How to truss chicken, turkey and duck for roasting

trussing poultry
Trussing poultry, mainly turkey or chicken, means to tie or secure the bird, usually with string or skewers, so that it maintains a tidy and attractive shape during cooking and so that the bird retains moisture.

Although there are different ways of trussing a bird, they all more or less achieve the same results. The various methods can be used on all types of poultry. In other words, you do not have to use string to only truss chicken or skewers solely for turkey.

For smaller birds, it may only be necessary to tie the legs together, whereas a larger bird, such as a turkey, may need to be secured around the legs and wings in order to keep an even shape.
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Trussing is optional and not essential, although a trussed bird is easier to carve. Besides, a trussed bird has a nicer and much more presentable appearance.

Occasionally, with trussing, you may find that the whiter meat of the bird cooks more quickly than the darker parts, such as the inner thigh. This will result in the whiter meat being done, whilst the darker meat has yet to finish cooking. This is because the heat does not reach the innermost part of the bird as quickly.

You should never stop cooking the bird until the inner thigh has reached a temperature of 180°F (82°C), as this could result in food poisoning due to consuming uncooked meat.

A meat thermometer can be used to check the temperature and should be inserted into the thigh of the bird, ensuring that the thermometer does not touch the bone, just before placing the bird into the oven.

If the bird needs more time in the oven in order to fully cook the darker parts of meat, there is a possibility that the white meat will start to dry out, if it is already cooked.

A bird can be trussed whether you are going to stuff it or not. However, it is probably best not to truss chicken, as it is smaller in size and will most likely maintain its shape. This way, the lighter and darker meats will cook more evenly. On the other hand, with a larger bird, such as a turkey, it is better to truss it.

If you do intend on stuffing the bird, make sure it has been thoroughly cleaned beforehand and then insert the stuffing into the cavities before you actually truss the bird. Trussing will ensure that the stuffing does not fall out during cooking.

In addition, to make carving easier, the wishbone can be removed by cutting it out with a sharp narrow-bladed knife, before you are ready to truss the bird, although again, this is entirely optional.

To remove the wishbone, run your fingers along the breast until you find the bone. Then, using the knife, cut along the top edge and along both sides of the wishbone. Gently hold the wishbone with your fingers and pull it free from the bird.

Do not forget to remove all trussing before you are ready to serve.

Trussing an unstuffed bird

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  1. Remove the bird from its packaging. If giblets are available, remove them (they will be wrapped separately and placed in the body cavity) and set them aside to make gravy. Thoroughly wash the bird inside and out under a running tap. Pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Place the bird breast side down on a clean surface.
  3. Pull the skin of the neck flap and fold it over the neck opening. Any excess skin can be secured with a wooden pick if necessary.
  4. Turn the bird over, so that the breast is facing upwards and pull the tips of the wings up, over the neck skin towards the back. Tuck them underneath the bird, securing them firmly behind the shoulder. The wings should be tied with string so that they are held close to the body.
  5. When securing the legs, press them firmly into the breast, tucking any excess skin between the legs and the breast.
  6. Cross the ends of the drumsticks together, drawing the legs tight and tie several loops of string around the drumstick ends.
  7. Knot the string and trim of any unwanted measures.

Trussing a stuffed bird

  1. After the bird has been cleaned, fold the wing tips back as above.
  2. Stuff the neck cavity and fold the neck skin flap over so that it covers the neck opening. Secure it using a skewer.
  3. Fold the wing tips over and secure them behind the shoulder, tucking them neatly under the bird in doing so.
  4. Fill the body cavity loosely with stuffing and then tie the legs and drumsticks as previously described above, making sure that the parson's nose is tied in.
An alternative method is to close the body cavity by using two or more skewers. The skewers should be inserted across the cavity opening and threaded through the skin several times. Then, the skewers should be tied together as firmly as possible with string. Finally, the drumsticks must be tied together over the skewers.

The final method is to use a special trussing needle, which is like a long sewing needle, but used to truss meat. This is normally used with fine cotton string.
  1. Fold the skin of the neck flap over the neck hole; bring the wings back and under the bird, so that they hold the neck flap in place.
  2. Bring the legs into the body of the bird.
  3. Insert the threaded needle into one wing; pass it through the whole body and out the other side.
  4. Then insert the needle again, this time in the opposite direction, lengthways down the body of the bird, at the open ends.
  5. Sew the cotton through the parson's nose.
  6. Finally tie the drumsticks together with string.
The bird is now ready to be seasoned and placed in the oven to roast.
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