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I’m excited to try Chicken No. 4/5 for Christmas dinner. My question is do you defrost the turkey in your fridge completely before letting it air dry for 24 hours? That could take a few days to get ready…
Hi Marlene, you can do a combo thaw/dry for maybe the last day of thawing. Otherwise the bird may get *too* dry. I know this approach with a frozen bird will take a lot of valuable fridge real estate, but I promise it’s worth it.
Yes, three day in fridge natural defrost is best
Hi- Im making a turkey breast this year since it is only 4 of us. Quick question- when I usually let my turkey go into the refrigerator to dry out uncovered, I usually only put on salt. You are suggesting adding olive oil into the mix of salt/spices. Won’t the oil on top of the skin prevent it from drying the skin so it crisps up? I would think the oil would hold in the moisture on the skin? thanks so much.
Hi Alison, Summer says surprisingly the oil doesn’t prevent the skin from crisping. But if you are uncomfortable with it you can just use the herb salt mix and add the oil to the outside just before roasting. Also, she wants to double-check that your breast has skin on it–it’s very important for this method to work. :)
I’ve done just under 40 turkeys in the past 21 years (two for Thanksgiving in most years) and swear by the Reynolds bag method which produces a superb skin. Opening the oven every 20 minutes is an insane waste of time and energy as the temperature goes down like a rock every time.
You MUST, MUST, MUST try cooking the bird breast side down. This has been my go to absolute fail proof method to get the juiciest birds since I was 12! It was a mistake that happened when an emergency happened, and my parents had to go out of town late the night before thanksgiving . I Loved to cook and decided that Thanksgiving would not be ruined or put off for a day, And to surprise my family, I went to work. I kind of knew what to do, and knew how to make stuffing and mashed potatoes. ( if you helped cook and cleaned the turkey, you were exempt from dish duty.
Well, they were so surprised and I Was so proud. My mother didn’t tell me at the time that the turkey was “upside down.” As she wanted me to have all the feels. But, when everyone cut into it and it was THE juiciest we had all ever had, she told me about it being wrong side up. From that moment on… breast side down. All the dark meat on top sends juice down to the breast, breast is just like a tender cup of meat holding all the juices. You don’t get that pretty Martha Stewart golden breast, but, theres tons of crispy skin and we carve and serve it up sliced. Please tell me you will try!
I agree with seasoning the bird well with butter, kosher salt, pepper and thyme. I like butter better than olive oil. I make a paste with the seasonings spreading the mixture under the skin as well cover the outside. Then place in frig for 24 hours. Remove from frig and let warm up for an hour before baking in 425 deg oven to 150 deg temp. Let the bird rest for 30 minutes before carving. I love this method. Try it, you quite possibly will like it!
Baked a chicken today, the 5th method and everyone loved it :) Thank you and Happy New Year!
Hi, Jelena! Happy New Year to you as well! I’m so glad your chicken was a success!
The goal for us is always a crispy skin, flavorful meat and no dry white meat. A seemingly impossible task until you went and did all the work for me. I made the “Bonus” bird for Thanksgiving yesterday and followed your recipe exactly. I always do that the first time I make something a la James Beard and then make adjustments the next time I try to cook the recipe, adjusting for our taste. This was the most flavorful bird, with the best skin (which I’ve saved to make some cracklings to go on top of turkey Risotto as leftovers). The dark meat was cooked to a turn and the white meat was juicy, yet cooked through, and the flavor was superb. Used the pan drippings to make a great gravy. I didn’t have a lot of fat at the outset to baste, but I added a little turkey stock I had made the day before, and it was perfect. Another bonus, by airing the turkey, you can grab the neck, etc. and make your turkey stock the day before. Just an outstanding, five star recipe. Going to try it out on roast chicken next.
Hi, Sherie! I’m so glad this recipe worked for you! Thanks for letting me know! Turkey risotto sounds fantastic!
Hooray! Hearing this makes me so happy, Sherie!
Hi! I did #4 and can’t believe how great it looks. Haven’t tried it yet! Never did the air dry but I’m now hooked. Would love to post a pic but not sure how
Great Cathee! Best way to share a pic is in Instagram, just tag it #simplyrecipes
Hi Cathee! I’m so glad the recipe worked for you! Thanks for letting me know!
I thought that I had learned from you guys – to roast the bird upside down- ? Has that gone out the window?
Hi, Ellie! That’s still a great way to roast a turkey for great white and dark meat! This post is more about getting the crispy skin, which you can also apply to the upside-down turkey if you like. Enjoy!
In my many years of cooking turkeys, I’ve come to the same conclusion that basting is best! I’ve tried every trick in the book to speed up cooking time, make crispier skin, moister meat, etc, but I agree that Grandma knew best! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
What about a boneless, skinless turkey breast? I have one, about 2 lbs, that I intent to butterfly, stuff and roll. Without a ksin to provide moisture, is there any point to dry brining or letting it air dry? I certainly appreciate any advice.
Hi, Marcy! I might skip the brine and air-drying and opt for wrapping it in bacon instead, similar to this recipe. Let us know how it turns out!
what do you think of trisha yearwood’s “no bother no baste” method of cooking turkey?
I’m not familiar with her recipe. I will have to check it out.
I’ve read that basting allows the oven to cool too much resulting in a drier bird. Your thoughts are appreciated!
Hi Stephanie! I read that too, which is why I tested the method. In my test, basting the chicken didn’t have any impact on the meat. It was still tender and full of flavor. Choosing to brine the bird (either wet or dry) has the most impact on the moisture content and flavor of the meat. I highly recommend using a brine. Lots of things are holding heat in the oven — the bird, the heavy roasting pan, etc., the small amount of air that comes out shouldn’t have much of an impact. For this test, basting created a crisp skin, with flavorful, tender meat. Good luck!
Thank you for all your work and testing (and to your family for hanging in there with all that chicken!) After much experimentation over the years, I found that the brining + 24 air drying works well. I just rub melted, seasoned butter over the skin before cooking then follow the Alton Brown method ) high heat for 30 minutes to brown, then lower heat and no basting. Although…I will say that basted chicken looks amazing!
Yum, butter. Maybe I will run a series of tests with butter next year!
I have been drying my chicken overnight oiled and seasoned for years. I “came up with” the idea when I made Peking Duck and thought I could probably get crisp chicken skin using this same method. I was so proud of myself and looked online and realized other people had already figured this method out. Boo as usual I wasn’t the first.
WHEN I PUT THE CHICKEN IN THE OVEN IN 20 MIN.
THERE IS NO JUICE IN THE PAN TO BASTE.
Hi, Phyllis! Try tilting the bird to let the juices run out of the inside. If you still don’t have any juices, you can use chicken broth instead. Hope this helps!
I plan to try this with the local turkey I pick up this afternoon. Thank you for an alternative to brining; I’ve never liked the saltiness or affect of brining on the texture of the meat.
You need to check out Alton Brown’s method of brining then roasting the turkey. A little different approach but I’ve found this to work wonderfully.
Thanks for your recommendation. I will have to check it out.
This is so thorough and helpful for the home cook.
Just brined the turkey now seasoning and it’s air drying in the fridge. I put rosemary and thyme sprigs with some whole peeled garlic, lemon and an orange that I poke holes in and place in the cavity of the turkey, so when it bakes it is getting auto basted from the inside too.
This looks great! Thanks for the great tips especially the one of the dry skin. These photos make me hungry!