How to Baste Your Turkey Without a Baster

Preparing Turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner
kajakiki / Getty Images

Following a turkey recipe that calls for basting? If you've just realized you don't own a turkey baster (and especially if you've got guests coming in mere hours), you're probably experiencing a moment of panic right now. But don't worry: You can baste a turkey without a turkey baster.

A turkey baster looks like a large eyedropper. You squeeze the bulb on top to pick up juices from your turkey's roasting pan and then squeeze the bulb again to squirt those juices all over the turkey. It is supposed to keep your turkey nice and moist as it cooks.

In fact, you may not need to baste your turkey at all—not all chefs agree that it's necessary. But if you want to follow your recipe as it's written, here's how you can baste a turkey without a turkey baster.

Learn How to Baste Your Turkey Without a Baster

If you don't have a turkey baster on hand, just grab a small metal measuring cup (the 1/2 cup size works well) or a large serving spoon to scoop up the pan juices, and ladle them over your bird. Watch your hands and arms as you're doing this since these tools get you much closer to the hot metal in the oven and the pan than a turkey baster would. However, this technique accomplishes the same thing as even the fanciest of turkey basters. Or skip that step altogether. While many people say basting is essential, just as many say it isn't.

Cooking Your Turkey

If you want to avoid the chore of basting your turkey, cover the breast meat with aluminum foil before you stick the bird in the oven. It will do more to keep your bird moist than basting ever would. It’s a lot less hassle, too. And on a day when you’re already juggling a million things, it’s nice not to have to fuss with pulling a heavy turkey in and out of the oven all day.

Just be sure to remove the foil an hour before you expect your turkey to be done (figure on 15 to 20 minutes per pound), so the breasts have a chance to brown. As long as you don’t leave your turkey in the oven longer than it needs to be, it shouldn’t come out dry.

Just check the turkey temperature regularly as you approach the end of the cooking time, and pull it out as soon as it reaches a safe temp. When the thighs reach 180 F, and the breast meat reaches 165 F, it's time to remove it from the oven. Allow the turkey to sit for 15 to 30 minutes before you serve it, so the juices have time to redistribute throughout the bird.

How to Fix a Dry Turkey

You’ll be happy to know that a dry bird is fixable. Just pour some of the pan drippings or a bit of turkey broth over your turkey, and give it time to absorb in. No one ever has to know it didn’t come out of the oven that way. And remember: as long as you don’t burn the turkey, there’s nothing a little gravy can’t fix. You can whip up an amazing gravy using the pan drippings, neck, and giblets, or even with just the pan drippings.