How to Get Perfect Skin (On Your Turkey, That Is)

November 24, 2014

There are so many great conversations on the Hotline -- it's hard to choose a favorite. But we'll be doing it every day leading up to Thanksgiving to spread the wealth of our community's knowledge -- and to help you host the least stressful Thanksgiving yet. No promises on the crazy relatives.

Today: We're revealing all of our secrets for getting perfect skin (on your turkey, that is). Tomorrow we'll share our top turkey tips. (Hint: It needs a rest. You probably do too.)

Roast Turkey

Shop the Story

Perfectly golden, crisp skin: It's the best part of the bird. It's what makes you want to proudly present your turkey to a tableful of eager guests and carve your glorious bird while they all watch, eagerly anticipating their first bite. (Don't do that though. The carving at the table part. Carry the cooked bird around the room to show it off all you want, just take it back into the kitchen to carve it.) A flawlessly cooked bird with superb skin doesn't have to be a flight of fancy --this is the best advice we've feather seen:

The Pros Propose

  • Nancy Harmon Jenkins recalls the best Thanksgiving turkey she ever had: "The skin was crisp, crunchy, sort of like crackling, while the meat on the inside, because it had been completely protected by the hot oil, was juicy and tender." She deep fried that turkey, but not in peanut oil. The secret was olive oil -- a cache of four-year-old olive oil. She says that the forgotten oil was "perfectly good oil, not at all rancid, though it had lost much (rather, all) of its youthful flavor and aroma." (If you're as intrigued by the versatility of olive oil as we are, you'll want to keep an eye out for her forthcoming book, Virgin Territory: Exploring the World of Olive Oil.)
  • Chef Ken Oringer recommends putting herb butter under the skin and brushing duck fat all over the outside: "A lesser-known trick, but it makes all the difference! Also season with a lot of salt and pepper and keep basting, and you're on your way to a turkey for the books."
  • Michael Ruhlman's secret to perfect skin involves a quick trip under the broiler to crisp everything up before serving.

Sliced Roast Turkey

Get a Golden Glow

  • Sdebrango cranks the oven up to 450° F for the last 30 minutes to help the turkey brown.
  • To avoid a blackened top and pale crevices, francesca and pierino suggest trussing the wings close to the body and basting the bird frequently.
  • Don't worry too much if your bird's skin gets a little over-cooked and you end up with crispy wing tips -- be assured that some people, like creamtea, lust after these.

Tell us: What do you do to get perfect skin on your bird? 

Have you missed any of our Thanksgiving roundup of Burning Questions? Catch up now:

Photos by James Ransom

52 Days of Thanksgiving
Check It Out
52 Days of Thanksgiving

Top-notch recipes, expert tips, and all the tools to pull off the year’s most memorable feast.

Check It Out

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Chris Glenn
    Chris Glenn
  • Stacey Bauman
    Stacey Bauman
  • Cookie Queen
    Cookie Queen
  • Mrs Beryl Patmore
    Mrs Beryl Patmore
I like esoteric facts about vegetables. Author of the IACP Award-nominated cookbook, Cooking with Scraps.


Chris G. October 31, 2017
Or you can cheat, and do it the way they do in the Philippines, with chicken skin(?)
(and hand out very crispy Turkey Skin to your guests, as an appetizer!)
Stacey B. November 24, 2015
This year I'm trying the Cooks Illustrated baking powder-method for a crispy skin roasted chicken. I don't see why it wouldn't work for a turkey as well. (I've got my fingers crossed!)
Stacey B. November 24, 2015
Here's the method, reposted on another site:
Mrs B. November 14, 2016
Stacey, how did it turn out? I've read about that but have never tried it. Many thanks.
Cookie Q. December 3, 2014
Even the broiler for the final 20 minutes won't crisp up the skin completely. All you need do is REMOVE all the skin off the turkey (it practically falls off) and lay that skin on a sheet pan and back in the oven for 15 minutes while Tom Turkey rests. Mission accomplished, every time!