It's not necessary to truss a turkey before roasting, but taking the time to do so can ensure the bird cooks evenly and makes an attractive centerpiece before carving. The technique differs slightly depending on whether you're trussing a stuffed or unstuffed bird. Before starting, make sure your turkey has been safely defrosted beforehand, preferably in the refrigerator. For every 4 to 5 pounds of turkey, plan on 24 hours of thawing time prior to cooking.
Things You'll Need
- Shallow baking pan or rimmed cookie sheet
- Paper towels
- Kitchen twine
- Trussing pins
PREPARING THE TURKEY FOR TRUSSING: Remove the thawed turkey's outer wrapping. Take the neck and package of giblets out of the inner cavity. Discard these or reserve them to use for gravy.
Put the turkey in a shallow baking pan or rimmed cookie sheet. Use paper towels to pat it dry on all sides. Position the turkey breast-side up.
Cut a section of kitchen twine that measures approximately 8 inches. Set aside.
TRUSSING AN UNSTUFFED TURKEY: Cross the turkey's legs. Wrap the kitchen twine around the legs at the lowest point where they cross.
Wrap the kitchen twine repeatedly around the turkey legs at the cross point, tightening the loops so that the legs are firmly held together.
Tie the ends of the twine together. Snip off and discard any extra pieces of twine.
TRUSSING A STUFFED TURKEY: Cut an additional, approximately 1-foot long length of kitchen twine. Set aside.
Fill the turkey with your prepared stuffing right before you're ready to begin roasting. Pack the stuffing in loosely, being careful not to put too much in the cavity.
Use a trussing pin to secure the turkey's neck skin flap over the open, stuffed cavity.
Use trussing pins to secure the turkey's breast skin in the middle of its chest. Plan on inserting three to four trussing pins, separating each pin by several inches ranging from the turkey's neck to its tail.
Use the 1-foot piece of twine to tie a knot around the turkey's tail. Pass the twine through the trussing pins, lacing up from the tail to the neck. Tie the twine ends together tightly at the top, snipping off any extra twine.
Use the 8-inch piece of twine to tie the legs together as you would for an unstuffed turkey. Cut off and discard any excess string.
Tips & Warnings
- Always cook turkey until it has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Store cooked, cooled turkey in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for three to four days or up to six months in the freezer.
- How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food; Mark Bittman
- Williams-Sonoma: Trussing the Turkey
- New Thanksgiving Table; Diane Morgan
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: Turkey Basics -- Safe Thawing
- Foodsafety.gov: Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures
- Foodsafety.gov: Storage Times for the Refrigerator and Freezer
- The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook; The Editors at America's Test Kitchen
- Real Simple: How to Prepare a Turkey