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?

  • Posted by: amysarah
  • November 18, 2011


Esther P. November 18, 2011
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.
Greenstuff November 18, 2011
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.
amysarah November 18, 2011
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.
Merrill S. November 18, 2011
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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