Published November 1, 2010.
What’s the trick to applying a glossy, tangy-sweet glaze to turkey so it doesn’t pool at the bottom of the pan or keep the skin from crisping up?
Glazing poultry sets two objectives at odds: You want the skin to dry out so that it can thoroughly render its fat and get crisp, but applying a glaze means adding moisture—thereby thwarting any skin-crisping efforts.
We wanted to achieve the perfect roasted bird—juicy, flavorful meat and paper-thin, crackly skin with a tangy-sweet glaze.
We started our recipe by employing techniques we’d developed over years of roasting countless turkeys. To promote crispness, we loosened the skin from the bird’s thighs and breasts and poked holes in the fat deposits with a skewer. We rubbed a combination of salt and baking powder over the skin to promote browning and produce a crunchier texture. We also rubbed salt under the skin, directly on the meat, to ensure that it’s thoroughly seasoned.
Now for the glaze. The slightly bitter, smoky edge of molasses outshined other thick, tacky bases. To thin it out, we reduced it along with apple cider and cider vinegar to concentrate their flavors and get the glaze to a workable consistency. To thicken the glaze, we used an unusual ingredient: cranberries. Thanks to their pectin, cranberries thicken as they cook. We also added some Dijon mustard and freshly grated ginger to spice things up.
As for sticking power, gravity was causing the glaze to run off the meat, so we butterflied the bird and pressed down on its breastbone to make an even surface. The glaze clung to the bird’s skin, and the flattened shape helped the white and dark meat cook more evenly. We only had to make one adjustment: To raise the bird up, we propped it up on a couple of halved onions placed cut side down in the pan. We applied the glaze in three intervals, brushing on the first layer after its first stint in the oven, while it rested, then the other two after it had sat in the hot oven for a few minutes.
For the gravy, we strained and defatted the turkey juices, added them to some of the glaze that we’d reserved, and reduced the mixture to a saucelike consistency, whisking in a couple of pats of butter for silkiness.list of recipes