Every year when Thanksgiving rolls around, the Internet is flooded with tips and tricks on how to roast the perfect bird. From the best brine and herb butter to the perfect timing and temperature, the simple act of roasting a Thanksgiving turkey seems like nothing short of rocket science. And yet, while many believe that a 4 a.m. wake-up call is essential to roasting the perfect bird, this idea that it takes a turkey to roast all The day results in the inevitable Thanksgiving faux pas—a dried-out turkey.
With so much thought and preparation put into roasting that Thanksgiving turkey, why does eating a dry, chewy turkey seem inevitable? Luckily, we asked some experts for an easy fix so you can avoid this fatal turkey day disaster.
“The reason turkey dries out is because dark meat takes longer to cook than white meat“, says Chef Rob Levitthead butcher Publican Quality Meats.
Want to avoid unevenly cooked meat and roast the perfect turkey? Here are some tips to keep in mind to ensure your bird is perfectly moist and flavorful this Thanksgiving. And for even more turkey roasting tips, be sure to also avoid these top 17 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 suggests these tips to avoid a turkey charade:
Spray your turkey it will help it cook more quickly and evenly. This is a cooking method in which the whole turkey or chicken bird is split open so it can be spread on a pan or grill. In fact, it’s one of Ina Garten’s favorite ways to cook a bird.
Cook the different part of the turkey meat separately, removing parts of your whole turkey as it cooks based on when each type of meat appears to be done. Pulling apart pieces of your turkey as it cooks instead of waiting for the whole bird to cook may not give you quite the same “wow” factor at Thanksgiving as you put a perfectly golden turkey on the table. However, that’s why Chef Levitt offers a third suggestion.
Remove the turkey from the oven before it’s finished cooking. Because the turkey is so hot, it will continue to cook on the counter after you remove it from the oven. That’s why Chef Levitt—along with countless other chefs—advises to give your turkey time to rest. To do this, Chef Levitt suggests removing the turkey when the thickest part of the breast reaches 150°. dark meat will probably be around 155° if not a little higher.
Let your turkey rest on the counter for a while before carving. Anywhere between 30 minutes to a few hours will do, giving you plenty of time to prepare these Thanksgiving sides. Some experts claim that it is best to avoid covering the turkey with aluminum foil. Since the turkey is already hot coming off the grill or off the grill, covering it will essentially seal it in another makeshift oven until you’re ready to serve it. When covered, this can cause your turkey to reach a higher temperature than originally intended and dry out easily.
The type of turkey also matters
While the above mentioned techniques are good methods to avoid a dry turkey, it is also important to keep in mind the type of turkey. While white turkeys are traditionally purchased for Thanksgiving tables across the country, they aren’t known for creating the juiciest cut of meat after roasting.
“Turkeys have been 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. “As they are only in early adolescence when they are harvested, they have not left the fat that would keep the bird naturally juicy.”
According to Kelly, a white turkey is usually harvested at 12 weeks, versus a bronze turkey that is harvested at six months. As the turkey ages, it produces even more intramuscular fat, which helps keep the meat moist instead of drying out during roasting.
“Turkey is not a very forgiving meat – and once it’s 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 that transfers heat through the bird faster.”
To make sure you’re getting the tastiest turkey imaginable, Kelly suggests keeping a meat thermometer nearby as you roast your bird.