Five Things You Don’t Need to Do to Your Holiday Turkey

  • Don’t brine it. For the last decade or so, brining has been promoted as the miracle cure for dry turkey meat. But you know what? Brining turkey is a royal pain. Do you have a container big enough to submerge the bird in brine at a temperature of 38°F for several days? Neither do we. But even if we did, the truth is that brining just fills the bird up with water, dilutes its flavor, and makes any pan gravy taste salty. A salt-cured bird is the way to go.

  • Don’t truss it. While trussing may make your bird look nice and neat, tying the legs together only slows the cooking time. It doesn’t make the bird moister or help it cook more steadily, as some experts insist. In fact, leaving the legs open allows heat to move throughout the bird so that it cooks more evenly and quickly.

  • Don’t baste it. Seriously. Continually squeezing hot juices over the bird not only prevents the skin from crisping, it also causes the breast meat to cook more quickly, which dries out the meat.

  • Don’t stuff it. Filling the bird with your favorite dressing is a bad idea for several reasons. First, there are the safety concerns: by the time the stuffing reaches a safe temperature, 145°F, the turkey will be overcooked. A stuffed bird also takes much longer to cook. Cooking the dressing separately in its own baking dish is the way to go. Not only will it help you get the meal on the table faster, the increased surface area offers more of the crisp crust to go around.

  • Don’t carve it at the table. Sure, you worked hard and want to show off your beautiful, bronzed bird. But taking it apart at the table in front of an audience is too much pressure for even the most experienced turkey chef. Instead, invite your guests into the kitchen to show off the bird as it rests, then shoo them out, and get to work with your slicing knife and carving fork when no one is watching.

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