We all want our roasted turkey or chicken to be moist and flavorful. There are many cooking techniques used to add flavor and prevent your poultry from drying out when roasting, and people use a variety of fat sources for different results, such as oil or butter. But for those who do not roast whole turkeys or chickens often may wonder - is using butter the best way to ensure a perfect roast? We researched this important question to help you decide which method is best for you!
Rubbing butter all over the skin of a whole turkey or chicken helps get the skin nicely browned while it cooks. Some also like to add a layer of butter under the skin for some added flavor. But some food experts say butter may not be the best way to obtain a moist bird, and that there are many other methods you can use for the perfect roast.
Adding butter to your chicken or turkey may not be necessary to obtain a delicious main course, but there are benefits to adding butter to your poultry before roasting. We outline below the reasons you may want to slather butter on your bird before your next roast.
Challenges of Roasting Turkey or Chicken
Turkey and chicken are considered healthier protein choices due to their lower saturated fat content compared to other types of meat. But because they have less fat, it is easier to overcook the meat and end up with a dry or rubbery dinner. Roasting at high heat increases your chances of overcooking even more because you aren't watching the bird cook the entire time; a moist turkey can quickly turn into a dry one in just a matter of minutes.
You also need to make sure you have the right tools. Your roasting pan should be large enough to hold your turkey or chicken completely; if it's too small, your roast will not cook evenly. Many also recommend using a rack to promote heat flow to the bottom of the bird. Some cooks use chopped vegetables under the roast to serve as a rack; they absorb the roast's juices and become a tasty side dish.
Should I use butter on my bird?
The fear of dry meat is why cooks often seek out the best ways to prevent a dry turkey or chicken, while also adding flavor to the finished product. Buttering your poultry is one of those methods. The addition of butter on the skin as well as under the skin can add some flavor and brown the skin nicely.
But some food experts say butter has a high percentage of water - about 17% - and may brown the skin unevenly. Instead, they recommend using oil all over the skin for even browning.
Can I butter my turkey the night before?
Absolutely! In fact, buttering your turkey the night before not only saves you time the day your roast, but many believe allowing the butter to sit overnight on and under the skin infuses even more flavor into the turkey.
Does butter make chicken skin crispy?
Many people believe rubbing butter all over a chicken before roasting will make the skin crispy, but actually, the opposite is true. The high water content noted above adds moisture to the skin, but dried-out skin is necessary to achieve a crispness while roasting. To get crispy chicken skin, you can rub oil on the skin before roasting. Or, if you have time, you can rub salt all over the chicken then let it sit uncovered in your refrigerator overnight.
How to keep turkey moist while roasting?
Home cooks use many different techniques to prevent a rubbery and dry roasted turkey. Some methods are easier than others, and cooks argue about which one guarantees success. Besides the butter method mentioned above, here are other popular roasting ideas:
This classic technique suggests you baste the turkey with chicken broth and the turkey drippings from the pan every half hour. Those who baste their turkeys regularly believe it creates moist and juicy meat. But many chefs believe opening the oven often releases too much heat, which could increase the cooking time and increase the risk of drying out your roast.
Soaking your turkey in a brine for an extended period - sometimes as long as twelve hours or more - infuses your bird with salty, flavored liquid, helping to keep the meat moist and tender while it cooks. There are a variety of recipes that utilize different herbs and tastes, such as thyme, rosemary, and honey. But brining takes some pre-planning, and can be cumbersome to find room in the fridge to store the turkey in its brine.
One challenge when cooking turkey is the breast cooks faster than the bottom dark meat, which means dry turkey breast or undercooked or soggy dark meat. But if you start roasting at high heat with the breast side down for a short period of time, the bottom is facing up and gets more direct heat, cooking it faster. Then you flip the bird to breast side up again until the turkey is ready when checked with a meat thermometer. This method helps to ensure the entire turkey is cooked through at the same time.
How do you keep a roast chicken from drying out?
The techniques mentioned above also apply to keeping chicken moist - basting, brining, and flipping. Other tips include taking your chicken out of the fridge about half an hour before roasting to make sure your chicken comes to room temperature. This allows it to cooks more evenly. Another is to use a meat thermometer (inserted between the breast and thigh) to check if the roast is fully cooked. In general, roast about fifteen minutes per pound.
What is the best oil for roasting?
Many varieties of oils work well for roasting, depending on the temperature you will be roasting at, and the flavors used to season your poultry. Regular olive oil has a mild flavor and can withstand high heat. Peanut oil can also be used at high temperatures, but cooks need to be aware of the strong flavor that peanut oil can add to your food. If you are roasting at 400 degrees or less and have used a flavorful brine or a combination of herbs and other seasonings, you want to use a completely neutral oil, such as vegetable or canola. Grapeseed and sesame oils also work for roasts that cook around 400 degrees and impart a subtle flavor.
Butter can add some flavor to your roasts when rubbed all over the turkey or chicken skin, as well as under the skin. Many cooks say it's an easy method to help keep the poultry moist while roasting and browns the skin. But other food experts say butter may not brown the skin evenly, and it will even prevent the skin from crisping. They recommend rubbing oil on the skin for even browning and crispiness.
To learn more about roasting, check out these other articles with helpful information: