’ll know for sure when the bird is done, buy one with a built-in pop-up timer. Or buy a timer you can insert into the bird. You’ll find them in the seasonal aisle with the turkey basters and trussing kits.
When you’d rather not spend an entire day to roast and baste a big bird, consider wrapping a turkey breast in bacon and grilling it over some smoking chips. Applewood tastes especially good for Thanksgiving.
If you want to go really micro with cooking time and poultry product, try the Tiny Turkens recipe in Easy Weekly Meals for College Students. It uses stuffed individual Cornish hens. They are easy to prepare, cook quickly, and taste delicious.
Whichever option you choose, enjoy juicy, flavorful food for your Christmas dinner!
Photos courtesy of Easy Weekly Meals