Here's When—and Why—You Should Use Butcher's Twine When Cooking Meat
You're most likely familiar with trussing a turkey for Thanksgiving or tying a three-pound beef tenderloin for a holiday roast, but this technique used by butchers and chefs is useful beyond the holiday season. "Trussing is used for roasting to help meat keep its shape and make sure that you have even cooking to promote juiciness. Usually, you use butcher's twine for things like beef tenderloin, top sirloin, chuck eye roast, or eye round roast to keep a cylindrical shape and make sure that everything is uniform in shape when you slice it," says Angela Wilson, co-owner of Avedano's Meats, a San Francisco-based Italian deli and butcher's shop.
What Is Butcher's Twine?
This highly durable, inexpensive twine—sometimes called kitchen or cooking twine—is an oven-safe string made from cotton that is commonly used to truss or tie meat. We like Regency Natural Cooking Twine ($4.99 for 500 feet, amazon.com), pictured above. When you buy a large roast or cut of meat from the butcher, ask them to include plenty of string. If you have butcher's twine, work off of the ball rather than pre-cutting string to avoid having a piece that's too short. Wrap the twine around the roast, tie a knot, and then cut it. If you don't have butcher's twine, you can purchase heat-resistant rubber bands for cooking that are oven safe up to 600°F.
What's the Point of Trussing?
While the butcher may truss meat for you, it's an essential skill that is worth mastering from home. It's not just for looks, though that's certainly part of the reason why it's worth learning how to do. Trussing meat helps to create a uniform shape, which ensures that your meat will cook evenly. "Trussing a chicken or turkey helps the heat to carry through; a pork loin roast or chuck roast may naturally be an irregularly shaped piece of meat. By tying it, you make it more uniform and compact, which helps it to cook evenly," explains Heather Marold Thomason, founder of Primal Supply Meats, a modern butchery committed to whole animal practices. Trussing also helps to lock in the juices for an extra-tender bite of pork tenderloin or chuck roast.
"If you have something that you're roasting for an hour or two and you want it to cook to medium-rare from one end to the other, that's when trussing is really going to make a difference," says Thomason.
How to Tie a Roast
To tie a whole turkey or chicken for roasting, place the drumsticks closest to you. Tuck the wings under the bird to prevent them from burning. Center a piece of twine and run it around the sides of the bird. Pass the twine over the drumsticks and then under their joints. Cross over the joints once more and tighten to bring the drumsticks together. Wrap one end of the twine all the way under the tail end and tie securely.
When tying a roast such as beef, pork tenderloin or venison, start in the middle and work your way out, spacing the twine one-inch apart, says Wilson. If you want to cook the meat with herbs such as thyme or rosemary, lay them down on the top side of the meat and then tie. Once the meat has finished cooking, let it rest before cutting the twine and slicing.
When trussing meat, the twine should be as tight as possible. "Once the meat starts to cook, it will shrink a little bit. If you were to tie it loosely, it's not going to have the compactness that you're looking for. If you can slip your finger underneath the piece of twine, it's not tight enough," says Thomason.
When to Avoid Trussing
Fish and other cuts of meat such as slow-roasted chuck roast don't necessarily benefit from trussing. "Trussing is less about the type of meat and more about the cooking method. If you were going to slow-cook or braise something, that compactness doesn't really matter. It doesn't matter if you tie pork shoulder that will be cooking in the oven overnight low and slow," says Thomason.