Could a Hairdryer Be the Secret to Your Best-Ever Thanksgiving Turkey?
Is this hack just another viral gimmick—or the secret to Thanksgiving turkey perfection? We put this unusual skin-crisping method to the test.
Taste of Home
In a world of 30-second how-to videos and viral TikTok hacks, it can be tough to discern fact from fiction. Personally, I’m always skeptical and can typically see through those that are simply smoke and mirrors.
However, once in a while, one of these viral hacks is simply too tempting not to try. That’s how I felt when I stumbled upon a claim that using a hairdryer is the secret to a perfectly crispy skin-on chicken or turkey. I knew instantly this was a Thanksgiving hack that I should put to the test!
What Drying the Skin on a Turkey Does
If you’re roasting a turkey, most recipes recommend that you pat the turkey dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture from the skin before cooking. This helps the turkey’s skin brown evenly and get crispy in the oven.
Why a Hairdryer May Work Better Than Paper Towels
I’ve used the paper towel method for years, but a hairdryer is such an obvious replacement that I can’t believe I haven’t tried it before, let alone seen recommended in other poultry recipes!
Unlike paper towels that are only able to remove moisture on the surface of the skin, the hot air of a hairdryer is able to penetrate under the turkey’s skin and remove any moisture that may be lingering under the surface. The result, in theory, is an extra crispy, golden turkey skin.
Lauren Habermehl for Taste of Home
How to Use a Hairdryer on a Turkey
I did some research and discovered that this method wasn’t an entirely new idea. Surprisingly, giving your bird a salon-quality blowout has been around in the US since at least 1978, when it was introduced by the famed culinary mastermind Marcella Hazan in her cookbook More Classic Italian Cooking. But this method is hardly Italian! It’s actually of Chinese origin and often used by chefs when making a classic Peking duck.
Here’s how to do it step by step:
- Thaw: Completely thaw turkey in the refrigerator.
- Get rid of the extras: Remove turkey from packaging and remove any organ meat or gravy packets from the cavity of the bird.
- Pat dry: Use paper towels to give the turkey an initial pat-down inside and outside, absorbing any water or juices sitting on the skin’s surface or pooling inside the cavity.
- Break out the hairdryer: Turn a hairdryer to its highest, warmest setting. Blowdry the skin and cavity of the turkey thoroughly on all sides until the skin feels completely dry, about 10 to 15 minutes depending on the size of your turkey. Ultimately, you don’t want any dampness felt on the skin.
- Cook as normal: Continue to prep and season the turkey as directed by your chosen recipe and cook as directed. For testing purposes, I used this roasted sage turkey recipe.
Lauren Habermehl for Taste of Home
My oh my, this turkey trick did not disappoint! I noticed the turkey skin browning in the oven after just 15 to 20 minutes of cooking—which is a lot sooner than usual. Because the skin is already so dry, the oven doesn’t have to work as hard to dry out the skin. Instead, it can skip right to browning and crisping.
And indeed, it was crispy. Not only was the skin on this bird extra-crisp, I felt it browned more evenly than other turkeys I’ve roasted in the past. I’m assuming this is due to the fact that the hairdryer helped dry the skin more evenly so there weren’t any damp spots on the bird as it cooked in the oven.
Other Methods That Will Make the Skin Crispy
Now that I’ve seen the results of this hairdryer hack in action, I’m eager to experiment further by using it in tandem with other tried-and-true skin crisping methods like these:
- Brush with fat: When choosing a recipe, look for one that requires you to brush or rub the outside of the turkey with some sort of fat (e.g. olive oil, butter, mayonnaise, etc.). The fat will help crisp up the skin further while roasting.
- Dry brine: A dry brine is a great way to help pull excess water and moisture out of a turkey prior to cooking. A dry brine is generally a rub of herbs and spices with a high salt ratio. Done 24-48 hours before cooking, a dry brine is applied to a turkey’s skin and then placed, uncovered, in the fridge to work its magic.
- 24-hour chill: While this trick often accompanies a dry brine, you can also unpackage your turkey and leave it naked (without a dry brine) in the fridge for 24 hours. The cool, dry air circulating in the fridge will further help to dry out the turkey’s skin.
- Baste: A lot of people (myself included) like to skip basting because it does add work to the overall turkey roasting process. It pains me to admit that this method, while tedious, is super effective at crisping and browning a turkey’s skin while it cooks.
- Crank up the heat: A little extra heat can also work wonders on a turkey’s skin. Try either cranking up your oven’s heat to 450° for the final 20 minutes of cooking or turning on your oven’s broiler for the final ten minutes of cooking. Just watch your bird carefully since it’s easy to over-brown your turkey at these temperatures and dry out the delicate breast meat you’ve painstakingly nurtured.
This Thanksgiving, add a hairdryer to your Thanksgiving supply checklist. It’s an added step that will not only garner questions, weird looks and probably a few laughs from your friends and family but also yield amazing results that are well worth the extra effort.
Next, check out quick fixes for the most common Thanksgiving turkey problems.