Although some people argue that basting isn't necessary when roasting a turkey, chef Dwayne LiPuma of The Culinary Institute of America disagrees. He says that while the moisture only penetrates 1/8 to 1/4 inch into the meat, it's still more than you started with, and definitely makes the meat more moist. Since you've already basted the raw bird with a layer of melted butter, there's no need to begin basting until 1 1/2 hours into roasting, he says.
How to Baste a Turkey
He removes the turkey from the oven and applies a layer of melted butter to the skin of the turkey using a pastry brush. After that, he bastes every 30 minutes, switching from the melted butter to the natural juices at the bottom of the pan, once enough accumulates. The butter you've used to baste the turkey with will make its way down into the juices in the bottom, and that meaty, buttery mixture will eventually become the base for your gravy.
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I'm Chef Dwayne LiPuma, from the Culinary Institute of America, and today I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: how to baste a turkey.
To baste or not to baste? I, personally, like to baste. They say that with basting, the flavor or the moisture only goes an eighth or a quarter of an inch into the meat, but you know what? That eighth or quarter of an inch is more than we have from the beginning. So I'm an advocate of basting.
What do we baste with? As the bird goes along, it'll form natural jus, or juices. For maybe the first hour or hour and a half there aren't going to be any juices on the bottom, so maybe at the start you want to have some butter ready to go.
What is the rule of thumb for basting? We've already pre-basted by covering it with a fat medium, when we prepped it with butter - so we don't have to worry about it for the first hour and a half. From that point on, when do you like to baste? Every half hour. I'm going to start first with the butter. Make sure the butter's still liquid; you're going to be liberal with the butter, and you're going to do this kind of fast, because you want to get it back in the oven. You can see how nice a sheen you've got, and that butter is going to slowly bring itself into that bird, and make it more succulent than it has already started to be. Beautiful! That nice fat is going to run into the jus, and then an hour from now we'll bring it back out and start using the natural jus for basting. Then the butter that's in the jus, that's what we're going to make gravy from - and everything's going to taste just perfect.
Some of the jus has already started to come out of the bird, so we can maybe sneak in one basting here with the natural jus of the bird. I'm going to just sneak in here and try to get some of these juices; you can see that it's not that hard. It is a little bit laborious, but if you move really fast using a brush, you carry that liquid up real fast. If you wait too long, it's just going to drip right off, so just move fast with this and just do pats with the brush, real fast, and you can bring up all the juices you want. Just keep patting it with love - it just keeps on going.