MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In Minnesota, we raise more turkeys than anywhere. On Thanksgiving, almost all of us eat the bird. However, achieving the perfectly juicy turkey can be elusive. So, how do you avoid a dry turkey and make it juicy?
“We’ve basically got two birds, two parts of meat in one bird,” said St. Paul chef and restaurant consultant Jason Ross. “When you try to cook all at once, the breast is cooked first, and ends up overcooked,” he said.
It’s simple science.
“If you think about it, meat that has bone always takes longer to cook than pure meat alone,” said Ross.
Ross’ solution: pre-searing the legs on top of the stove. He calls it “Tip the Turkey.”
Ross suggests putting butter and vegetable oil in a roasting pan. The oil lowers the cooking point of the bird, preventing it from burning. He says use medium-low heat.
“I take the bird and I cook it on one leg for about an extra 15-20 minutes. Then, I cook it on the back for an extra 15-20 minutes in a pan. Then, I cook the other set of legs and the breast is still raw the whole time,” he said.
Essentially, he’s giving the thighs and legs a head-start, until the entire turkey goes into the oven.
“This is the secret,” he said.
He said it’s really the opposite of how French restaurants used to serve duck, a bird that has a similar cooking challenge.
“They would roast the duck, then a stodgy old waiter would bring it out, remove the breast, then run back into the kitchen to finish cooking the leg,” he said. “They’re doing what I’m doing in reverse.”
Ross said you still have to baste the turkey while you roast it, which is “standard basting procedure,” he noted.
However, simply sticking butter beneath the skin or repeatedly basting doesn’t keep you from making the turkey dry — it may help mask that problem.
“All those ways are trying to counteract that you’re overcooking the breast. I prefer to not overcook the breast,” he said.
Similarly, while cooking a turkey upside down does help keep some of the juices in, “you’re still probably gonna overcook the breast to get the thigh right,” he said.