How to Maximise Your Bounty of Crispy Turkey Skin

How to Maximise Your Bounty of Crispy Turkey Skin
Photo: Brent Hofacker, Shutterstock

One of the great things about eating birds is getting to consume their (hopefully) crispy, (ideally) well-seasoned skin. But some people, like my mother, don’t appreciate this gift. (This ended up working out well for me as a youth, as I could steal all the skin from the rotisserie chicken with impunity.) But my fellow skin fans (who I almost referred to as “skinheads” just now) know what’s good, and these are the people whose enjoyment I want to maximise.

If you’re cooking a whole turkey, there are several well-known strategies you can use to crisp the skin while the turkey cooks. You can use the Serious Eats baking soda trick (sprinkle one part baking soda to three parts kosher salt all over the bird, then let it rest uncovered in the fridge for 24 hours before roasting), or you could enlist the help of your hair dryer.

But, even if you take those steps, there are going to be spots on the turkey that just don’t get the amount of heat and air flow required to render it crispy. (Putting the bird on a wire rack helps, but the bird’s back will never get as crisp as its breast.)

These sub-par skin regions usually get tossed, or boiled with the rest of the carcass for stock, but this — to me — is wasteful. That skin deserves the glory of crispness, and you can help it get there. The plan? Wait until your family is asleep, remove any sad, flabby, leftover skin from the turkey, then fry it into a crisp. You can use the procedure outlined in this blog on how to fry leftover chicken skin, just change the word “chicken” to “turkey”:

Just (gently) peel any skin off of your cooked chicken and place the pieces in a cold nonstick pan. Set the pan on a burner, turn the heat to medium, and let the pieces cook until they are golden and crispy, flipping once to get both sides (chopsticks work best for this). Transfer to paper towels, salt (if needed) and enjoy in sandwiches or salads, sprinkled on top of pasta or all on their own.

Then there are turkey preparations that require you to remove the skin entirely before cooking, such as the roulade. The thought may initially send shivers of skin-enthusiast horror down your spine, but this kind of thing actually offers a tremendous opportunity. With the skin removed pre-roast, you are free to turn the entire thing into a huge, glorious cracklin’! Happy holidays, indeed!

All you have to do is lay the (generously seasoned) piece of skin flat on a parchment-lined baking sheet, place another piece of parchment on top, and set something heavy (like a pan, or a baking sheet with one or more kitchen bricks) on top of the upper layer of parchment. Pop the whole thing in 190 degrees Celsius oven for 30-45 minutes. Once it’s a deep, sultry, golden brown, remove it from the oven and let it dry on a cooling rack where it will crisp up further. Serve with your turkey if you can stand to wait that long.

If you are worried you’ll eat all the crispy skin before the turkey makes it out of the oven, just ask your butcher if they have any extra skin to sell you. Don’t phrase it like that though. Phrase it like a normal human who doesn’t crave skin above all else. “Please sir, might I purchase some turkey skin trimmings?” should do the trick.

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