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Turkey engineering

Trussing. I know it's supposed to help the bird cook evenly, but it's always seemed counter-intuitive to me. Since dark meat takes longer than white, wouldn't exposing more surface area of the legs/thighs to heat/hot air be beneficial? In other words, isn't forming them into a compact, dense mass with the breast just compounding the problem? Trussing creates that iconic turkey shape...but not sure it enchances cooking. Perhaps it would be better to let the legs splay wantonly...stuff the cavity - with onions/apples/lemons/herbs/whatever - for flavor and also to mediate hot air hitting inside of breast (not a big stuffing-in-bird fan, but you could do that instead) and finally, simply tuck the wings under, protected with foil if necessary. This is pretty much how I roast chickens, and the disparity between white/dark timing for turkey seems even greater. Did I miss that day in Turkey Thermodynamics 101, or does this make sense?

amysarah is a trusted home cook.

asked over 5 years ago
4 answers 1261 views
Cbfb27ea 071f 4941 9183 30dce4007b50  merrill
Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

added over 5 years ago

I agree with you that trussing is really more about presentation than anything else -- but I think part of the theory behind bringing the legs in close to the body is that it helps keep the breast from drying out, because it's partially shielded by the legs and therefore not completely exposed to the heat. I have tried spatchcocking a turkey before (along the lines of what you suggest), and the dark and white meat definitely cook through at close to the same time that way. Plus you get really nice, crisp skin. It's all a question of priorities, it seems to me.

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amysarah is a trusted home cook.

added over 5 years ago

True about the legs shielding the breast; but even then there's a lot of cleavage (so to speak) exposed. I think you're right about it being a matter of priorities, since the logic of trussing seems pretty sketchy. I think this year I'll forgo the picture-perfect bird in favor of more controllable cooking time and maximum crispy skin. Who's to say what's 'perfect' anyway? I kind of like the idea of a slightly eccentric looking bird.

84baef1b 1614 4c3d a895 e859c9d40bd1  chris in oslo

Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking

added over 5 years ago

I was just mulling this over last night, as I tied the legs of a chicken together but didn't do the full Julia-Child truss. I believe that the theory behind trussing, besides the neat package, is to keep air from circulating in the body cavity. That hot air presumably dries out the breast meat. And yes, you can accomplish the same thing by stuffing the cavity with onions, lemons, or whatever, or you can spatchcock and achieve the same thing.

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added over 5 years ago

I leave the bird untrussed, and upside down for the first part of cooking so the juices run into the breast. It means the birdies leg tends to bock on the door like it want to get out once in a while, but it makes for a moist bird.

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