Most pros agree that if you’ve wound up with a dry turkey—which happens to both seasoned gobbler handlers and Thanksgiving novices—it’s wise to try to improve your technique next year. But that’s not always helpful in the midst of all that Thanksgiving Day heat and pressure. So here’s how to fix the situation, from a professional.
Add Moisture Back
A dry bird is missing not only moisture, but also fat. Emily McFarren of our Test Kitchen thinks the secret to the game-day rescue is the gravy. Filled with both liquid and fat, it replaces what’s missing. So if your breast meat (which will usually be the too-dry culprit) is a bit lacking, whisk together some stock and gravy, and put big chunks of the meat back in a warm oven so it re-absorbs some of the liquid. You don’t want an oven hotter than 200 or 250 degrees, warns Emily.
Keep Skin Crispy
Also keep in mind that one of the charms of roast poultry is that crispy, crackling skin. So if you employ the technique Emily suggests, just fill the roasting pan to the point where the skin starts. “Leave the skin uncovered so it stays nice and crispy,” she suggests. “Then cover it with foil, put it in the really low oven, and let it absorb the liquid.”
Is your stock a bit thin, and doesn’t seem like it will saturate into that bird? Consider whisking warm butter into it. “I really [making turkey tastier] is the purpose of gravy,” says Emily.
Prevention Is Key
Frustrating though it may be to hear, “I think the key to this is really prevention,” says Emily. “Don’t overcook it to begin with: Brining, a good thermometer, checking it frequently, and really letting it rest before you carve into it will help a ton.” If you want a foolproof (or close to foolproof) recipe, she is crazy for this sous vide turkey recipe from Chef Michael Voltaggio. It makes for a crisp-skinned bird that’s “so moist and tender,” she raves.
Find Thanksgiving table ideas, essential tools and dozens of recipes at the Williams Sonoma Thanksgiving Headquarters.