Turkey is the centerpiece of Thanksgiving dinners. The National Turkey Federation estimates approximately 46 million turkeys are consumed on Thanksgiving each year, followed by 22 million turkeys at Christmastime.
Turkey makes a pleasing picture on the dinner table. However, some people insist that turkey is their least favorite component of the Thanksgiving meal. One of the biggest complaints is turkey tends to be dry.
There are many reasons why turkey can come out dry. Turkey is a lean meat, and Healthline reports that turkey has slightly less fat in its dark meat than chicken. Another reason why turkey may be dry is due to its poor breast-to-leg ratio. By the time one gets the leg meat to cook to temperature so it’s safe for consumption, the breast meat often has dried out. Seeing how many people dive for the breast meat initially, they could dish up some dry bird.
There are many ways home cooks can prevent dry turkey this Thanksgiving. Consider these turkey-tending tips.
• Brine your bird. According to ScienceBlogs, what causes a human to perceive a food as juicy may actually be his or her own saliva at work. Salty foods may stimulate the production of saliva in the mouth, helping the food to feel much more moist while on the palate. To adequately inject enough salt into the turkey meat, submerge it in a salt brine for a few days before cooking.
• Watch your cook time. It’s important to avoid overcooking the turkey, which will turn it as dry as the Sahara. Some turkeys come equipped with pop-up timers to help cooks gauge when to take them out of the oven. However, a more accurate tool is a digital food thermometer that can be set to go off when the turkey reaches the correct internal temperature.
• Cook the turkey parts separately. As previously noted, the breast meat will likely reach the desired temperature before the leg meat. To fix this, take the turkey out of the oven when it reaches five to 10 degrees before safe temperature for the breast meat, around 165 F. (Remember, the meat will continue to cook while “resting.”) Let guests “ooh and aah” over the picture-perfect turkey. Then cut off the legs and return them to the oven until they are done. Arrange the properly cooked breast and leg meat together on a serving platter.
• Offer condiments. A moist dollop of stuffing, a drizzle of gravy or a scoop of cranberry sauce can add moisture to turkey. This approach does not prevent drying out, but it can make a turkey that has dried out a bit more satisfying.
Dry turkey can put off diners. However, some strategies can harness as much moisture as possible to enhance Thanksgiving dinners.