A Michelin-Starred Chef Reveals The Trick To Stop Your Turkey Going Dry

Victoria Chandler

From Delish

There's nothing worse than your turkey going dry. After all, it's the most important food day of the year, and your family 100% expect a table piled high with roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings and even the perfectly cooked sprout is enjoyed.

But your turkey is the star of the show, the pièce de résistance, the dish that everyone has been waiting for. So there's guaranteed pressure, and in the words of Ru Paul, "whatever you do, don't f*ck it up."

And one of the biggest challenges when cooking your festive bird is to make sure it doesn't dry out. Because nobody, and I repeat nobody, wants to eat slices of turkey that taste like they're chomping down onto meaty pieces of cardboard.

Michelin-starred Chef Tommy Banks, Chef Director of The Black Swan at Oldstead and Roots York, reveals the best way to avoid this mistake, is to cook the breasts and thighs separately.

Yep, because the brown meat has a longer cooking time than the breast, it's best to separate the two so that the thighs can have longer cooking time while the white meat rests.

“When roasting the whole bird, the key is to cook the legs longer than the breast," Tommy says.

"Once the breast is cooked, remove the legs and put them back in the oven. This stops the breasts drying out."

Other top ticks for roasting a turkey:

  1. Choose the right size turkey. Buy about 500g turkey per person.
  2. Adjust the cook time based on the size of your bird. A 5 1/2 - 6kg turkey needs 3 to 4 hours in the oven. But a 3 1/2kg will likely only need 2 hours 45 minute. Read our full explainer for more info.
  3. Bring the turkey to room temperature. While the oven is preheating, bring your bird to room temperature. This ensures even cooking.
  4. Use a roasting rack, Though you don't technically need one, a roasting rack allows the air to circulate around the bottom of your turkey in the oven, which means that soggy skin is way less of a risk.
  5. Start with a super hot oven, then reduce the temperature. We like to blast the turkey with extremely hot heat (230°C) for the first 30 minutes to get the skin really crispy, then we drop the temp to 175ºC so that it doesn't burn.
  6. Use more butter than you feel comfortable with. Before the bird goes in the oven and while it roasts, add A LOT of butter. It's key for crispy, flavourful, golden skin.

Brining your turkey is also great for maximum flavour. A proper brine will set you up for success and a dry brine takes a little bit of thought but not that much extra work and you'll end up with a turkey that's juicy, flavourful, and has extra crispy skin.

We like to dry brine our turkey for around 2 days before. This gives the salt plenty of time to soak into the meat and start tenderising your bird. We tend to use about a tablespoon of salt for every 1.8kg. We also mix in a tablespoon of sugar to help crisp the skin even more! It won't taste sweet but will make a big difference.