3 Simple Steps for Crispy Skin on Your Turkey Every Time

updated Nov 8, 2022
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(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Crispy turkey skin is quite possibly the best part of the Thanksgiving meal. We know that brining a turkey will yield a roast turkey with moist, juicy meat, but what about the skin? Everybody loves crispy skin.

To achieve that beautiful crackling skin, see our Skills Showdown on the best way to get crispy turkey skin, and read on for three more key steps you need to take to ensure perfectly crispy skin every single time.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

1. Dry the skin thoroughly after brining.

If you brine your turkey and don’t take the time to dry off the skin after, you risk disaster (read: soft, limp turkey skin). The drier the skin, the better; some cooks will make sure to leave the skin uncovered for several hours before roasting their Thanksgiving turkey to air-dry the skin after first blotting it dry. Less water on the surface of the skin means more opportunity for the moisture of the skin to dry out in the oven, resulting in crispier skin.

Want to brine your turkey? How To Brine a Turkey

2. Rub the skin with fat.

Once you’ve carefully dried off the skin, the next step you can take to guarantee perfectly crispy turkey skin is to rub it with a fat, like butter or oil. Oil will yield a crispier skin than butter because butter is at least 20 percent water, while oil contains no water.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

3. Don’t cover the turkey.

At this point, you probably understand that moisture is the enemy of crispy skin. If you don’t believe me, just picture the leftover turkey that you stored in a humid plastic container in the fridge last year (or in a bag): The skin on that leftover turkey didn’t have any crunch left to it, did it? The same goes for freshly roasted turkey. Don’t cover your freshly roasted turkey with foil to let it rest before carving. If you do cover it, the foil will trap escaping moisture and condensation and that water will inevitably fall back onto the turkey skin, softening it. Of course, when dinner’s over, you will inevitably have to cover the turkey and put it in the fridge, softening the skin you worked so hard to make crisp, but that’s a separate issue altogether and one that is almost impossible to avoid.

Some will suggest roasting your Thanksgiving turkey tented with foil from the beginning, to cook the meat more evenly before removing the foil and cranking up the oven temperature to dry and crisp the skin. And for smaller cuts of poultry, others may even go so far as separating the skin from the bird to cook them separately to control how the meat and the skin cook. Still, most will agree that the key is eliminating moisture from the skin: Dry the outside thoroughly, then rub it with oil and dry seasonings before popping the turkey in the oven.

Your turn! What do you do to make sure your turkey has a crispy skin?