Turkey is known to some as a dry, soft meat, but this doesn’t have to be the case.
Many people think covering the bird in foil after cooking it is a way to keep moisture in.
However, according to turkey farmer Paul Kelly, this is actually the worst thing you can do.
The holiday season is upon us, which means it’s one bird’s time to be the star of the show: the turkey.
The trouble is, turkey has a reputation of being dry and soft.
In a bid to keep the meat moist, some people cover their turkey in foil immediately after taking it out of the oven, in the hope that this will keep the juices in.
However, this is actually one of the worst things you can do, Paul Kelly of KellyBronze turkeys — who have long supplied birds to TV chef Jamie Oliver — said at a turkey masterclass in London, which Insider went to in 2018.
“You must never cover the bird,” Kelly said.
He said that covering a turkey when it comes out of the even essentially means it will continue to cook.
“When it comes out of the oven, the thermometer says it’s cooked and it looks cooked, but we all jump on it with a sleeping bag and a load of tinfoil because we don’t want it to go cold,” Kelly said. “That’s an absolute disaster because what you’ve done there is create an oven and the bird will continue to cook.
“Indeed, when you take the turkey out and you leave the thermometer in, the temperature will continue to rise for about 45 minutes. It will carry on cooking so you must never cover the bird. Put it to the side and rest it for at least one hour.”
Kelly demonstrated with a 13-pound turkey, which had been cooked for one hour and 55 minutes. His bird was still 125 degrees Fahrenheit at core after being out of the oven for two hours.
Kelly cooked the bird for a relatively short period of time because KellyBronze turkeys are about six months old when killed versus the usual 12 weeks for most grocery store birds. That means they’ve developed more intramuscular fat, which conducts heat through the meat quicker than a lean bird.
“The tin foil theory is about keeping moisture in, much like brining, using butter, oil, and basting,” Kelly explained. “All that came about when birds were being killed younger and younger and younger. People were taking the fat out of turkey, it was going to be dry and you had to do lots to put the moisture back in.”
Don’t put it back in the oven
If you leave your turkey out of the oven for so long that it gets cold, don’t put it back in, Kelly said.
“If the meat’s a bit tight, don’t put it back in the oven to bring it back up to temperature,” he said. “Carve it and then get your stock piping hot and pour the stock over the meat and that will bring it back up to temperature.”
Other tips to keep in mind:
Add about 9 ounces of water to the bottom of the roasting tin, not to keep the bird moist but in order to create a delicious stock when the juices are released. If the water has nearly all evaporated after an hour of cooking, top it up.
Cook the turkey breast down first because “all the fat deposits of the bird are in the back of a mature turkey, so when it starts to cook, that fat is rendering down through the bird,” Kelly explained. You can flip it over after an hour.
Don’t stuff the turkey. “We don’t recommend stuffing the bird because if you do, you can’t get the heat through it evenly, it can’t cook,” Kelly said. “If you really desperately want to stuff it, maybe just lie some meat or sausage gently in the cavity but you’ve got to let the heat get through the middle.”
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