How to Baste a Turkey

All of the juicy details, including how often to baste a turkey.

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September 06, 2022

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Photo by: Tetra Images/Getty Images

Tetra Images/Getty Images

There are certain time-honored traditions around cooking a turkey. Like brining it. Or basting it. But what exactly is the point of basting? How, precisely, do you baste a turkey — and how often? We get into all the juicy details (har har) below so that you’re completely prepared come turkey day.

What’s the Point of Basting?

Basting has a two purposes. First, it ensures the juiciness of your bird’s chicken breasts. How? When you baste the breasts with the liquid in the bottom of the roasting pan, the liquid slows down the rate at which the breasts cook so they’re not done before the thighs. Second, the fat in the cooking liquid caramelizes and turns the skin evenly golden brown and crispy. To be clear, you don’t have to baste your turkey. You can still get juicy meat and crispy skin without basting. Basting just scores you extra quality points. More juiciness + crispy skin = win, win.

How to Baste a Turkey

Now that you’re all intrigued, here’s how to do the deed. Open your oven, carefully remove the roasting pan, and close the oven quickly so too much heat doesn’t escape. Then use a baster (or a spoon, but more on that below) to drench the breast meat in the cooking liquid. Place the roasting pan back into the oven. In the last hour of cooking, you can baste the turkey in additional melted butter or olive oil instead of the pan juices to really make sure that skin turns golden brown.

How Often to Baste a Turkey

Most recipes will tell you to baste your turkey every thirty minutes. But our rule of thumb is actually every forty minutes, and here’s why. You don’t want to open the oven too many times, or else the whole bird will take much long to cook, and that’s a huge inconvenience. Basting every forty-five minutes is just the right balance between reaping the benefits of basting but not cooling the bird down too much.

What You Need to Baste

Traditionally, you baste a turkey with a turkey baster. But if you don’t have one, or you don’t want to use up drawer space with a tool that you only break out once a year, you can also baste with a large spoon or ladle. Carefully spoon up those juices and pour them back onto the bird.

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