Standing in your kitchen on Thanksgiving Day, watching the prized turkey roast in the oven, it’s common to feel the need to do something. Sauces needs whisked, potatoes need mashed, heck, even vegetables roasting in the oven need turning every once in a while. It's our natural impulse to want to be involved with our food as it cooks. So, what do we do on Thanksgiving? We open up the oven door, pull out the bird, admire the bubbling fat and the sumptuous scent, grab our trusty turkey baster and ogle as those liquids cascade down the bird. Then we close the door and smile, content in the knowledge that we’re doing our part to help it along.
Except, in reality, basting a turkey doesn’t accomplish anything, except for making us feel good. It's one of the common mistakes home cooks make.
If you’re looking to make the meat juicier, drizzling fat over the skin (which is waterproof) won’t accomplish much. It will just drip back down into the pan. And if you want your skin to be crisp and crackly -- adding moisture to it will make that crackling skin less likely.
And to make matters worse, every time you open the oven door, you let out heat, which means that it’ll take even longer for your bird to cook, causing it to dry out instead of becoming the beautiful bird you were hoping it would become by basting.
So, resist the urge to whip out that turkey baster; doing so is a common Thanksgiving mistake. Basting a turkey may be satisfying in the short term, but your turkey will suffer for it. What should you do instead?
Brine your turkey, pat your turkey's skin dry with paper towels before roasting it, season the inside and outside of your turkey generously with salt and pepper, stuff the cavity loosely with aromatics and let the oven do the rest of the work for you. Trusting in your skills as a cook and leaving the turkey alone until it’s done cooking is just one of the ways to make sure your turkey comes out absolutely perfect.