A beautifully smoked turkey is without a doubt the crowning glory of the festive table and the crunch of golden, salty crisp skin combined with the tender juicy flavorful meat is my favorite.
Crispy skin on a roast turkey is like crackling on pork – it just takes the dish to the next level, but the low and slow style of cooking or smoking a turkey can make this a challenge.
So how can we combine the juicy smoky flavors of a delicious turkey with the crunch of perfect skin? A few tips and tricks can help you find the way!
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The Key To Crispy Skin
The key to crispy turkey skin is the delicate balance of retaining as much natural moisture while keeping the skin dry during the cooking process. The drier the skin is at the start of the cook, the crispier the final result will be.
This can be done using things like a dry brine mixture of kosher salt, garlic flakes, and whatever fresh herbs and spices you prefer.
Leaving the turkey uncovered in the refrigerator overnight with a rub on it, otherwise known as dry brining is another good technique. Or simply patting the skin dry with a paper towel before cooking. Another alternative you may not have considered is using baking powder.
Why Use Baking Powder?
Dry brining is a great way to add flavor to any delicious bird, be it chicken or turkey. But to achieve the fabulous crispy texture and golden skin, more than a salt mixture is needed.
Mixing the baking powder with the traditional dry brine can help draw out excess moisture in the skin. The baking powder increases the skin’s pH levels, breaking down the proteins more efficiently, creating tender, juicy meat and an even browning of the skin.
At the same time, the baking powder also reacts with the turkey’s natural water molecules creating tiny carbon dioxide bubbles.
This reaction slowly increases the skin’s surface area and results in a crunchier texture and crispier skin when cooked.
Using baking powder also eliminates the need to use butter, so it’s a much healthier alternative to traditional basting.
It’s best to use baking powder, rather than baking soda to eliminate the slightly metallic flavor baking soda can produce.
How to Prepare the Turkey
If the bird is frozen, defrost in the refrigerator for at least 2 to 3 days before the cooking day, to ensure it has completely defrosted.
As with any turkey preparation, leave the bird out for at least thirty minutes to get to room temperature.
Rinse the bird off with cold water. Pat the skin dry and coat a layer of just baking powder and salt mixture on the bird before preparing with seasonings.
Once a layer has been added, let it sit for a few moments, then pat dry again with a paper towel to remove what initial extra moisture has been drawn out.
How to Use Baking Powder
Combine four parts kosher salt with one part baking powder and add pepper, garlic flakes, or any other favorite herbs and spices.
Some suggested seasonings include peppercorns, fresh rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, smoked paprika, lemon zest – the options are limitless.
Liberally coat the entire turkey, but don’t use so much that a crust forms. Loosen the skin slightly to add seasoning between the skin and the outer layer of flesh.
Leave uncovered in the fridge for up to 18 hours to allow the mixture of salt and baking powder to go through its bubble forming process for perfectly crisp skin.
The longer you can leave it, the better the results and the more intensely flavored the seasoning. The dry brine baking powder mixture also breaks down the muscle fibers giving juicier meat.
The Cooking Process
Pre-heat the oven temperature to 425F. If using the smoking the turkey, preheat and prepare as usual. You should tie the legs together (this is known as trussing) bird and place it on the back, breast meat side up. Place the seasoned bird in the cooking alliance of choice.
Roasting time will depend on the size of the bird, and the cooking style. Roast for 3 to 4 hours, checking temperature regularly after 2 ½ hours. A larger turkey will take a longer cook time.
Use a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the bird, taking care not to touch the bone. The internal temperature should reach 165F and the juices run clear.
The general rule of thumb is 13 minutes per pound for an unstuffed turkey and 15 minutes per pound for a stuffed bird. Once cooked, transfer from the oven to a carving board and let rest for 30 minutes before serving.
Have you tried this method before?
Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).
I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.
You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!
You can read more about me on our About Us page.
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