In the first installment of our Thanksgiving Survival Guide, we told you why turkeys should have fat added to the mix during roasting and gave specific oven temperatures for best results. For Day 2, we’re taking these lessons one step further, to ensure crispy skin and moist meat, with buttering, cloaking and barding.
Turkey Roasting Basics, Part 2
Here are three more ways to protect a turkey from the dry, oven heat, which will send you well on your way to roasting the perfect holiday bird.
Buttering beneath the skin is the second technique, and this one actually helps the bird to self-baste. This treatment is a particularly delicious choice for our free-range organic turkeys. For birds up to 16 pounds start with a well-chilled 1- pound roll of our black truffle butter, you may want two rolls if your bird is any bigger. Slice each roll evenly creating approximately 1/4-inch thick discs. Use your fingers to slip between the skin and meat at the neck opening, gently working up to using your entire hand to ease your way carefully along the breast and leg meat, taking care not to puncture the skin. Then place these black truffle butter discs in an even layer over the entire surface created between the skin and the bird; pat the skin back into place, and season generously with a good salt and freshly ground pepper. Start this bird in a preheated 500° degrees F oven, cook for 30 minutes to sear in juices, then reduce the oven temperature to 325° or 350° degrees F for the remainder of the cooking time. The truffle butter will melt into the meat making it moist and flavorful, as well as brown and crisp up the skin, leaving the delicious bits of black truffle just beneath the surface. It’s not necessary to baste this bird, but of course, you may if you prefer.
Cloaking with butter-soaked cotton cheesecloth is a technique especially good for a heritage or wild turkey. Fold and trim a sheet of cheesecloth to create four layers large enough to drape and cling to the contours of the entire breast. It’s okay to partially cover the drumsticks as well. Stack the four layers together and saturate in a basting mix of melted, unsalted butter and stock or a good, dry white wine; or a basting mix of your choice, and then drape the cloth over the bird.
Brush the entire bird, including through the cloth, with the basting mix. Start this bird in a preheated 450° degrees F oven, cook for 1 hour, basting regularly, and then reduce the oven temperature to 350° degrees F for the remainder of the cooking time. As soon as you have enough accumulated, juice in the pan for basting the whole bird, use it instead of the basting mix. In the last hour of cooking, take the bird out of the oven and remove the cheesecloth, and then return the bird to the oven so that it can brown while it finishes cooking. You should continue to baste about every 20 minutes.
Barding, or covering the bird completely with a thick layer of bacon or salt pork is also a fine, time-honored method to protect the meat from the dry heat. Barding replaces first rubbing the bird with fat, and adds to the pan drippings. If you are interested in watching a video on buttering a bird under the skin or learning more about barding your bird, click here.
1) Put your bird into the oven ‘legs first’, because ovens are often hotter in the back, and the temperature is more apt to fluctuate in the front due to opening the door for frequent basting. This will help the thighs cook faster, and give you easier access to baste the breast, which is the leanest part of the bird.
2) You can stop basting the bird in the last 30 minutes or so, if you want crispier skin.
3) Never cook a bird at temperatures below 325° degrees F.
Come back tomorrow for Part 3 of Turkey Roasting Basics!