We get it — preparing Thanksgiving dinner can be stressful. A standard Thanksgiving turkey is probably three times bigger than any roast you’ll make all year, and there is so much conflicting information about how to cook it properly. It can be tempting to look for out-of-the-box solutions — like cooking turkey upside down — but we’re here to clear up all that confusion and keep things as simple as possible.
If you’ve never heard of flipping and cooking turkey upside down, here’s the idea: For a juicier bird, roast your turkey breast-side down for the first 30–45 minutes of cooking and then flip it back over to crisp up the top. The theory is that the turkey’s juices will gather in the breast, ensuring the juiciest bird ever.
While this hack seems like it makes for a flavor-packed roast, our Test Kitchen agrees that it’s too good to be true. In fact, it’s not even the best way to make a turkey.
Why you should not cook your turkey upside down
When roasting a turkey, your oven is probably set between 375℉ and 400℉. This means there is a hot roasting rack sitting within a hot roasting pan holding up a hot upside down turkey, which is likely at least 12 lbs.
When you’re ready to flip it, do you reach for a wooden spoon and a wad of paper towels? Do you wrap oven mitts in foil? Could there be a safe, easy way to turn your turkey right side up? The answer is no. It’s safe to say that cooking turkey upside down will pose a problem when you try to flip it back up, risking splashing yourself with hot turkey fat or burning your hand on the roasting rack.
Flipping your turkey can take away from your unveiling.
If you’re cooking turkey upside down, we’ve found that the roasting rack can leave unsightly marks and indents on the turkey’s breast. Or worse, you could tear the skin when trying to flip it.
For the most beautiful bird, stick to roasting right-side up. And if you’re looking for some inspo, check out our ultimate Thanksgiving turkey recipes, for everything from a fried bird to a spice-roasted breast.
Brining is the real winning idea.
Learning how to brine a turkey will result in perfectly moist slices. When it comes to brining, you have two options: Rub the bird all over with kosher salt a couple of days ahead (this is a called a ‘dry brine’), or use a salt-concentrated liquid brine (this is called a ‘wet brine’). Our Test Kitchen prefers the less-mess dry brine. Not only does brining your turkey lock in the moisture of your bird, resulting in a show-stopping turkey, it also offers up a seriously well-seasoned Thanksgiving centerpiece (and some epic Thanksgiving leftovers, too!).
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