5 Reasons Your Turkey Always Comes Out Dry And How To Avoid It

person slicing meat on table

Are you tired of eating dry Thanksgiving turkey? Discover the top 5 reasons behind it and learn how to make yours moist and tender. Dig in now!

by Kimberly Pangaro

Feature Photo by RDNE Stock project on Pexels.com

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Thanksgiving is upon us once again and as most American families do, we make turkeys for our main dish. For the rare few who’ve figured out the trick, the turkey will come out moist and perfectly tender, without a hint of dryness. For the rest of us, our turkeys end up so darn dry that we dry heave while trying to swallow! But it doesn’t have to be that way anymore.

As a mother of four and the matriarch of my family… I am consistently placed as the lead chef for our family holidays. Because of that, I’ve spent the last 17 years perfecting my Turkey. So, to help other parents figure out how to make one hell of a turkey, I’m going to share my secret tips and the reasons your turkey is coming out dry. Be sure to check out my before and after!

Are you ready to be named the best turkey maker in your family? Well, let’s get started!

Fully Prepped Turkey – Before Photo. Photo provided by Kimberly Pangaro.
Final Result of Turkey – After Photo. Photo provided by Kimberly Pangaro.

#1 You Used Bread-Based Stuffing Inside Your Turkey During Baking

Stuffing is traditionally made using bread and what is bread great at – absorption! As such, when you use push a bunch of stuffing into the turkey before baking it, you’re essentially prepping the turkey to have all of its delicious juices soaked up into the stuffing, thus making your turkey dry. And because turkeys require long cooking in heated ovens, the heat doesn’t make this side effect any better.

To avoid a dry turkey, opt to make the stuffing in a separate pot. How? Simple. All you need to do to get your stuffing tasting as delicious as your turkey is to use some of the drippings from the turkey pan and place it into the boiling mixture that you make stuffing with. In case that doesn’t help with the stuffing flavor, you can cheat by using Turkey Bone Broth to cook stuffing with, and voila! Good-bye dry turkey, hello super-moist turkey and amazing stuffing!

#2 You Didn’t Coat the Skin Properly

Another factor to consider is how you prep the skin of the turkey. Again, you want to avoid using anything that pulls moisture out of the turkey. You also want to remember to dress the outside of the skin as well as underneath the skin, on the actual meat of the turkey. By doing this, you are ensuring a flavorful and juicy turkey, cooked perfectly.

Here’s what I Use and works 100% of the time: Warm butter to a mushy softness (not liquid). Fold salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, rosemary, thyme, and light brown sugar into the butter, creating a creamy coating that goes all over the skin. I don’t measure seasonings, instead I taste the butter to make sure it’s flavored just right. Then, we cut the skin away from the turkey making small incisions where my hands can fit beneath the skin. I begin layering the creamy butter coating under the skin, and once that’s done, I fully coat the outside of the skin. Using this nifty hack will make sure your turkey comes out golden and moist, with crispy skin!

#3 You Don’t Baste Enough

I can’t say this enough… Baste, baste, baste! Baste the darn turkey like your life depends on it. Most recipes call for basting every 40 minutes, but I prefer to baste every 20-30 minutes. Does it add a little bit of extra time to total cook time? Yah, but it sure does provide a juicy turkey at the end.

Basting Tip: I create the turkey basting juice separately mixing orange juice, turkey bouillon cubes (2-4), turkey bone broth, lemon juice, lemon zest, sprigs of rosemary and thyme. I pour that into the pan (approximately 2-4 cups) that I’m going to cook my turkey in and I allow the turkey to sit in the juice as it roasts in the oven. I use this mixture to baste my turkey.

#4 You Are Not Using Fruits For Stuffing

One of the best ways to keep a turkey moist is to stuff it with fruits. The juices from the fruit naturally provide an aromatic flavor to the turkey and allows the turkey to absorb the juices as they sit inside the cavity.

What To Put In Turkey: Cut up about a handful of apples, lemons, and tangerines. Stuff them into the cavity. Make sure to push them in, allowing for a bit of juice to squeeze into the cavity. Then add a 2-4 garlic cloves, a few slices of onion, and some sprigs of rosemary. To add a bit more flavor, you can season the inside of the cavity with salt and pepper before adding the fruit.

#5 You’re Cooking the Turkey on Too High Heat

Many people make this mistake trying to cut down on the cook time. It’s a big No-No! If you really want to wow your guests with an amazing turkey, you’ll cook the turkey longer and on lower heat.

I prefer to cook my turkey (15-20 pounds) at 325 degrees F for about 4 to 5 hours (length of time will vary depending on turkey weight), or until the inside temperature hits 165 degrees F, or the turkey popper pops. Even when that happens, I will let the turkey sit for another 20-30 minutes at 300 degrees F, depending on the inside temperature of the turkey.

You gotta remember to be flexible with your turkey, and don’t force it to be done based on a recipe. Instead, try to start cooking earlier in the day to allow for ample time to let it cook and rest. Patience is key when it comes to cooking the perfect turkey!

Bonus Tip: Keep the Turkey Covered Longer

Most people say to cook the turkey uncovered first. I disagree, and that’s because I’ve found more success my way resulting in a moist turkey rather than dry turkey, and all it took was cooking the turkey covered first. In fact, I don’t remove the foil covering of the turkey until the last hour of cooking, so the skin can brown. Everyone is different, but this is how I’ve come to make the great tasting, and not dry turkey.

If you’re ready to do the same, try some or all of my tips. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself!

Happy Cooking and Happy Thanksgiving!

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