Say-She-Ate Top 10 Secrets to a
Succulent Roast Turkey


Choose Fresh over Frozen: More moisture is released from frozen birds during thawing and roasting compared to fresh birds. This is because ice crystals formed in freezing can actually damage the muscle cells in the meat, leaving you with a dry bird.


Two’s Company: Roast two smaller birds at the same time, rather than one larger bird, when cooking for a crowd. The cooking time is shorter and smaller birds cook more evenly. Don’t have two roasting pans? Grab four disposable ones. Double up layer them for extra support and voila – less clean up too!


Brine Your Bird: Hands down, this will make the biggest difference. I converted to this method years ago and haven’t looked back since. Not only does the meat absorb the seasonings in your brine, but the protein structure of the meat (yes, more science) actually loosens, allowing it to become packed with moisture. No more dry white meat!! Be sure to pat your brined bird dry with paper towel before placing in the oven to whisk away excess surface moisture for nice browning and crisping of the skin.


Season Under the Skin: A nice herb butter rubbed under the skin and directly onto the breast meat will add extra flavour and also baste the bird as it melts. Avoiding dairy? No problem, a nice mixture of dry herbs, black pepper and a bit of oil (skip the salt if brining your bird) will have the same seasoning affect. I suggest sage, rosemary, thyme and black pepper.


Get Out of the Cold: It is essential that you let your bird come up to room temperature before popping it in the oven. Most recipes recommend 1 hour, but I let mine sit out for 1 ½ - 2 hours. Some of that time goes to prepping the bird, so it goes by quickly. This is key to even cooking. If your bird is too cold on the inside, you will end up with dry outer meat and an undercooked centre.


To Truss or not To Truss: Trussing your bird gives it a nice traditional shape and can help with even cooking, but if you truss too tightly, you can end up with under cooked dark meat and over cooked white meat. The legs/thighs always take longer to cook completely than the breast meat does. By not trussing your bird, more air can flow around the legs and help even out the cooking time between white and dark meat.


The Perfect Pan: If your pan is too small, juices can spill over and you will loose great drippings for your gravy. If too big and the sides are too high, the lower part of your bird won’t brown nicely. You want a nice thick bottom, so your drippings don’t burn, otherwise you won’t be able to use them for gravy. A rack to set the bird in is a bonus, but you can also elevate on a layer of peeled and halved onions (flat side laid down).


Turn Things Upside Down: If you are not basting or using an herb butter, setting your bird upside down in your roasting pan for the first half hour will help draw moisture down and around the breast meat, preventing it from drying out too early.


Time is a Guideline: All ovens are a bit different and all birds go into the oven at slightly different temperatures at their core. Turkey cooking charts are a great guideline. When it comes to the last 45 minutes, watch more closely. The best way to ensure your bird is moist and juicy, is not to over cook it. For that you really need an accurate meat thermometer. I love my digital one. I bring my bird out at 165F and let it continue to cook the final 5 degrees on the counter, bringing it up to the perfect temperature of 170F. Juices should run clear with no pink.


Let It Rest: All those succulent juices that you have worked so hard to retain are still all hot and excited, bouncing around like crazy when you first remove the bird from the oven. Be sure to give them a good 15-20 minutes to settle before carving, otherwise at first slice, they’ll be lost along with all that effort!


Want more juicy details to help you become a better cook? Join the Say-She-Ate online community and receive my free recipes, cooking tips and tricks. Sign up on the homepage where is says
"sign up now!".

Food is our passion; we are excited to share it with you.