By Stacy Adimando
Once you've salted, tied and buttered that Thanksgiving bird, you'd think the cooking part would be easy. But there's just one thing that can trip you up: Overcooking the breast meat (and/or undercooking the thigh meat).
It's a flaw in the design of the turkey, when you think about it: The "top side" of the turkey is mostly breast meat, which is easy to overcook, while the "underside" of the turkey is mostly dark thigh meat, which takes longer to cook through. One simple move solves the problem, though.
Just remember this one to-do: Start off roasting it upside down. That's right, place the bird on the roasting pan breast-side-down for the moistest end result.
No need to stop everything else you're doing on the day of the feast to keep basting that bird. "If you start the bird with its back facing up in the oven, the skin, meat and cartilage in that region will start releasing natural juices as it cooks," says Greg Denton, chef/owner of Ox restaurant in Portland, Oregon. "Those will drip down onto the birds breast side, basically starting to confit the breast in its own juices, tenderizing the meat and giving it flavor."
Toward the end of cooking, turn it upright to crisp the skin and finish cooking the breast. Bonus: The thigh meat cooks through perfectly, with skin that turns just as golden-brown and crisp as the breast meat does.
How to do it: Start the cooking low and slow at 325ºF with the breast side down, Denton says. When theres about one hour left in the cook time (the bird should still be fairly raw), carefully turn it over using tongs and a clean kitchen towel (try not to tear the skin). Then turn up the oven to finish cooking at 400º as you normally would. "Youll see you wont need to baste it anymore, and it will turn out super juicy."
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