A turkey baster is one of those single-use kitchen items that most people only need once or twice a year (although you can use it for a few other things). You never seem to miss having one until the holidays roll around when it's time to cook your Thanksgiving turkey. But do you really need a baster to end up with a moist, delicious bird? The short answer is no.
The main purpose of a baster is to make sure the turkey doesn't get too dry. As The Kitchn explains, the fat in the pan drippings melts into the turkey's skin, flavoring it and keeping it moist and juicy. It also helps keep the skin and the meat closest to the outside from cooking too fast since the liquid cools the surface as it evaporates in the heat from the oven.
But basting isn't the only way to keep your turkey moist, and a baster is definitely not the only tool you can use to do it. Here are a few alternatives if you don't want to go out and buy one.
Basting just means distributing the drippings onto the skin of the turkey, so who says you need a special utensil to do it? Just about anything that holds liquid will work. You can use a large spoon, a ladle, a brush, or even a mug with a handle to pour the juice over your bird.
Brine is a fancy term for a saltwater solution. The other ingredients vary depending on the flavors you want, but saltwater is always the base. Brining makes the meat juicier by increasing the amount of liquid inside the cells. It's straightforward to do, but the bird has to hang out in the brine for at least a few hours (ideally overnight), so you have to plan ahead.
The most challenging part of brining a turkey is finding a container large enough to hold it. Depending on the size, you can use a large, sealable plastic bag, a cooler, bucket, or even your kitchen sink. Some turkeys come already brined, so make sure to read the label carefully to make sure you don't end up with a super salty bird.
The larger your turkey, the more likely it is to dry out. Since most turkeys are sold by the pound anyway, you might be better off buying two smaller birds instead of one large one. If you go with a smaller turkey, you can just rub oil or butter all over the skin or even drape a few pieces of bacon over the breast to keep it moist instead of basting.
Spatchcocking, or removing the backbone of your turkey, allows the bird to lay flat and exposes all of the skin, so it gets crispier. It also helps the turkey to more or less baste itself since the fat from the skin drips over the meat while it cooks. Plus, a spatchcocked turkey cooks in about half the time of a whole one, so what's not to love?
How do you keep your Thanksgiving turkey from drying out? Share your tips and tricks with us in the comments below.