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Thread: Do I Need To Baste The Turkey?

  1. #1

    Do I Need To Baste The Turkey?

    Help! I want to make a great turkey this year and am looking at lots of recipes, but I'm confused. All of the recipes I see use things like maple syrup, apple juice, soy sauce etc. mixed with about 3/4 cup of butter and the recipes all say to baste the turkey with butter mixture.

    What's confusing is a lot of chefs, the Butterball people, and various articles say that basting is not necessary and that the flavor of the baste does not penetrate the skin and opening the oven slows cooking.

    What is the correct way? Do the recipes that call for so much butter and basting only apply to fresh turkeys....or turkeys that have not been injected with the butter/broth solution like butterballs? If I use a butterball, should I even bother to try making an interesting glaze or should I just throw it in the oven?

    Every single turkey at our grocery store -- not just the butterballs -- say they've been injected with solution and that there's no need to baste. What's the best way to make turkey

  2. #2
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    At my house for Thanksgiving, the turkey always seems to be the last menu item on our minds. We just toss the thing in the pan and roast it for however long is recommended, basting every 1/2 hour or so with the drippings. And it's always delicious. I've never tried it without basting, I honestly don't know if it really makes a difference. I've also never tried any sort of fancy basting concoction, and while I'm sure they're delicious, so is a plain old turkey!

    on the other hand, I recently made Gail's Psycho Chicken recipe (which lived up to all the raves!) and it was a really juicy, tasty chicken...probably because of all that seasoning and basting!

    However, I reallywouldn't worry too much about opening the oven and slowing the baking time...it's never an exact science, anyway, and as long as you don't let the oven sit open for a long time, I doubt it matters.

    So that's my advice from the keep-it-simple-stupid household...but I would be interested to hear about the basting marinades people use!
    Last edited by beckms; 10-28-2001 at 01:27 PM.
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  3. #3
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    No basting in this house! Because I have a convection oven it's highly recommended that I just cover the bird with butter and white wine and roast it til the thermometer signals it's done. The skin browns nicely and the bird is very juicy. I buy an Empire kosher fresh turkey because it's already brined.

  4. #4
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    No basting here! I've learned from Alton Brown's show "Good Eats" about the wonders of brining.

    It really does wonderful stuff to the bird, though I find a turkey more than a bit of a hassle to brine. (Chickens are much easier, just because they're smaller.)
    Anna
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    A fruit is a vegetable with looks and money.
    Plus, if you let fruit rot, it turns into wine,
    something Brussels sprouts never do.
    P. J. O'Rourke, humorist
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  5. #5
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    Leslie- I'm new to the convection oven realm. Do you have to cover with foil? How about the cooking time? I'm sure this is in my owner's manual, but I like to hear the actual voice of experience! This will be my first turkey, first time using my new convection oven, and my first time hosting a major holiday. Thanks for any advice!
    "Life is a cookie."
    Alan Arkin, Grosse Pointe Blank

  6. #6
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    I also don't baste my turkey. I always buy a fresh one from a local farmer, put a little bit of olive oil on it, make a "tent" of aluminum foil, and cook it until it's done. Works for me!
    Chris

  7. #7
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    I always baste my turkey with chicken broth every twenty minutes or so. Not only does it make the most inexpensive turkey taste delicious, but it also makes great gravy. I also use the chicken broth instead of water to moisten the stuffing.

  8. #8
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    Oh Little Bit??

    Did you put all of the spices and fruits in the brine? I thought brining was using just salt water. Sure seems like a lot of work- we baste with white wine, I wanted to try this before the BIG DAY but now with all of the flavors in the brine ... Thanks for your help!!
    "There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats." - Albert Schweitzer

  9. #9

    I'll Probably Do A Butterball

    I wanted to try brining, but all the turkeys at my store are the kind with broth solutions injected for moistness. I think brining might make the turkey too moist. Maybe in November the stores will have just plain old turkeys.

    I think I may just end up cooking a butterball turkey. Simple and easy. Also, there's one recipe on Epicurious that has a simple glaze of red currant jelly and sage. It called for no basting or brining. I may experiment with that.

  10. #10
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    I made a turkey last Christmas following Alton Brown's turkey recipe!! OH MY!!! I finally realized why plain old roasted turkey from the past dozens of years were just so-so. They were DRY!! You know that little pop-up thingy? They're made to pop up long after the white meat is done. D-R-Y!

    I followed the recipe exactly!! I didn't pick out any particular turkey...it was very likely just a Butterball (that included the pop-up thing but I ignored it...just like AB said to do). The brine had ingredients other than just the salty stuff. I'll have to look at one of the websites to see exactly what was in it. I think all that went in the cavity was an apple, an onion and springs of rosemary.

    Big thumbs up for this turkey! It was incredibly tasty...and looked pretty as a picture when I removed it from the oven!! If anyone is thinking about making this recipe, that turkey show is supposed to be shown sometime between now and Thanksgiving. The transcript is on the Good Eats Fan Pages.

  11. #11
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    Thumbs up basting

    From what I have read on the BB, there are many variations on roasting a turkey. I cover mine tightly with foil for the first 2 hours, and then I begin basting about every 20 or so minutes. At that time I tent the turkey and add turkey broth or chicken broth to loossen the browned bits. About an hour or so befor it is supposed to be done, I remove the foil and let it brown and continue basting. You will just have to pick and choosse what method will work best for you. We are purists, and I would not add any other spices to 'kick it up a notch'. I put onion, carrot and celery in the bottom of the pan for extra flavor. Vicky

    One thing I would definetly not do is cook it in a bag. My M-I-L did this once and the whole thing fell apart becausse it steamed instead of roasted.

  12. #12
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    Originally posted by AndreaU
    Leslie- I'm new to the convection oven realm. Do you have to cover with foil? How about the cooking time? I'm sure this is in my owner's manual, but I like to hear the actual voice of experience! This will be my first turkey, first time using my new convection oven, and my first time hosting a major holiday. Thanks for any advice!
    Sorry for the delay in responding. First of all, no I don't cover it. My owners manual doesn't recommend covering it with foil because you want the air to circulate around the bird. The cooking time is a lot less than with conventional mode. I have never kept track of how long it takes because I always use a meat thermometer which I insert in the bird and leave in. But I believe last time I made one it was done in an hour less than the conventional time.

    I would suggest however that you might want to roast a chicken or turkey breast between now and Thanksgiving just so you're not nervous on the big day. I also recommend a brined turkey because they are really moist. And don't baste! Just give it a good covering of butter. Convection really makes a difference.

  13. #13

    Going To Make A Practice "Good Eats" Turkey

    Melman,

    Based on your rave review, I will try the Good Eats Brined version. I have a 10 pound "practie" turkey in the refrigerator, so I'm going to start brining today and make it tomorrow. The turkey I have was frozen and said it was injected with a broth solution. It's not a Butterball, but it's one that says it doesn't need basting.

    The Good Eats Recipe is on a site called www.recipezaar.com. Here it is below.

    1 (16-lb) frozen young turkey

    ---For the brine---
    1 cup kosher salt
    1/2 cup light brown sugar
    1 tablespoon black peppercorns
    1/2 tablespoon allspice berries
    1/2 tablespoon candied ginger
    1 gallon ice water

    ---For the aromatics---
    1 red apples, sliced
    1/2 onions, sliced
    1 cinnamon sticks
    1 cup water
    4 sprigs rosemary
    6 leaves sage
    canola oil

    1 Combine all brine ingredients, except ice water, in a stock pot and bring to a boil.
    2 Stir to dissolve solids, then remove from heat, cool to room temperature refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
    3 Early on the day of cooking, (or late the night before) combine the brine and ice water in a clean 5 gallon bucket.
    4 Place thawed turkey breast side down in brine, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area (like a basement) for 6 hours.
    5 Turn turkey over once, half way through brining.
    6 A few minutes before roasting, heat oven to 500 degrees.
    7 Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick and cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes.
    8 Remove bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water.
    9 Discard brine.
    10 Place bird on roasting rack inside wide, low pan and pat dry with paper towels.
    11 Add steeped aromatics to cavity along with rosemary and sage.
    12 Tuck back wings and coat whole bird liberally with canola (or other neutral) oil.
    13 Roast on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees for 30 minutes.
    14 Remove from oven and cover breast with double layer of aluminum foil, insert probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and return to oven, reducing temperature to 350 degrees.
    15 Set thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees.
    16 A 14-16 pound bird should require a total of 2-2 1/2 hours of roasting.
    17 Let turkey rest, loosely covered for 15 minutes before carving.

  14. #14
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    Basting

    I, too, have read all sorts of conflicting ideas about basting a turkey. I have always basted it in the past but I always assumed that it was to keep the skin looking decent for when you put it on the table. If I don't baste, the skin gets dark brown and dried up looking, but the turkey still tasted great! I guess one solution to that is to put aluminum foil over it because it gets too dark. Another method I read about is to cook the bird in a paper bag that has been sprayed with water to keep it from burning. It always seemed to me that I made it more complicated than I needed to but the meal always came out great. The worst thing that can happen is to allow the turkey to overcook. I use an instant-read thermometer and take it out when it is within 5 degrees of it's temperature because it continues to cook after it comes out of the oven. Sorry if I droned on for too long.

  15. #15
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    That's it!! Exactly. I've never heard of that web site so I'll need to go poke around in it.

    The one thing that sticks out, especially if you didn't see this show, when he says to use a neutral oil (like Canola), be SURE to do that! You want to use an oil with a high smoke point. Since you start the bird cooking on 500 degrees, anything with a low smoke point will have smoke pouring out of your oven.

    I like that practice bird idea. ;-)

    PS....hopefully, you'll have better luck cutting it. My dad was the one who *butchered* my turkey last year!!! If I do it again this year, I'm bringing my own knife!!!! :-) "Ahem...that doesn't look like the way Alton Brown said to carve it!!" My dad: <grunt>

  16. #16
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    Am I the only one who uses an oven bag? I never baste - just throw the Butterball turkey into a Reynold's oven bag and it comes out juicy, falling-apart delicious every time.

  17. #17
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    Nope

    Never basted, comes out great. I tent for half the cook time then remove.
    In the beginning, God created man, but seeing him so feeble, He gave him a dog

  18. #18

    Currently Brining!

    Well,

    The turkey is in the brine. One thing I noticed about that recipe is it says put all the first ingredients into a saucepan to dissolve the solids. With no water, the sugar just burns. I added a bit of water to the saucepan to dissolve everything.

    I'm also nervous about the cooking at 500 degrees and then 350 part. Part of me wants to just chicken out and roast it at a slow and steady 325 for 2 3/4 hours.....its only a 10 pound turkey. But then, I guess the whole point of the Alton Brown recipe was to do a very high heat, right?

    Aggie, I have a Reynolds Cooking Bag here too and I've used it many times. The meat always tastes fine to me, but some people say it makes the turkey taste "steamed".

  19. #19
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    Re: Currently Brining!

    Originally posted by claire797
    I'm also nervous about the cooking at 500 degrees and then 350 part. Part of me wants to just chicken out and roast it at a slow and steady 325 for 2 3/4 hours.....its only a 10 pound turkey. But then, I guess the whole point of the Alton Brown recipe was to do a very high heat, right?
    Oh Claire, test your oven first!! Please!! I followed Alton Brown's recipe two Thanksgivings ago before I realized that my oven was equipped with the 'Thermostat From Hell' and I couldn't trust the dang thing. I did the 30 minutes at 500 degrees and opened the door to find a charred black-skinned turkey! I was so freaked!! I was crying and whining to DH that Thanksgiving was ruined, but he convinced me that it was only the skin, and that since it was just the two of us, what did presentation of the turkey matter? It DID taste wonderful, but the look was awful! Please test your oven at 500 degrees to make sure that it's REALLY 500! I agree with Alton about the extra-hot heat in the beginning keeping a turkey moister, but you don't want to set the smoke alarm off like I did!
    ~ "The right shoe can change your life...."- Cinderella ~

  20. #20

    Roasting at 500 Degrees

    Yikes! That's what I'm afraid of. I will test the oven and am going to watch to turkey very closely. Since it is a practice turkey, I guess if the outside chars it will be okay. We used to live in an apartment with a central smoke alarm and I would not have even CHANCED the smoke thing, but I think now that we're in a house and I've got a good fan we'll be okay.

  21. #21

    House Smells Like Smoke....

    Well. I just finished the roasting at 500 degree for 30 minute part of the recipe and I've managed to set off the smoke alarm and burn my thumb. So far though, the bird looks beautiful. I have about an hour and a half to go.

  22. #22
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    Claire...

    How did it go, besides the burn?
    "There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats." - Albert Schweitzer

  23. #23

    Good Eats Recipe Was Awesome!

    Aside from setting off the smoke alarm, the Good Eats turkey was delicious. The brine really gave it a lot of flavor and it was tender and juicy. I'm going to make it again but cook it at 325 for about 3 hours rather than use the high heat method. One good thing about the high heat method was that the whole bird was cooked in 2 hours!

    At any rate, brining works wonders. For my next turkey experiment, I am going to brine a breast only.

  24. #24
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    Claire797...I couldn't remember why Alton Brown said to do the 500 degree oven for 30 minutes, so I checked the transcript. Here's what he says:

    I start my turkeys in a ripping hot 500 degree oven because you
    need dry intense heat to brown the skin.

    and he continued with:

    Actually 'low and slow' is no way to go. 'Low
    and slow' the fat layer just melts and rolls off
    without browning the skin. Longer cooking time
    means dryer meat. No. You go 500 degrees for 30
    minutes, then you slap on the turkey triangle, drop
    the heat to 350 and cook until the probe
    thermometer says 161. Then you rest it, you
    carve it, you eat it and take a nap.

    I remember when I did it last year, I think my smoke alarm was just a puff of smoke away from going off.....I had the "official fanner" ready to go. {The 'official fanner" was whatever cardboard-type material I had nearby!} But my turkey was absolutely beautiful after the 30 minutes...all it had to do after that was to cook the inside. My probe thermometer made this whole cooking experience almost like a game. The canola oil is very important and should help keep down a little of the smoke.

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