If there is one person who can teach you how to properly cook a turkey, it’s Gordan Ramsay. The Michelin-starred chef is such a legend in the culinary world that he was actually knighted by Queen Elizabeth. When it comes to passing on knowledge to home cooks, Ramsay’s specialty is impressive roasts. Some of his most famous recipes include beef Wellington, roast duck, and rack of lamb, all great centerpieces for big family dinners. But Ramsay has another popular recipe that is even more relevant for stateside holidays — his roast turkey — and it has an uncommon twist involving plenty of delicious bacon.
The chef uses a number of ingredients to maximize the juiciness of his turkey, but his use of bacon to help the bird stay moist is something special. After a quick initial stint in the oven, he lays six big slices of fatty bacon on top of the thickest part of the turkey breast before popping it back in to finish cooking. According to Ramsay, the bacon buffers the meat from direct heat, which prevents it from drying out. All that bacon fat dripping over the roast can’t hurt either. As a nice additional upside, the rendered fat will mix with the drippings from the turkey, making for a more flavorful gravy.
Gordon Ramsay uses bacon to shield the turkey breast from drying out
As Ramsay explains, turkey is a lean meat that needs a lot of help to stay moist. His method of covering the breast with bacon works well because of the uneven way turkeys cook. The breast meat should be roasted at a lower temperature to keep it juicy, but because of the shape of the bird, it actually cooks quicker than other sections with dark meat. By shielding the breast, the white meat will cook slower, preventing it from getting overcooked before the rest of the turkey is done. Ramsay also puts his turkey in the oven at a higher heat for a short period without the bacon. This helps brown the skin before it gets covered, so you get the moistness yet don’t lose out on flavor.
Bacon may be the literal backbone of Ramsay’s holiday turkey, but he doesn’t stop there. The chef stuffs an herb butter under the turkey skin for additional moisture and flavor, and roasts his turkey with onions in the cavity, which steam it from the inside. It’s an all-out approach to keeping turkey juicy from every direction, and one that pays off in a tender and deeply flavored roast. Of course, if you can only choose one of these techniques to give you the best results, stick with the bacon.