November 25, 2010


A carver's confession: He who holds the knife gets dibs on the crispy, flavorful turkey skin. (David Shaw, November 17, 2004, LA Times)

I used to have an editor who insisted that turkey was "dry and boring." The only reason Thanksgiving dinner was even worth eating, he said, was "to get all those accompaniments and accouterments" � by which he meant stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, yams, pies and the like.


A properly cooked turkey � preferably one brined beforehand � is moist and delicious, one of America's great gifts to global gastronomy. I especially like the dark meat � the thigh in particular. But my absolute favorite part of the turkey � my favorite part of the entire Thanksgiving dinner � is the turkey skin. Crisp, chewy, warm and full of flavor, it ranks right up there with white truffles, foie gras, barbecue ribs and a good, natural-casing hot dog on my list of all-time favorite foods.

In fact, selfish and greedy though it may seem, I try every Thanksgiving � and every other time we have turkey for dinner, anywhere � to snare a few golden patches of skin even before we all sit down at table.

How do I do that?

Easy. I volunteer to carve the turkey. I do so every time, whether we're eating at our house or someone else's. And then, nibbling as I go, I make sure to rip off (so to speak) several good, big pieces of skin as a sort of carving fee.

If we're guests at a friend's or relative's house, I don't insist on carving. I can still recall graciously (I hope) yielding carving duties one evening a number of years ago to Michel Richard when he was the chef at Citrus and we were having dinner at the home of a mutual friend. Michel carved the turkey with such speed, dexterity and precision � every slice was exactly the same thickness as every other slice � that I considered hanging up my knife permanently that very night.

But my desire for what I've come to think of as my EATS (Exclusive Access To Skin) prevailed, and I continue to volunteer, often quite vigorously, for carving duty.

(originally posted: November 25, 2004)

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Posted by Orrin Judd at November 25, 2010 12:39 AM

Mmmm...Turkey skin...and I thought I was the only one.

Posted by: Bartman at November 25, 2004 8:51 AM

It also helps to make a little speech on how fatty and unhealthy it is and then offer to give everybody else your share of that doublegood healthy dry white meat. After all, fatherhood is about sacrifice.

Posted by: Peter B at November 25, 2004 9:03 AM

they ought to sell it in snack bags, like potato skins.

Posted by: oj at November 25, 2004 9:05 AM

The skin on all birds is delicious. Duck? Chicken? Grouse? Yum Yum.

Posted by: AllenS at November 25, 2004 9:37 AM

After the skin and thighs, the turkey is pretty worthless. Other than a vehicle to cook the stuffing.

Posted by: Rick T. at November 25, 2004 12:40 PM

The chicken breast is properly saved for turkey sandwiches the following weeks, on white bread, with pepper and mayonnaise. (Preferably Duke's.)

Posted by: John Thacker at November 25, 2004 1:39 PM

Why not just scoop up a big ol' handful of lard and shove that in yer mouths ?

Seriously, if the skin is the best part, and the white meat is dry and tasteless, YOU'RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT !

Of course, that might be hard to explain to the cook, who's possibly been doing it for decades, and suggestions aren't well appreciated...
I feel your pain.
Both my juicy, flavorful bird and I feel your pain.


They do.

They're called "pork rinds".

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at November 25, 2004 1:45 PM

That's the other white meat.

Posted by: oj at November 25, 2004 2:48 PM


There are good and bad ways to cook the white meat, but it is still white meat. As John says, better with sandwiches. (Hellman's)

People who try and argue that the white meat is the best part if done right remind me of the food faddists from the late seventies who suddenly declared zuchinni was ambrosia if only done right. Too many casseroles, muffins, braized veggies later, I finally swore off the vile stuff for good. Life has been sweeter since.

Eating healthy is good. Pretending it tastes better is a lie,

Posted by: Peter B at November 26, 2004 6:11 AM

One of the central problems of our civilization -- if not THe problem -- is the bird -- turkey, chicken, whatever -- that's been bred to be all breast and no thigh. The only thing more of an abomination is the lean hog.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at November 24, 2005 12:15 PM

Does eating the skin make one a crunchy-con?

Posted by: ratbert at November 24, 2005 6:01 PM

I agree with Michael H. The problem is that the dark meat must reach ~180�F, the white meat only ~160�F, and pop-up indicators are set to pop at about 180�F so the dark meat is properly cooked, over-cooking and drying out the white meat.

I finally found the secret this year. First thoroughly defrost and brine the bird. Do not even think about stuffing the bird or basting it! Roast at 500�F for 30 mins.; reduce the heat to 350�F and cover the breast with a prefitted, doubled aluminum foil triangle, leaving the legs uncovered; and roast until a meat thermometer in the breast reads 161�F. The dark meat was properly cooked, while the white meat was still moist and flavorful.

Posted by: jd watson at November 25, 2005 12:00 AM
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