How to Baste a Turkey

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Things You'll Need

  • Saucepan

  • Whisk

  • Basting liquid

  • Oven mitts

  • Basting brush or bulb baster

  • Meat thermometer

  • Cheesecloth (optional)

Expectations run high when you take on the task of roasting the turkey for your family dinner -- your guests expect a bird that is moist and tender inside with a crisp, flavorful skin on the outside. Basting, or applying liquid frequently to coat the skin, is one trick to a perfect turkey, but you must follow proper technique and timing. Basting helps achieve a crisp skin and lowers the turkey's surface temperature slightly to prevent the skin from burning before the inside is properly cooked.


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Step 1

Combine your choice of liquid and spices in a saucepan and simmer them until hot. This step is unnecessary if you plan to baste the turkey in its own pan drippings. Examples of ingredients for a basting liquid include chicken broth, lemon juice, butter, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, and black pepper and salt to taste.


Step 2

Roast the turkey for about 1 hour undisturbed, allowing time for it to build up its internal temperature and drip juices into the pan. The pan should ideally have 2 to 3 inches of clearance on the top and sides for easy access while basting.


Step 3

Remove the turkey from the oven and place it on the stovetop. Close the oven door immediately to keep the heat trapped in the oven. Turkeys are often basted while still in the oven, but leaving the door open allows heat to escape, which can increase the roasting time. Repeat this process every time you baste the turkey.


Step 4

Dip a basting brush in the prepared basting liquid or in the pan drippings. If you're using a bulb baster, squeeze the bulb, insert the tip in the juices, and release the bulb to suck up the juices. Hold the bulb with the tip pointing straight down to avoid spraying hot liquid.


Step 5

Brush the basting liquid liberally over all parts of the turkey skin, concentrating on the joints, such as the place where the wings and legs tuck into the body. If you have a bulb baster, squeeze the bulb gently to release the juices onto the skin. Repeat this process until the turkey is completely coated in the basting liquid.


Step 6

Return the turkey to the oven, and remove it again every 30 to 45 minutes to repeat the basting process until the turkey is done. More frequent basting -- as often as every 20 minutes -- can be performed in the last hour of roasting if the turkey skin appears to need help in developing an even brown color and crisp skin.


The turkey is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Insert a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the meat to check the temperature. All juices in the turkey should run clear.

If you have trouble particularly with keeping the breasts moist while cooking, try soaking a piece of cheesecloth in the basting liquid. Drape the cheesecloth over the breasts as a sort of self-basting cover. Brush or squirt the basting liquid over the cheesecloth when you baste the rest of the turkey.