A turkey on the table

Top Chefs Tell All: How To Get The Best Crispy Skin On Your Turkey

The Thanksgiving Turkey is a labor of love. The roasting and basting and seasoning — all of which is imparted on the turkey day bird so that it looks and tastes terrific.

However, achieving that crispy skin is a critical part of the Thanksgiving experience. Juicy, flavorful and with a slight, salty crunch, it could be considered the pièce de résistance of Thanksgiving’s main attraction.

“I like to air dry the turkey overnight before roasting. Place your turkey on a rack on a baking sheet and leave it uncovered in the refrigerator the night before Thanksgiving. The cold air from the fridge dries out the skin and ensures crispy goodness and moist meat,” explains Chef Jamie Gwen.

Thomas Harkins, executive chef, Bank & Bourbon and Loews Philadelphia Hotel, says that he also air dries his turkey but also adds a little something special to it.

“It’s very important or the skin is going to be like a rubber tire. The best thing to do is to brine it a few days ahead of time and let it air dry for at least one-and-a-half days in fridge so the air can dry out the skin,” he says.

Added Chef Nini Nguyen, salt and drying are the keys to Thanksgiving success on her table.

“I like to season my turkey with lots of salt the day before I cook it and let it hang out in the fridge uncovered for at least 18 hours. This makes the meat flavorful and the skin gets dry so when you roast it, it gets a beautiful brown color and it’s so crispy that everyone will want a piece,” she says.

To flavor the turkey, Gwen says that she rubs her turkey with an herb butter which she spreads between the skin of the bird and the meat. This not only adds layers of flavor, but also contributes to the appetizing dish.

Harkins, too, uses butter to help develop a more mouth-watering Thanksgiving meal. He notes that he melts it and uses a brush to baste the skin.

Unsure how to get the crispiest skin ever? Dana Murrell, principal chef at HelloFresh has offered step-by-step tips to ensure your poultry perfection:

  • Always start with a dry bird. Rinse turkey thoroughly inside the cavity and exterior once thawed. Completely dry the whole turkey with a paper towel.
  • Next use some form of fat to slather the skin and infuse flavor (and bonus — extra moisture!). This can be in the form of an infused butter (herb and garlic, smoked salt and pepper, or something spiced like Old Bay), mayonnaise or sour cream. Aim for a layer about 1/4 inch thick oven the entire turkey top.
  • Don’t worry about covering the turkey in foil. But covering the bird in foil you are encouraging steam to form, resulting in soggy skin. Roasting low & slow uncovered means the bird will cook thoroughly and skin will crisp — just be sure to time accordingly. This tip also applies to after it is cooked and resting before serving. Don’t cover with foil until ready to serve — chances are it’s been cooking for at least five hours so it should be plenty warm even 30 minutes after coming out of the oven.

And, says Gwen, you shouldn’t have to use the broiler to achieve that crispy, golden perfection. She says trying a spatchcock turkey can help keep the inside juicy while giving you the skin crisped to your preference.

“The last few years, I have been making a spatchcock turkey (where the backbone is removed). I call it ‘flat out’ and it cooks quicker, gets super golden and crispy-skinned and tastes delicious because it’s never dry,” says Gwenn.

Harkins, however, says a broiler is fine to use for a bit if you feel like you want a bit more char on your bird, but keep your eyes on the prize.

And, while some people are all about the perfect skin, Chef Wolfgang Puck warns home cooks to make sure they don’t lose sight of the inside of the bird. If that’s dry, no amount of skin is going to save your holiday dinner.

“Turkey is not about crispy skin, it is about cooking it just right so the breast stays moist. It is more important that the turkey stays juicy,” he says.

To make your Thanksgiving dinner complete, Puck is pairing wine with turkey and all the trimmings on November 19th. More information can be found here.

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