Every year when Thanksgiving season rolls around, the internet is flooded with tips and tricks on how to roast the perfect bird. From the best brine and herb butter spread to the perfect timing and temperature, the simple act of roasting a turkey on Thanksgiving seems nothing short of rocket science. And yet, while many feel a 4 a.m. wakeup call is necessary for roasting the perfect bird, this idea that a turkey needs to roast all day results in the inevitable Thanksgiving faux pas—a dried-out turkey.
With so much thought and preparation on roasting that Thanksgiving turkey, why does eating dry, chewy turkey seem inevitable? Thankfully, we asked a few experts for an easy solution so you can avoid this fated turkey day disaster.
Methods for making a juicy Thanksgiving turkey
To ensure that the turkey cooks evenly without drying out, Chef Levitt suggests these tips for avoiding a turkey travesty:
While the aforementioned techniques are good methods to steer clear of a dried-out turkey, it’s also important to keep the type of turkey in mind. 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 must be harvested at a very young to produce the 10–14 pound turkey most people want,” says Paul Kelly, managing director of KellyBronze. “As they are only in early adolescence when harvested, they have not laid down the fat that would keep the bird naturally juicy.”
The type of turkey also matters
According to Kelly, a white turkey is typically harvested at 12 weeks, versus a bronze turkey which is harvested at six months. As the turkey ages, it produces even more intramuscular fat, which helps with keeping the meat moist instead of dried out when roasting.
“Turkey is not a very forgiving meat—and once it goes over temperature, it dries out very quickly,” Kelly explains. “A slow-growing bronze breed will cook quicker than a fast-growing commercial breed, simply because it has more intramuscular fat that conducts the heat through the bird quicker.”
To make sure you’re getting the tastiest turkey imaginable, Kelly strongly suggests keeping a meat thermometer close by as you roast your bird.