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How do you moisten dry turkey?

Why is my turkey dry?

There are a few common reasons why turkey can turn out dry:

  • Overcooking – Cooking the turkey for too long dries out the natural juices and moisture in the meat. Turkey is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F in the thickest part of the breast and thigh.
  • Not brining – Brining the turkey before cooking helps infuse moisture and flavor into the meat. Skipping this important step often leads to a dried out bird.
  • Improper resting – Allowing the turkey to rest after cooking is crucial. The juices redistribute through the meat during resting. Cutting into turkey too soon after cooking causes the juices to run out and the meat dries out.
  • Cooking at too high of a temperature – Cooking the turkey at very high temps like above 350°F can cause the outside to overcook before the inside is done. Maintaining a steady 325°F oven temperature is best.
  • Not basting – Basting the turkey as it cooks helps keep the skin and meat moisturized. Make sure to baste every 30 minutes or so during roasting.
  • Using the wrong pan – Cooking the turkey in too small of a pan can lead to drying out. Allow 1-2 inches of space on all sides between the bird and the pan.
  • Too much air circulation – Excess air flow from oven fans or convection cooking can dehydrate the turkey skin and meat.

How to Fix an Already Cooked Dry Turkey

If it’s too late and your turkey has already turned out dry, don’t panic! You have options to moisten and improve the flavor of the cooked meat. Here are some great ways to fix a dried out turkey:

Make Turkey Gravy

Making turkey gravy from the pan drippings is one of the easiest ways to inject moisture back into sliced turkey meat. Use the fond and browned bits in the bottom of the roasting pan to create a flavorful gravy. Let the drippings simmer and scrape up any bits. Mix in broth, seasonings and a thickener like cornstarch or flour. Pour the savory gravy over your turkey slices.

Baste with Turkey Broth

Baste cooled slices of turkey with homemade or store-bought turkey broth. The natural juices and moisture from the broth will moisten the meat. Take care not to make the slices soggy.

Serve with Cranberry Sauce

Sweet-tart cranberry sauce complements dried turkey beautifully. The moisture from the sauce hydrates the turkey meat when eaten together in each bite. And it adds a delicious flavor contrast.

Make Turkey Salad

Chop or shred the dried turkey pieces and moisten by mixing it into a salad. Turkey salads with dressings, veggies, fruits and nuts add back hydration and make the meat more palatable. Add chopped turkey to potato salad, pasta salad, or use it in a sandwich or wrap with lettuce, tomato and creamy spread.

Simmer in Gravy or Sauce

Simmer slices or pieces of the cooked dry turkey in flavorful gravy, sauce or broth for 10-15 minutes until moistened throughout. Try salsa, marinara, mushroom sauce, etc. Stir occasionally for even moistening.

Cook Moist Stuffing or Dressing

If the turkey is dry but the stuffing/dressing turned out moist, serve more of it with the turkey. The moisture from the stuffing will add hydration when eaten together. Cook extra moist stuffing or bake some dressing in a casserole.

Add Moisture While Heating Leftovers

When reheating leftover turkey slices, chop up fresh herbs, carrot, celery, onion and garlic. Add 1⁄2 cup broth or water to the container before heating. The extra moisture while heating will help hydrate the turkey.

Use in Soups, Stews or Casseroles

Add chopped leftover turkey to soup recipes like turkey noodle soup, turkey and rice soup or turkey chili. The moisture from the broth in soups and stews will rehydrate the turkey. Use in casseroles like turkey tetrazzini or turkey and stuffing bake with creamy sauces.

Season and Sear Slices

Season dried out slices with salt, pepper and spices like garlic powder, paprika and oregano. Sear the slices quickly in a hot pan with olive oil to heat through and slightly crisp the outside. The seasoning and searing can make the slices more palatable.

Make Turkey Enchiladas

Chop or shred the turkey and mix with enchilada sauce and veggies. Roll up in tortillas with ample sauce and cheese. Bake the enchiladas until hot and bubbly. The sauce will moisten the meat.

Tips to Keep Turkey Moist When Cooking

While the above fixes can help after the turkey turns out dry, it’s even better to use methods to keep the bird nice and moist while cooking. Here are some great tips:

Brine the Turkey

Soaking the turkey in a saltwater brine before roasting infuses flavor and moisture deep into the meat. Dissolve 1 cup salt per gallon of water plus aromatics like peppercorns, herbs and citrus. Submerge turkey and refrigerate 8-12 hours. Rinse and pat dry before roasting.

Rub Butter Under and Over the Skin

Gently loosen the skin on the turkey breast without totally detaching it. Rub softened butter under the skin. Massage the skin to evenly distribute the butter before roasting. Spread butter over the skin as well.

Baste Frequently

Baste the turkey every 30 minutes while roasting. Spoon pan juices, broth or melted butter over the top. Basting keeps the skin from drying out. For flavor, baste with herb-infused oil or melted garlic-herb butter.

Cook at Lower Temperatures

Roast the turkey at an oven temp between 325-350°F. The lower heat allows time for the interior to cook through without over-browning the exterior. Higher heat causes uneven cooking.

Use a Meat Thermometer

Test doneness by temperature, not time. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh and breast without touching bone. Turkey is done at 165°F. Remove from the oven when it reaches 160°F and allow carryover cooking.

Let It Rest Before Carving

Never cut into the turkey right away after removing from the oven. Let it rest at least 30 minutes, tented with foil. Resting allows the juices to redistribute through the meat. Carve the turkey over a platter to catch the juices.

Cook Stuffing Separately

Cooking the stuffing stuffed inside the turkey causes overcooking. The stuffing prevents even heat circulation. Cook it separately in a baking dish loaded with moisture and fat.

Cook in an Oven Cooking Bag

Oven cooking bags lock in moisture and allow for even heat circulation. Season the turkey, place in the bag and securely tie it closed. Roast at 325°F until fully cooked.

Spatchcock the Turkey

Spatchcocking or butterflying the turkey means removing the backbone and flattening it out. This allows for quicker, more even cooking. Crisp the skin while keeping the meat juicy.

Deep Fry the Turkey

Deep frying turkey immerses the bird entirely in hot oil, sealing in moisture and producing an ultra crispy skin. Use a thermometer to carefully monitor the oil temperature when deep frying.

Moistening Methods by Turkey Part

Some turkey parts are prone to drying out more than others. Here are targeted tips for keeping different turkey components juicy:

Turkey Breast

– Brine turkey breast before cooking
– Roast at lower oven temperatures, around 325°F
– Tent loosely with foil to prevent over-browning
– Wrap in bacon or pancetta to baste meat while cooking
– Cook to just 160°F then allow carryover cooking

Turkey Legs

– Marinate legs in broth mixtures to infuse flavor and moisture
– Braise legs in flavorful liquid like wine, broth or juice
– Deep fry legs for moist meat encased in ultra crispy skin
– Grill legs over indirect heat, flipping frequently to prevent burning
– Cook legs sous vide for super tender and succulent meat

Turkey Wings

– Deep fry wings for juicy meat and crispy skin
– Braise wings in broth, tomatoes, onions and herbs
– Grill wings using a water pan to add humidity
– Bake wings coated in thick barbecue sauce, honey or molasses

Ground Turkey

– Avoid overworking the meat when forming patties or meatballs
– Mix in some chicken broth or water when shaping ground turkey
– Fry burgers and meatballs over medium heat to cook gently
– Bake meatballs and meatloaf loosely covered in sauce

Turkey Cutlets

– Pound cutlets to an even thickness so they cook evenly
– Bread or flour and pan-fry cutlets in a combo of butter and oil
– Cook cutlets in simmering sauce like marsala, piccata or gravy
– Wrap cutlets around filling like herbs, cheeses or spinach


Dry turkey can ruin a meal, but it doesn’t have to with these effective moistening methods. From basting and brining to cooking with sauces and gravy, you have ample options to rehydrate dried out turkey. Take preventive measures while cooking as well. Master these techniques for juicy, flavorful turkey every time. Let your guests enjoy tender, succulent meat that makes them go back for seconds. Moist turkey makes for the perfect holiday centerpiece or anytime meal the whole family will love.