Why You Should Cook Your Thanksgiving Turkey Upside Down—and How to Do It

This is one instance where flipping the bird is right, not rude. We make a case for cooking your turkey breast-side down and show you how.

Upside down turkey in pan

Thanksgiving might seem like a tricky time to try something new, but hear us out. We've developed a topsy-turvy technique for roasting turkey that creates a super moist, flavorful bird every time. Traditional turkey roasting methods are prone to overcooking the breast meat or undercooking the dark meat, but cooking the bird upside down solves the problem.

Why Is This Method Effective and When Should You Use It?

The benefits of roasting a turkey breast-side down are twofold: The dark meat cooks faster when it's closer to the heat source, and the juices trickle down for extra-moist breast meat. Talk about a turn for the better! This works on all types of birds—organic, conventional, heirloom, you name it. For the best results, use a bird that weighs about 14 pounds, it's the optimal size for flipping (not too heavy) and matches the foolproof time in our triple tested recipe.

Turning over a hot bird mid-roast might seem intimidating, but gather the right tools—just a kitchen towel and a wooden spoon—and it's a cinch. A potential downside to roasting a turkey upside down is that the skin on the turkey breast might tear when removed from the rack. We have a solution: For nice golden skin that doesn't tear, rest the breast on buttered bread rather than a wire rack, The bread acts as the perfect cushion, preventing the skin from sticking to the rack. Don't fear it: If the breast skin did tear (which sometimes happens even when you cook a bird right side up!), it will still be the tastiest bird, and it's nothing a little garnish can't cover up post carve.

When cooking a turkey upside down, don't stuff the bird! The stuffing would soak up all the juices that we want trickling down to the breast. Instead, cook the stuffing on the side in a baking dish.

How to Cook a Turkey Upside Down

We like to start with a dry brine for the best flavor throughout and extra-moist meat, but you can also choose to season with salt and pepper right before cooking.

1. Dry Brine Method

For the easiest dry brine, combine salt and pepper and rub the mixture all over the bird, including the body cavity, cover, and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours ahead, to allow the seasoning to settle into the meat.

Pro Tip: Plan ahead! If you're using a frozen 14-pound turkey, factor in four days for it to thaw in the fridge. No one wants to delay the Thanksgiving feast when they realize the turkey is still frozen.

2. Prep the Turkey for Cooking

If you opted for a dry brine, rinse the bird inside and out to remove excess seasoning. Pat the bird nice and dry with paper towels.

If you didn't dry brine, now is the time to sprinkle the bird all over, inside and out, with salt and pepper. Important: Don't season the turkey again if you did a dry brine, it will already be plenty seasoned!

Tuck the wings under the turkey and tie the drumsticks together with kitchen twine to ensure they don't get in the way when you flip the bird. Tying the bird also helps the meat cook evenly. Let the prepped bird stand at room temperature for one hour.

3. Line the Roasting Rack With Buttered Ciabatta

The buttered bread creates a soft surface for the turkey breast to rest on so that the skin doesn't stick to the rack or get damaged when it's flipping time. The butter also melts, making for delicious pan juices.

Trim the bread to the length of the turkey breast, then slice it in half horizontally. Butter the cut sides of the bread and arrange side-by-side lengthwise with the buttered sides up on a V-shaped wire rack. Rest the turkey breast-side down on the buttered bread, making sure the breast is resting on the bread, not on the rack. Roast the bird for 45 minutes.

Pro tip: Use a heavy-bottomed roasting pan, it's less likely to move when you are flipping the bird. Ask someone to help with the flipping: They can hold the pan, while you flip the turkey.

4. Use a Kitchen Towel and a Wooden Spoon to Flip

Now is not the time to use your hands! Make sure you have the roasting pan on a sturdy heatsafe surface. To assist in flipping the bird, use a kitchen towel on the neck side and place a wooden spoon inside the cavity for leverage, the bird and pan will be hot. Carefully, flip the turkey so it is now breast-side up.

5. Baste Every 20 Minutes

Add turkey or chicken broth to the pan and return the bird to the oven. The broth will combine with the turkey drippings and melted butter to make an outstanding basting liquid. Pour it over your turkey every 20 minutes like clockwork, cooking the turkey for about two hours more. A thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (avoiding the bone) should register 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pro Tip: If your turkey comes with a pop-up timer, remove it and opt for an instant-read thermometer instead for a much more accurate reading.

6. Let the Turkey Rest

Letting the turkey have a little R&R is a critical step for juicy meat. Give your bird 30 minutes after it comes out of the oven to rest before carving. Transfer it to a work surface or serving platter. Discard the bread and save the pan drippings for your favorite gravy. Carve the bird and, if desired, go all out with herb and fresh fruit garnishes, such as fresh figs, red, black, and green grapes, and sage and thyme sprigs.

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