How to Truss a Turkey

Trussing a turkey before roasting it keeps the legs and wings close to the body so everything cooks evenly. It’s a simple method if you have some kitchen twine and a little know-how.

A raw trussed turkey in a roasting pan.

It’s tempting to just pop the Thanksgiving turkey into the oven without tying it up, a process called trussing, which makes the turkey into a neat, compact shape to cook evenly. But when you skip this important step, the breast cavity can stay open, allowing too much hot air to circulate inside of it.

That dries out the breast before the thighs and legs are properly cooked, and no one wants that.

No wrestling involved, I promise. It’s actually super simple, and one of the most important things you can do to get a juicy, well-cooked bird.

Trussing notes:

  • Turkey: Any kind of bird you like: pre-brined, dry-brined, Kosher, heritage, or natural turkeys all benefit from trussing.
  • Twine: Unbleached cotton kitchen twine, also known as butcher’s twine, is strong enough to hold a turkey together but won’t burn. Pro tip: You can ask your butcher for a long piece so you’ll always have some on hand. Sometimes I find it at HomeGoods or I buy this twine on Amazon (Culinary Hill may earn money if you buy through this link).

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. First, pat the bird dry and place it on a clean, steady work surface. Position the turkey breast side up with the legs facing you. Find the center of the twine and run it under the neck in the front of the bird. You don’t have to actually loop it under the neck (it may have been cut off too short anyway) but just be sure to get your string in that general area so it’s far enough down.  Bring the string up towards the wings and legs.
    A raw trussed turkey in a roasting pan.
  2. Next, use your thumbs to tuck the wings in as you bring the string around towards the legs. Keep the string tight to force the wings firmly against the body. The string should roughly follow the contours of the turkey  breast. Bring the string around between leg and breast, then give it one overhand knot and pull tight. The wings will be solidly pinned to the body, and the turkey breast will pop up. Don’t make a solid knot – you just want to be able to tighten up on the string.
    A raw trussed turkey in a roasting pan.
  3. Bring the ends of string down between the turkey’s legs, then cross the legs at the “ankles” above/behind the point of the turkey breast. Make sure your previous knot is still pulled tight. Separate the strings, loop them around the outside of the turkey ankles, then tie a square knot to finish it off. The legs should now be cinched in tight to the body.You did it! Now you’re ready to roast.
    A raw trussed turkey in a roasting pan.

Tips and variations:

  • How to truss a turkey using the stringless trussing method: This technique uses the loose skin of the turkey to hold the legs in place.
    1. Place the turkey with the cavity facing you. You should see two skin flaps on either side of the cavity, near the legs.
    2. With a sharp paring knife, cut a small slit in the center of each flap, going through the skin. Use your finger if necessary to widen the hole. Your finger should just be able to fit in each slit.
    3. Carefully tuck the end of each drumstick into the slit on the opposite side of the leg. When you’re finished, the legs will cross over each other and stay tight against the body of the bird.
    4. Next, grab the wing by the tip, gently twisting it away from you, and fold the tips of the wings behind the back. The weight of the bird holds them in place while everything cooks.
  • Stuffing a turkey: For food safety reasons, and for a more evenly cooked turkey, most modern recipes don’t encourage stuffing a turkey with stuffing (I bake a delicious bread stuffing outside the bird). If you decide to stuff your turkey, make sure the stuffing is warm when it goes in so it has a head start in cooking (either because you just finished making it or because you made it in advance and reheated it). Use a large spoon or your hands to loosely stuff the body and neck cavities (do not pack it tightly because the stuffing expands while it cooks). Truss the main cavity with trussing pins to keep the stuffing inside. The stuffing must register 165 degrees on an internal thermometer to be safe to eat.

A raw trussed turkey in a roasting pan.

More turkey techniques:

A raw trussed turkey in a roasting pan.

How to Truss a Turkey

Trussing a turkey before roasting it keeps the legs and wings close to the body so everything cooks evenly. It's a simple method if you have some kitchen twine and a little know-how.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Total Time: 3 minutes
Servings: 10 servings
Calories: 363kcal
Author: Meggan Hill

Ingredients

  • 1 whole turkey (see note 1)
  • 3 feet unbleached cotton butcher's twine (see note 2)

Instructions

  • Place the thawed (and brined, if applicable) turkey breast-side up, and run the center of the string under the neck in the front of the bird. 
  • Bring the string up towards the wings and legs.
  • Use your thumbs to tuck the wings in as you bring the string around towards the legs. Keep the string tight to force the wings firmly against the body. The string should roughly follow the contours of the turkey breast.
  • Bring the string around between leg and breast, then give it one overhand knot and pull tight. The wings will be solidly pinned to the body, and the turkey breast will pop up. Note that this is NOT a solid knot - we just want to be able to tighten up on the string. 
  • Bring the ends of string down between the turkey's legs, then cross the legs at the "ankles" above/behind the point of the turkey breast. Make sure your previous knot is still pulled tight. 
  • Separate the strings, loop them around the outside of the turkey ankles, then tie a square knot to finish it off. The legs should now be cinched in close to the body.
  • Snip the extra ends of string, and discard them. You are ready to roast and carve.

Notes

  1. Turkey: Any kind of bird you like: pre-brined, dry-brined, Kosher, heritage, or natural turkeys all benefit from trussing.
  2. Twine: Unbleached cotton kitchen twine, also known as butcher’s twine, is strong enough to hold a turkey together but won't burn. Pro tip: You can ask your butcher for a long piece so you'll always have some on hand. Sometimes I find it at HomeGoods or I buy this twine on Amazon (Culinary Hill may earn money if you buy through this link).
  3. How to truss a turkey using the stringless trussing method: This technique uses the loose skin of the turkey to hold the legs in place.
    1. Place the turkey with the cavity facing you. You should see two skin flaps on either side of the cavity, near the legs.
    2. With a sharp paring knife, cut a small slit in the center of each flap, going through the skin. Use your finger if necessary to widen the hole. Your finger should just be able to fit in each slit.
    3. Carefully tuck the end of each drumstick into the slit on the opposite side of the leg. When you're finished, the legs will cross over each other and stay tight against the body of the bird.
    4. Next, grab the wing by the tip, gently twisting it away from you, and fold the tips of the wings behind the back. The weight of the bird holds them in place while everything cooks.
  4. Stuffing a turkey: For food safety reasons, and for a more evenly cooked turkey, most modern recipes don't encourage stuffing a turkey with stuffing (I bake a delicious bread stuffing outside the bird). If you decide to stuff your turkey, make sure the stuffing is warm when it goes in so it has a head start in cooking (either because you just finished making it or because you made it in advance and reheated it). Use a large spoon or your hands to loosely stuff the body and neck cavities (do not pack it tightly because the stuffing expands while it cooks). Truss the main cavity with trussing pins to keep the stuffing inside. The stuffing must register 165 degrees on an internal thermometer to be safe to eat. 
  1.  

Nutrition

Calories: 363kcal | Protein: 56g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 185mg | Sodium: 288mg | Potassium: 577mg | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 144IU | Calcium: 28mg | Iron: 2mg
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