Why is it such a challenge to serve the best ever, crispiest skin turkey for Thanksgiving dinner? We have a whole year to perfect it but come Thanksgiving; we want to outdo all previous efforts. I recently discovered a hack that actually works perfectly. I found it on my favorite recipe website, tasteofhome.com, and, of course, already tested by Lauren Habermehl.
The secret is in the process used to remove moisture from the turkey skin before you start the cooking process. Up to now, I have always used paper towels to dry the turkey skin to allow the browning and crisping of the skin. I would never have thought that my hairdryer could do a much better job. While the paper towels are effective for removing moisture on the skin surface, the water between the skin and the meat prevents the perfect crisping. Using the hairdryer’s hot air to penetrate the skin, you can remove the moisture hiding below the skin surface.
History of this method to crisp the turkey skin
Guess what? This is not entirely new. Using the hairdryer for this purpose comes from Chinese chefs who used it to prepare the perfect Peking Duck. However, culinary expert Marcella Hazan introduced the process in the U.S. in a cookbook published in 1978.
Here’s how to give your turkey the perfect blow-dry
Start with a turkey that has completely thawed in the refrigerator.
Remove all the extras from the turkey’s cavity.
Use paper towels to get rid of the bulk of the moisture, both inside the cavity and on the skin.
This is where the magic of the hairdryer comes in. Use the maximum heat setting of the dryer and blow the entire skin and the cavity. It could take approximately 10 to 15 minutes to get rid of all the moisture. Make sure no dampness remains.
Now it’s over to you. Prepare and cook your turkey according to your favorite recipe.
What you can expect
Drying the turkey skin so well allows the oven to get to browning the skin immediately. You will notice the browning within 15 to 20 minutes. You will find that the even, all-over drying of the skin and no damp spots will allow perfect crisping.
Experiment some more
Now’s the time to try your hairdryer in combination with other crisping methods that have been tried and tested.
Use a recipe that requires a rubbing or brushing the turkey skin with oil like butter, mayonnaise or olive oil to get a more crispy skin.
You could also leave the turkey uncovered in the refrigerator for 24 hours to allow the circulating cold air to dry the skin before you use the hairdryer.
Another method is the dry rub method that requires a rub with a mixture of spices and herbs, typically with high salt content. The turkey must then sit in the refrigerator for the rub to get to work.
Basting during the cooking process could be a pain, but it is an effective way to crisp up the skin.
Cranking up the oven’s heat for the final 10 or 15 minutes of the roasting process, or turning on the broiler can help. However, if you do that, you need to keep an eye on it to avoid over-browning the turkey skin.