‘Flipping the Bird’ at the Holidays – How to Cook the Juiciest Roast Turkey You’ve Ever Tasted

by on November 24, 2020 · 13 comments

in Culture, Popular

Originally published Nov. 23, 2011.

By Patty Jones

I want to share a family secret with you – one long held in the Jones family holiday tradition – on the accepted method of “flipping the bird” at Thanksgiving.

Many years ago my mother stumbled through her early morning Thanksgiving ritual of prepping a huge turkey for the afternoon feast. Before her first cup of coffee she dropped the bird in the roasting pan and shoved it into the oven. A couple of hours later she opened the oven door and she realized she had put it in the pan upside (or breast-side) down. At this point the huge bird was too hot to handle so she basted it, tented it and shoved it back into the oven. The resulting bird has lingered in mouthwatering memory…

Prepare your turkey as you normally would, wash it, dry it, season it. We never stuff our bird because stuffing tends to draw moisture out of the meat and takes it much longer to roast. We’ve also found that there is no need to truss the legs or wings when you use a “V” shaped roasting rack, so the prep is real simple.

Place your turkey breast side down in your roasting rack in a regular roasting pan. Roast it at the recommended temperature and time for the size of your bird (usually found on the outer wrapper). The major differences in this method is you don’t need to baste and if you want gravy from the drippings you will need to add water to the pan because most all of the juice stays in the meat. I gradually add a couple of cups of water to the pan over the course of the roasting time, we like lots of gravy.

After the skin browns the way you want it to, tent the top of the turkey with some aluminum foil. The wings will get pretty crispy but the rest of the meat is so wonderfully moist you won’t mind one little bit. This turkey is strictly meant for eating, and is not a “presentation bird” in the classic sense. And if you carve it in the kitchen your guests will never know the secret to the best turkey they ever had… Enjoy!


{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

mr fresh November 23, 2011 at 10:12 am

duh… is this story satire?


Patty Jones November 23, 2011 at 10:31 am

LOL! But yeah, I am absolutely serious!


RB November 23, 2011 at 11:35 am

I have not tried an inverted bird….interesting.

For a moist bird based upon the some science……
Never or rarely open the oven. You allow moisture to escape each time. Each time you loss the moisture in the oven, the vapor pressure of water in the oven will return by extracting H2O from the bird.
Always rub the bird with oil. We all know oil and water don’t mix, or water and oil have a low common solubility. Rubbing with oil creates a barrier against water or moisture leaving the bird.

For a smoked turkey use a Weber grill.


Patty Jones November 23, 2011 at 11:44 am

I usually do rub the turkey down with oil like you suggest but forgot to mention it, thanks. I think using the inverted method allows the juice to travel down into the breast meat instead of into the cavity where it then runs into the pan. Adding liquid to the pan may help with keeping the water vapor pressure up like you pointed out.


Frank Gormlie November 23, 2011 at 9:17 pm

I’ve eaten this type of flipped bird for several Thanksgivings now and can attest to the juiciness.


Debra November 27, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I’ve been cooking my turkeys this way for the past 25 yrs, or so. I first found out about it from some former co-workers. It comes out perfect every time!!


nostalgic November 28, 2013 at 9:43 am

Re-the upside down Bird – cooked from the Mike Roy Cookbook, No 2. 1974 – “place the bird breast down in a rack in an open pan in a 275 degree oven allowing twenty-two minutes to a pound. ” At least 30 birds cooked by this recipe.
Stuffed with stuffing (myself and turkey, at this point) with Mike Roy’s cornbread stuffing. Happy Thanksgiving!


South Park November 24, 2014 at 2:04 pm

nostalgic – I love this piece about Mike Roy that was in the LA Times in 1994:

The cornbread stuffing: do you include the vermouth and brandy as in Roy’s recipe?

I go the butter-herbs-under-the-breast-skin route, cooking with with the bird breast up, but loosely tented until the end. This is fun:

Loosen the breast skin, starting at the neck end, then work your fingers under the skin covering the entire breast; don’t tear skin; rub 4 tablespoons of soft herb butter (3 tablespoons of chopped fresh sage/rosemary/thyme) under the skin.

Happy Turkey-day!


RB November 26, 2014 at 8:21 am

I add sliced garlic under the skin……before I flip my bird.


Rocky November 25, 2015 at 6:56 pm

just use a bag for juicy turkey


tj November 25, 2015 at 11:45 pm

sounds great….

Happy Thanksgiving!

first celebrated by fundamentalist Christian Pilgrims & the indigenous peoples – who all got along GREAT together.

then the greedy profiteers came…

here’s remembering the spirit of that very first Thanksgiving – being grateful to God for all their / our many blessings.

Vaya con Dios


Dean November 24, 2020 at 7:26 pm

I brine my turkey for at least 12 hours and throw it in a cooking bag stuffed with a mixture of wild rice and stuffing breast side up. It cooks quicker and juicy too.


joao January 30, 2022 at 10:05 am

I have tried out your recipe and it turned out great! Thank you!


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