Here’s a Simple Trick for Trussing a Turkey

updated Nov 24, 2019
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Many holiday recipes instruct you to blind bake pie crusts, whisk a roux for gravy, and truss the turkey. So if you’ve ever felt like cooking Thanksgiving dinner requires a PhD just to understand the terms, you aren’t alone.

But if you can tie your shoes, then you can prep a turkey without winding yourself into knots. Here’s how I do it.

Credit: Reddit

The Whys and Hows of Trussing

The trouble with cooking a turkey starts with the shape of the bird. Unlike a pork or beef roast, which typically comes in uniform, cylindrical shapes, turkeys have wings and drumsticks sticking out all over the place. That uneven shape can result in — well — uneven cooking.

Trussing is a method of keeping all the poultry’s meat as close to the center as possible: A compact shape facilitates more even cooking so that the breast and leg meat are done at around the same time. Professional chefs are taught how to truss in culinary school, but it can involve so many twists and turns of string it feels like your dinner is tangled in a game of cat’s cradle.

Credit: Lauren Volo

Trussing Hot Take

While trussing is a traditional way of preparing turkey, some newer recipes (including Kitchn’s Simplest, Easiest Roast Turkey) eschew the practice altogether. Back in 2011, food scientists David Joachim and Andrew Schloss made news when they came out publicly against trussing. Their rationale: By leaving the legs untied, hot air circulates more freely, so that the legs and the breasts still finish cooking at the same time.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

So, Should You Truss?

I’ve cooked dozens of turkeys to golden-brown and juicy perfection. Some have been trussed and others not. Ultimately, I’ve landed squarely in the middle of this turkey debate: I think it comes down to how you want the turkey to look. The sight of an unbound turkey appears untidy. So if I’m going to carve it at the table, I don’t want the legs and wings completely akimbo. But neither do I think the entire thing needs to be wrapped up as tightly as a Christmas present. Here’s my technique for an easy Thanksgiving turkey trussing that will leave it well-cooked and looking nice.

  1. Tuck the wing tips. The first step is to locate the wing tips. These thin, pointy parts of the bird don’t have much meat, so left untouched they burn easily. Bend the wing tips back and tuck them under the shoulders of the bird. There’s no need to secure with string; the turkey’s own pressure will hold the wing in place.
  2. Cross the legs. Loosely cross the legs just above the joint and tie with butcher’s twine. I like to use a surgeons knot, looping the string through an extra time because it feels more secure, but a standard bow tie or knot works as well.