Upside Down Turkey

There are many people who start their turkeys upside down, meaning breast down and thighs up.  Flipping that turkey over, especially a really heavy 20 + pound bird is really tricky. I am always afraid that not only will I burn myself but worse the turkey might end up on the floor.

This past week I decided to do a little experiment and cook the turkey upside down the entire time.  I was at Trader Joe’s (love that place) and they had a 15 lb brined fresh turkey with my name on it.  They also had boxes of turkey broth and a bunch of other good stuff …  but I digress, more on my love of Trader’s Joe’s another time….

A big issue that I have encountered, as I am sure some of you may have as well, is getting the thigh meat to 165 without drying out the breast.  By the way, you cannot tell by color of the juices or the color of the meat if the turkey is thoroughly cooked – use a thermometer!  165° is done! Then there are the times that I have thought the turkey was done. Where I placed the thermometer is done but when I went to lift it out, the juices inside the bird told me to check again, sure enough the deepest part of the thigh meat, which is hard to get to at times, is not at 165° and the bird has to go back in.

Personally, I love the dark meat mainly because it is moister than the breast, while ‘No Baking Papa’ likes the white meat and drowns the whole thing in gravy and cranberry sauce.

My hope was to find a happy medium.

Upside Down Turkey

Upside Down Turkey


Here is my upside down bird, resting on it’s rack, ready to head to the oven.  It is stuffed with onion and oranges and sprigs of fresh thyme and sage. The probe thermometer is inserted so I can keep track of the internal temperature without opening the oven door.




Upside Down Turkey


After 2 hours, my upside down bird was reading 165° where I placed the thermometer.  I got out my handy thermapen and stabbed it in another spot, nope 135° in that spot, I repositioned the probe and back in it went for another 30 minutes.  At this point I should have, but didn’t, flip the bird over to finish and brown the skin on the breast meat.  Hindsight….  


The Verdict:

  • The beast meat was REALLY moist, probably the best I have ever had.  The thighs were not as moist as they usually are but were still very good.
  • It was easier to test the temperature of the turkey. A definite plus.
  • The juices that naturally collect in the cavity drained into the roasting pan creating some great ‘fond’ for making awesome gravy.

On the downside:

  • The skin on the breast was very pale and sort of steamed looking and the rack left big ridges / indents in the breast.  Once carved these things were not really noticeable.

Thanksgiving Turkey & Stuffing 027a


Overall, this was a hit.  Next time, I would try to flip the bird over at the end.  That is IF I am able to flip the bird.  This was only a 15 lb bird, much smaller than what I usually cook.  Come this time next week it will be 125 lb woman vs the 22 lb bird!

About Baking Nana

Each morning my granddaughter Sarah calls to ask, "Watcha doing, Nana? Are you baking Nana?" Hence my "name" Baking Nana. I am a mother to three wonderful children and a grandmother to 12 very hungry grandkids. I don't bake fancy cakes but I do make wonderful yeast bread and home cooked meals made with love.


Upside Down Turkey — 30 Comments

  1. I, too, cook my 20lb birds upside down after watching a show on Turkeyville Restaurant. I, too, have issues with the oven probe telling me it’s done hours early. I just can’t get the probe to the spot described when upright. Yesterday we repositioned the probe so many times it looked the bird had been buckshot. Finally, I just decided the classic 5.5 hours at 350 for a stuffed bird had to be about right. It was. And I agree, the breast is not pretty, so we avoid the presentation and carve in the kitchen. Thanks for describing this.

  2. I have always used the tent method and very slow and low. I am hesitant to try new things with the bird. I will be watching to see how it all goes.

      • depending on who is interfering in my kitchen I like 275 but Bill likes 300. Mom did 250 but she got the biggest bird possible and cooked it all night long from about 3am. My bird is like 18 lbs this year.

          • I cover the bird in a THIN coating of mayo and because I am so bad at stuffing I don’t stuff the bird so I just season as I like and then tent the turkey with foil and place it in the oven. I don’t touch again until 1/2 an hour before done when I remove the foil. I check the temp and set the timer so that I am taking the bird out at 155 or 160 I let it set in the pan for at least 1/2 an hour before carving. While Bill carves I make the gravy. I haven’t had a bad out come yet knock on wood and I have been doing my Thanksgiving turkey this way for over 30 years. A fun fact I got this method from my mom, taught to her by her mom my grandma the women that actually taught me to cook because turkey was the only thing mom cooked well. She was only allowed to host the Thanksgiving family dinner because all she made was the meat. Grandma handled the sides, Aunt made the gravy, and the great Aunts brought the pies. I love those Thanksgiving memories, And the memories of the many other holiday dinners when mom would attempt to cook and we ate it burnt or ate late because she served something either cold or frozen.

  3. Since my turkey will be cooked on Tuesday (yikes—that’s tomorrow!), and it won’t be the photo op bird, I’ll try this again. I’ve done it before, but my family complained because it didn’t look right. My bird is a 17 pounder from TJs so I’ll see about flipping it. I’ll at least try it. I wonder if I put it on the floor if having that leverage I could turn it. I’ll let you know how that turns out. AND I’m putting a Thermapen on my Christmas wish list! Thanks.

    • Good morning, Marianne. I know you are going to love that Trader Joe’s turkey! If you place it on the floor prior to turning it you reduce the risk of having it fall too far! As for that Thermapen, YES get one! I love mine. King Arthur often has them on sale!

  4. Yup, if you can manage, “flipping the bird” is a great way to cook turkey, but it takes some coordination and strength. I would never try with a bird much over 15 pounds, though. I bought two silicon oven gloves just for this purpose. When I tried the first time with regular potholders, the moisture seeped into the holders. I placed foil over the thighs, where I planned to grab, and this prevented the moisture from seeping into the holders, but it’s not too safe. Two silicone gloves work well for this, plus they are easy to clean. I flip end over end, with the neck opening down. This keeps all the aromatics in place for the rest of the cooking time, and gives a moist and nicely browned breast.

    • Thanks for the advice, Brenda. I am going to get a couple of those silicone gloves! I bet NB Papa’s hands are too big to fit into them so I will be on my own. I like Mariannes idea of putting on the floor, but then I would have to remember to put the dog out! Mind you lifting that heavy roasting pan and bird back into the oven could be an issue.

    • Hi Laura, I don’t know why it has taken me so long to experiment and try this method – but I am glad I did! It isn’t the prettiest bird on the block but we never do, “Presenting the Turkey” on a silver platter anyway. Taste is foremost in this house!

  5. HI Penny, did you get that turkey for $1.99 too? lol but with ‘brined’ birds do we Really need to worry about dry turkey? Question for you, if regular cooked turkey comes out at 165 and smoking turkey comes out at 180!! Really? talk about DRY!! HMMM

  6. I don’t think I could ever flip a turkey over, but then that’s my husbands job. I like the white meat, where the rest of the family likes the dark. Very informative, thank you.

    • You are welcome, manella. Seen as I cook numerous turkeys to prepare each season, there is not always manly muscles around to help. If there are I will certainly enlist their help!

    • Hi Judy! Thanks for stopping in. The wings browned nicely, very beautiful crispy skin, the skin of the back and thighs was great. NB Papa didn’t mind the pale ‘steamed’ skin on the breast, he doesn’t eat it anyway. As for the legs …. sadly those are not a big seller in this house and usually end up in the soup pot.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.