Science Says Don't Bother Basting Your Turkey

Our experiments show basting your turkey doesn't do what you hope it does.

Published Nov. 24, 2021.

Thanksgiving is a holiday of sacred traditions. For me, one such tradition has always involved pulling the turkey from the oven every hour, and baste it with sizzling juices and fats until it shines that lustrous sheen.

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But like learning Santa was actually my parents bringing out presents from the closet, my illusion was shattered. I’ve come to learn that basting your turkey doesn’t do what you think it does.

My colleagues at Cook’s Illustrated ran an experiment to see if basting a turkey would, in fact, make the bird moist and help brown the skin. The CI team roasted three turkey breasts three different ways—one not basted, the second basted every 20 minutes, the third not basted but the team opened the oven door every 20 minutes to see if that affected cooking.

The result? Basting does little to make the bird more moist. And while it somewhat improved the browning of the skin, it actually made the turkey longer to cook from the oven door opening and closing.

ATK Reviews’ Lisa McManus goes one further: She says basting the turkey makes your skin chewy and flabby:

If you want a truly juicy turkey? Brine or salt it, and leave it be inside the oven. Heck, deep fry or smoke the turkey, even. You’ll get a juicier bird, the skin will remain crispy, and Thanksgiving dinner will be served quicker.

Thanks, science!

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