Like any enormous project, preparing for Thanksgiving can be a hustle no matter how you slice it. It’s easy to forget the things that matter most to you at the last minute. Totally fine if that’s how it shakes out; you can always order pizza if it all falls apart. (Ahem, as long as there’s wine or yummy n/a drinks!) But after all that hard work, you might be annoyed with yourself if you forget about your top favorite T Day things. For us, crispy turkey skin always makes that list.
We reached out to poultry pro Belle English, our test kitchen director, for her top tricks for crisp. (Say that six times fast!) Belle’s never-dry roast turkey recipe is already a five-star hit. Here are her thoughts on the topic:
1. Dry That Turkey!
We’re not just talkin’ “pat with a single paper towel while watching Netflix” dry. We’re talking super-dry. Bone-dry. British humor dry. Get in there with paper towels or a clean, dry kitchen towel and get under the wings, the breast, the legs, the thighs, the neck area, all of it. Even inside the bird’s cavity, as much as you can. It might be counterintuitive since we want you to douse it with butter later, but as Belle says, “Moisture (read: water) is the enemy of crispiness!”
2. Especially if You Brined and Rinsed It!
Did you hear us up there? If you brined and rinsed your turkey (and yes, you should definitely rinse it if you wet- or dry-brined it, as it may otherwise be too salty) you really have to get the bird dry. So dump out any accumulated liquids from the brining process, rinse her off, maybe set her carefully in a colander for a few, dump any liquid out of the chest cavity, and then get to drying.
3. Room Temperature Turkey Is Your Friend
Fortunately, you’ll have time to do all this drying, because you’re letting your big bird come to room temperature before cooking it. Why? As Belle says, “that way, the skin doesn’t seize and tear when it hits the high heat of the oven.” This can take 30 to 60 minutes. Definitely don’t put the turkey in the oven with ice-cold patches.
4. Go High
A good cheffy move with almost any big skin-on low-and-slow roast is to start it at high heat before dropping its temperature. This creates the contrast between hot and warm you need to get that skin to immediately start browning and crisping. We’re talking 425 degrees for 30 minutes before turning it down to 325. “That will help you begin to immediately brown and crisp the skin,” Belle explains.
5. Butter Is Your Bff
Butter is your buddy, pal: We use a stick and a half of it in our beloved never-dry recipe, and the skin on that beauty is out of this world. Not only are you stuffing it under the skin, over the skin, and into every crevice, you’re also basting a lot, every half an hour, until it’s done. The result, generally, is that sort of shatteringly crisp skin that will pain you to watch rest for 20 minutes. (You can do it; it’ll still be epic after the bird rests, which you should indeed let it do to redistribute the bird’s juices.)