While there may be a debate in your family over which side dishes to bring to the Thanksgiving table, carving a beautifully roasted turkey is something every holiday lover can agree on. But how do you make sure your turkey has Insta-worthy golden brown crispy skin? Here are a few tips and tricks to make your bird is best in show.
1. Start with a completely dry turkey: After you brine your turkey (a non-negotiable for moistness and flavor), you have to ensure the skin is completely dry. And we’re not talking about patting dry with paper towels. Remove the turkey from the brine, set on a rack in a rimmed baking sheet and place in the refrigerator uncovered overnight before you’re going to roast.
2. High heat and resting: 450F is the right number to start the cooking process. When you’re ready to cook the turkey, set it on the counter to come up to room temperature for about one hour. Doing this takes the chill off and helps with even cooking. About halfway through the rest, preheat the oven to 450F. Once the oven and your turkey are ready, it’s time to prep for roasting.
3. Choose the right kind of fat: Fat promotes browning, and our fats of choice for this job are clarified butter or olive oil. Neither contains water like traditional butter which releases steam when heated and adds unwanted moisture to the skin of the bird. Slather the turkey all over; including under the skin, and place the turkey on a rack set inside a roasting pan. The rack allows hot air to flow all around the turkey for more even cooking and helps the drippings collect in the bottom of the pan to use later in gravy.
4. Play oven games: When the oven is ready, place the turkey on the middle rack and roast at 450F for 30 minutes. This temperature blasts the outside of the bird with high heat to promote crisping and browning of the skin. Then, reduce the oven temperature to 350F and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a thigh reaches a temperature of 165 degrees, about 15 minutes per pound. Reducing the temp ensures the skin doesn’t burn before the turkey is fully cooked.
5. Put down the baster: Many people swear by frequent basting, but continually opening the oven door lets out all the heat and squeezing drippings on the skin will make it less crisp. Just leave the turkey alone until it’s time to test for doneness.
6. No tents allowed: When the turkey is turkey fully cooked, take it out of the oven and let it rest uncovered. Doing this redistributes the juices within the turkey, so the meat is juicy and flavorful. Resist the temptation to tent with foil. Covering your turkey will collect the steam escaping from the cooked bird, and it will drip back on top of the skin, foiling (pun intended) all your crisping efforts. Now you’re ready to carve!
Armed with these simple tips and a solid game plan, you can bring a beautifully roasted turkey to the holiday table that even your judgy Aunt Doris will admire. Happy Thanksgiving!