I forgot to buy twine for tying my turkey's legs together. How important is that? I've heard that it's mostly for presentation, but it may also help prevent the turkey from drying out and may help keep the stuffing in.

Is there any validity to these claims?

Also, is there an alternative I might have around the house? I've thought about sewing thread, but that probably has polyester in it and it seems like it could melt.

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    A couple of paper clips
    – TFD
    Nov 22 '12 at 18:56
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    Do you have any fishing line in the garage? Or maybe those wire ties that hold and contain the excess lengths of cable, etc. for your home entertainment system? Or strip the plastic off of a few inches of speaker wire if you have a spool of it lying around? Nov 22 '12 at 19:11
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    I wouldn't use plastic, it would melt in the oven. Maybe use white cotton sewing thread (fabric colors aren't healthy to eat), you can crochet it into a line if you are afraid it will tear.
    – rumtscho
    Nov 25 '12 at 21:37

Some people, and some well known Chef's (Micheal Ruhlman, Julia Child) swear that trussing is necessary. I say that it is not, and that the meat between the thigh and the breast, on a trussed bird, cooks too slowly so that the rest of the bird risks overcooking. I do just the opposite and splay out the legs as much as I can.

My two favourite sources for recipes (Heston Blumenthal, and the cookbook The New Best Recipe) do not truss for Chicken and I wouldn't for Turkey either.

Unless you are convinced that a trussed bird cooks more evenly, I would say that it is mostly for presentation.

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    Here's exactly what The New Best Recipe says, "[trussing] is said to promote more even cooking. We trussed a bird [...] and cooked for what seemed like a long time, 1 1/2 hours. The white meat was overcooked, but the dark meat was just right. We concluded that trussing makes it more difficult to cook the inner part of the thigh properly [...] An untrussed bird took only one hour to cook, and the white and dark meat were both nicely roasted." Nov 22 '12 at 21:16

If you're following a particular recipe to the letter, and it specifies tying the legs together, then you might want to consider it. Otherwise, I wouldn't bother.

Trussing a bird will pull it together into a more compact shape, the reasoning for cooking being that it will cook more evenly if it's closer to a uniform spheroid shape, rather than having leg and wing bits sticking out all over. The argument against it is that it decreases total surface area, increases total cooking time, and causes the outside parts (particularly the white meat, which overcooks sooner) to cook more before the inner parts are done. The variations in your oven and in the turkey itself will cause just as much (or more) error as trussing.

That can be risky with stuffing, which will be the last to fully cook, and might have soaked up all those yummy raw turkey juices. Leaving the legs open (not to lewd) can give the stuffing a bit more surface area, and will expose the thin flaps of skin on the sides to allow even more heat to get to the stuffing sooner.

As far as keeping the stuffing inside, I doubt it will be a problem unless you have a very dry and loose or very wet stuffing - and if some spills out, so what? Extra crunchy bits.

  • I agree, tying is really just for the look of the bird if you present it whole and carve at the table. I haven't tied my turkey legs in many years--lately, I cut them up into parts -before- roasting, even, but that is another story.
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Nov 22 '12 at 21:52

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I didn't tie the legs and stuffed the bird with cornbread apple stuffing, turned out very well cooked. I made sure to baste every 30 minutes and cooked this 20 pounder for 4 hours.

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