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Nov 6, 2012 02:43 AM

Roasting the turkey: what's more precise than "30 minutes at 500?"

Like everyone else, I'm trying to go for a so-called "perfect" Thanksgiving turkey, with juicy meat and a crisp brown skin. Last night I tried my turkey method on a 7-pound chicken and it tasted terrific, though the skin wasn't crisp and golden. Thanks to a good brine I've nailed the "moist" part, but I'm still working on getting a good golden brown color for the skin. A lot of roast turkey recipes call for a roast at high heat to brown the skin, then lowering the temperature to properly cook it. However, all of these recipes (even Alton Brown) are vague with the initial high temperature roast, as they just say "roast at 450 or 500 degrees for 30 minutes, then turn down the oven temperature to 350." Now, there's a real difference between roasting a 12 pound turkey at 500, roasting a twenty pound turkey at 500, or even roasting a 7-pound chicken at 500. Is there a more exact method for the initial roast to brown the skin?

tl;dr: How many minutes per pound should I roast the turkey at 500 to get a crisp brown skin?

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  1. the 30 minutes at 500 (which I wouldn't even consider, btw) is absolutely strictly for browning the skin -- you're not really cooking the bird at that type of blast-furnace temperatures, you're drying and browning (possibly burning) the skin.

    Use a low-sided pan -- high-sided roasters shield your bird from the heat and keep it from browning properly.

    I've had 100% success roasting my birds at 325F for the entire time -- golden, crispy skin and juicy meat.

    2 Replies
    1. re: sunshine842

      agree with sunshine. I baste often, every 30 - 45 minutes, and the skin is always crispy, perfect.

      1. re: sunshine842

        Agree with sunshine, too. I have tried just about every method of preparing turkey and have returned to the old basic preparation method as it seems to us to be the best.

      2. As sunshine mentioned, the size of the turkey is not important where the high heat is not intended to do anything other than blast the surface. She is also spot on about the roasting pan. I use a cookie sheet for roast chicken, because a roasting pan's sides shield too much of the meat.

        Also, brining inhibits crisp skin. You've got to REALLY dry it off before cooking to have any chance. Have you considered dry salting? Same effect, no liquids. Slather on salt, let it sit on bird in fridge for a day. Adding baking powder to the mix and loosening the skin helps too.

        2 Replies
        1. re: sbp

          I season my birds (chicken, turkey, and the random guinea fowl) with nothing more exotic than a moderate amount of salt, some fresh-ground pepper, and olive oil, and the skin gets beautifully brown and crispy.

          1. re: sbp

            Better recipes involving brining call for drying the bird off the day before, then putting it on a rack over a sheet pan in the fridge overnight, so the cold air dehydrates the skin. On the day of roasting, you can set the cold bird on the counter for an hour or more, with a fan blowing on it.

            Another tip for a browner skin is to give the raw, dry bird an all-over "massage" with a tbsp of mayo for a 10-12# bird, proportionately more for a larger one. There's sugar and egg in the mayo which will aid in browning.

          2. If you really want a nice crispy skin, rub it with some cornstarch slurry and air dry it before roasting.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ipsedixit

              The air drying before roasting seems to be key. You can get crisp skin without it, but if you air dry for a day or so the skin will shatter like candy. I do a dry "brine" starting on Monday (this can be done while the turkey is thawing if you're using a frozen bird). Just slap a bunch of salt on the bird (I usually use 3-4 tablespoons of kosher salt for a 15lb-ish bird), wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and let it sit until Wednesday. On Wednesday, take it out of the plastic, pat it dry and put it back in the fridge, uncovered on a rack, until Thursday. Don't baste while roasting. The skin will rock your world!

            2. Why not pretend youare Barbara kafka and roast it at 500 the whloe time?

              1 Reply
              1. re: C. Hamster

                I have used the Kafka method for several years now. Every year one family member argues that a 15 pound turkey can't possibly cook in 2 hours - it always does and is fabulous. You can google her recipe. Start with a clean oven!

              2. Here's the best instruction for high temp. The eight-minutes per pound may make sense of testing this with a chicken.