My Mom, Dinah Shore and the Upside Down Turkey

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I thought I’d share how I came to roast my turkey breast side down. I must say, there are a number of ways to roast a turkey and have it come out nice and juicy.

I have no objection to any way you like to cook your bird including, but not limited to: frying, wrapped in bacon, cheesecloth wrapped, spatchcocked, sous vide etc. Stuffed, un-stuffed, brined are all OK by me, if that works for you. I have found over the years that cooking a turkey is a very personal decision, and folks get pretty passionate about how they cook their bird.

Many years ago a singer named Dinah Shore had a TV show, which my Mother really liked. Dinah, besides being a singer, liked to cook. She gave her turkey cooking tip one time on her show. She said she roasted her turkey breast side down for most of the time. The theory is that if the bird is breast side down the juices will flow into the breast- which eliminates the need to baste. It also slows down the cooking time for the breast- so it comes out cooked at the same time as the dark meat.

My Mother was intrigued, to say the least. She talked about it, a lot, leading up to Thanksgiving. We used to get a really big turkey and my Dad has his doubts about how easy turning over a hot, partially cooked turkey, would be. Mom was adamant. So it was that that Thanksgiving my Mom put her bird in the pan, on the rack, breast side down. She was excited and nervous at the same time.

Let’s face it- the turkey is the star of the meal and if it didn’t work it would be a disaster. But Mom trusted Dinah and they went ahead with this radical new plan. After about 3 hours of cooking, maybe a bit less, they managed to get the turkey turned over and returned it to the oven. Mom would look pensively through he oven window. I think giving birth was easier on her.

Well, in the end it worked out great. The bird was juicy and evenly cooked. No basting, so less work. She was delighted that she had held to her plan and had not been persuaded to cook it like before.

So every time I cook a turkey I cook it breast side down. How long I roast it that way depends on the size of the bird. Normally about 2 hours- because I am roasting a smaller turkey. I always remember my Mother when I cook it that way. I remember that first breast side down Thanksgiving and every one after that. Mom always was delighted- like the first time- and she always mentioned Dinah Shore.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. May your turkey be juicy and most importantly, may you get to spend time with the people you love. I’ll be with family and I’ll think about my Mother and Father – and Dinah.