Most individuals picture a 14-16 pound turkey sitting in a pan of its own juices roasting away in the oven and a plastic turkey baster when they hear the word baste.
However, basting transcends basting a turkey on thanksgiving day or during the holiday season.
Believe it or not, basting is an effective cooking method that creates a beautiful golden crust and enhances the flavor of the food.
What Does Baste Mean in Cooking?
In short, to baste means to moisten foods such as turkey or chicken during specific intervals with a liquid.
Interestingly, the basting liquid can be the pan juices rendered while the meat is cooking, a marinade, melted butter, or another sauce.
The basting liquid is usually applied with a brush, ladle, or turkey baster.
The concept behind basting is that it keeps the meat moist and juicy.
For this reason, basting is particularly effective when you are roasting a whole turkey or chicken.
The basting liquid will cool the turkey’s exterior surface and slow down the cooking rate of some parts of the bird.
This allows the breast meat to cook nearly at the same rate as the legs and thighs cook.
Is Basting Really Necessary?
Like the pork shoulder vs. pork butt and the brisket fat side up or fat side down debate, there is a dispute about whether basting is beneficial or not.
In a nutshell, basting is not as essential as some folks make it seem.
There are multiple ways to keep meat moist such as tenting the meat with foil, brining, and cooking the bird upside down.
The truth is basting is optional, not required.
However, basting is a practical step as it prevents the meat from drying out during the cooking process and adds more flavor to the meat.
What Tools Do I Need to Baste a Turkey?
The equipment you need to baste turkey depends on your basting liquid.
For example, basting with the pan juices rendered during the cooking process requires a brush or turkey baster.
On the other hand, if your basting liquid is olive oil, you can simply pour it onto the desired areas and close the door.
The first option is a ladle. Ladles work best for those who want to control the waterfall of pan drippings.
Purchase a small ladle with an extra-long handle so you can scoop the pan juices from the deep corners of the roasting pan without having to tilt the pan and possibly burn yourself with the hot drippings.
The second option is a silicone brush. These types of brushes are flexible and beneficial when you want to add a light coat of liquid to certain areas of the bird-like the wings or lid.
Alternatively, you can also use a new, large paintbrush to add olive oil or evenly coat the bird with olive oil or pan drippings.
Lastly, you can also use a turkey baster. This instrument looks like a syringe with an oversized bulb on the top.
Turkey basters are ideal for heavy doses of hot liquid extracted from hard-to-reach areas, including the bottom of the pan or beneath the turkey.
How to Baste
There are a few ways that you can baste your meat. You can baste the meat in the oven, on the grill, or pan basting.
In the Oven
More often than not, when basting in the oven, you are dealing with a large cut of meat such as an entire turkey or whole chicken, pork shoulder, or bottom round roast.
Ever pulled your turkey out of the oven and noticed there was a layer of fat sitting on top of the turkey juices?
Most basting experts assert that the turkey job is the best way to baste a large cut of meat because it pulls the juices below the layer of oil and allows you to coat the meat with it.
However, these juices or stock are not responsible for creating the golden crust. As the meat cooks, it releases a healthy amount of fat.
This oil is what you should be basting your meat with.
Although one of the reasons most people baste meat is because it keeps the meat moist, this isn’t necessarily true, especially if you are pouring the juices on top of the meat. In contrast, basting the meat with fat will enhance the meat’s flavor.
While you can use a turkey baster, a large spoon can also get the job done.
Simply skim the fat off the top of the pan juices and spoon it over the meat every 20-30 minutes.
Be extremely careful while you are removing the roasting pan around the oven to prevent yourself from getting burned by hot fat or pan drippings.
On the Grill
Basting on the grill is different from basting in the oven or pan basting. There is no fat involved in basting on the grill; you will be mopping your meat with a marinade using a grill brush.
If you’re looking for a grill brush, check out our review ofthe 5 best grill brushes.
Basting is all about imparting flavor into your meat. It doesn’t necessarily benefit the cooking process because it is almost always cool or cold.
Even though grill-basting does not speed up the cooking process, basting on the grill is worth it since there are no BBQ chicken drumsticks without BBQ sauce.
However, when it comes to grill-basting, one must also consider food safety.
Never brush your meat with a marinade that came into contact with raw meat, as it is dangerous and may lead to food poisoning.
You can easily divide the marinade into two portions before adding raw meat into it or make two different marinades.
Alternatively, you can also pour the marinade into a pot and simmer it to reduce and enhance the marinade’s flavor and neutralize dangerous bacteria.
Pan basting is reserved for foods that cook quickly, such as pan-seared salmon, pan-seared pork chops, and pan-seared scallops.
For pan basting, you will need a separate basting liquid.
Namely, you will need to add fat to the pan instead of basting the food with the fat rendered from the meat.
Pan basting adds flavor to the food, and it is also an easier way to baste delicate items such as salmon or scallops.
In addition to this, the basting liquid also acts as a form of indirect heat.
It’s kind of like basting an eye of round steak with butter while searing it.
The butter is hot and cooks the top round steak while it is being poured over it.
To baste in the pan, add the butter or olive oil just before the meat is finished cooking.
Do not add extra fat during the beginning part of the cooking process; the fat will burn or cause the fry instead of searing the food.
It is best to start searing your food with oils such as canola, vegetables, or grapeseed oil with a higher smoking point.
Once the butter melts, tilt your skillet at an angle so the fat accumulates on one side of the skillet.
Next, scoop the fat up with a large spoon and pour it over the meat to coat it evenly in the fat. Continue basting the meat until it is cooked.
Alternatively, you can also sear your food with oil, baste it with butter, and complete the cooking process in the oven.
This is the best way to prevent the fat from burning.
In addition to this, you can also add extra flavor to your food by adding crushed garlic cloves, herbs such as rosemary or thyme, and chili when basting the meat with butter.
All in all, once you baste your meat, you will never go back to not basting meat. Not only will it create a rich crust, but it will enhance the food’s flavor.
I have been smoking and grilling meat from an early age and enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise through the hundreds of articles I have written about BBQ. I hope to make everyone’s BBQ journey that little bit easier.