Arianna Foster
Published by Arianna Foster
Last Updated On: April 12, 2023

I’m a firm believer that turkey basting is the key to a tender turkey with crispy skin and juicy meat.

However, when I started my carnivore journey ten years ago, I wasn’t really sure how often I should baste a turkey.

I’ve cooked countless turkeys and experimented with different basting times and techniques during this time until I finally got the hang of it.

Here are all my tips and tricks on basting turkey the right way.

Quick Summary

  • You should baste your turkey with plain butter, poultry seasoning, apple juice, or other ingredients.
  • Baste the turkey every 40 minutes during the cooking process.
  • Use a meat thermometer to check when the turkey is done.

How Often to Baste a Turkey?

Basting turkey inside an oven

You should baste a turkey every 40 minutes. Some recipes advise basting every 30 minutes, but this is too often.

You don’t want to open the oven too frequently, or the turkey will take longer to cook, and the oven temperature will go down.

Some cooks baste only every hour. This can be enough to produce crispy skin and tender meat and won’t lengthen the cooking time.

For example, cooking your turkey at 350 degrees will cook 15 minutes per pound.

If your turkey is 15 pounds, it’ll take 150 minutes to cook, so you should baste it about four times.

What You Need to Baste a Turkey

Baste ingredients for turkey

Here’s what you can use for basting a turkey:

  • Ladle
  • Turkey baster
  • Basting brush
  • Spoon

You can choose whichever of these you’re most comfortable with. You also need basting liquid.

You can use turkey juices or make a boasting liquid by using:

  • Melted butter
  • Lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Garlic
  • Brown sugar
  • Oregano

Once again, you don’t necessarily need all of these. It’s best to choose a base, such as melted herb butter or oil mixed with fresh herbs and brown sugar, and add some seasoning for an easy mixture.

Or, you can use chicken broth as a basting mixture.

You can also experiment to find out what will make the best crispy turkey skin. For example, use beer, whiskey, or apple cider.

These are best used with a smoked turkey, where you can’t collect the juices from basting.

“To keep the turkey moist during roasting, you can baste occasionally with pan drippings or melted butter. Use a turkey baster to collect the juices from the pan and squeeze out over the turkey.”

- My Recipes YouTube Channel

Related Articles:

Steps to Basting a Turkey

Readying turkey meat for cooking and basting

Here’s how to baste a turkey step-by-step:

  • Prepare the Turkey — Thaw a frozen turkey, then put the turkey on a roasting pan or a pan rack to catch the juices as they run into the bottom of the dish. This also makes it easier to clean up after you cook a turkey. If you're trying to figure out how to cook a turkey, you can read this article.
  • Get Two Timers — Use one timer for the whole cooking time and another for intervals between basting. Set the basting timer to ring every 40 minutes so you don’t forget to baste and have a dry turkey instead of a juicy one.
  • Time for the First Baste — After the turkey has been cooking for 40 minutes, open the oven and pull the rack so it’s halfway out. Open the roasting pan lid and remove the baking sheet covering it. If the turkey is starting to brown, it’s time to baste. Use a turkey baste to suck up and pour the liquids for a perfect Thanksgiving turkey. You can also use a spoon or a cup.
  • Baste the Turkey — Gently pour the liquid using a turkey baster over the entire surface of the meat to ensure a moist turkey all over.
  • Put the Turkey Back — When you’re done basting, return the turkey to the baking dish, replace the lid covering the roasting pan, and close the oven door.
  • Set the Timer — Set the timer to ring for another 40 minutes, and repeat the process.

Pro tip: In case the turkey touches the baking dish, make sure to squeeze out the excess juice. Don’t let the turkey simmer in its juices; you’ll have chewy turkey meat instead of crisp, golden skin.

It’s best not to baste with the oven door open. You want to keep the oven or smoker warm.

Put on oven mittens and remove the turkey from the heat source for basting, making sure to close the door.

This way, the oven will remain hot, and the turkey will cook as soon as you return it to the heat source.

You can also save the excess juice and use it as a sauce base. Pour it into a bowl and serve with other side dishes.

The juice will taste like a delicious turkey, so don’t throw it away.

Why It’s Important to Baste a Turkey?

A person basting turkey meat

It’s important to baste a turkey because it loses moisture as it cooks.

When you baste it, you prevent it from overcooking and ending up with a dry and tough turkey.

You should cook turkey until it reaches 165 degrees [1].

This goes for the turkey breast, but the dark meat, such as thighs and drumsticks, should reach 180 degrees.

This means the breast is finished cooking long before the whole bird is done, and it can get dry. Basting prevents this.

Turkey basting makes the meat cook longer because the heat from the oven needs more time to evaporate the moisture. 

Basting has another benefit: the fats in the basting mixture caramelize on the skin, so you have roasted turkey with a golden-brown, crisp skin.

There’s a perfect combo of crisp skin and juicy meat.


Is it OK Not to Baste Turkey?

Yes, it’s OK not to baste the turkey. This isn’t an obligatory step for a juicy turkey. However, basting doesn’t let the turkey dry out.

Should I Baste My Turkey with Butter or Oil?

You should baste your turkey with butter or oil. Both of these are good choices, whatever basting technique you use. However, butter has more water, so oil is a slightly better choice because it has more fat and ensures the turkey is crispy.

Should I Cover My Turkey with Aluminum Foil?

Yes, you should cover your turkey with aluminum foil. This produces moister results, especially when roasting a whole turkey.

Basting Makes Such a Difference…

The golden rule is to baste the turkey every 40 minutes.

This ensures the turkey temperature doesn’t get too low, prevents having a turkey dry, and ensures crispy results. Use a turkey baster for the easiest application of basting liquid.

However, buying your turkey from reputable sources is a crucial step.

If you don’t know where to start, check ButcherBox, a meat delivery company that sells free-range poultry meat without any hormones or antibiotics.

The birds are allowed to roam, which results in delicious, healthy meat.



Was this article helpful?

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *