Basting with Flavor

Basting is an age-old method believed to keep large roasts moist. Mainly, it adds good flavor.

By FamilyTime

 Home cooks religiously open the oven door every 20 to 30 minutes while the turkey roasts to baste the giant bird with pan juices and other liquids.

Whether this chore actually makes the turkey moist is doubtful (meat does not absorb liquid while it cooks), but basting is a time-honored technique. For many, the holidays would not be complete without the ritual. And no one can deny it puts the cook in touch with his or her turkey!

More importantly, the basting liquid mingles with the pan juices, which eventually make delicious gravy. It also helps the meat to brown.

Basting Techniques
Many people prefer to use a turkey bulb baster to moisten the bird. This is a large tube with a bulb at one end designed to suck up liquids and then squirt them over the food.

You can accomplish the same thing by spooning liquid over the turkey, rib roast, or pork loin.

Another method for basting is to brush the liquid over the meat. This can be done for food cooked in the oven, but is also a very popular method for keeping grilled foods covered with moisture during their time on the grill.

What Basting Accomplishes
Although basting does not add moisture to the meat, it does keep it from drying out too quickly. Still, the best way to prevent drying is not to overcook the meat or poultry.

Basting adds color and flavor to the roasting and grilling poultry and meat. This is where it shines.

Basting liquids also flavor the naturally accumulating pan juices. These are the base for gravies and sauces and so the more flavor in the basting liquid, the more flavor in the gravy.

Any basting ingredients that contain protein or sugar promote browning, too. These could be butter, beer, wine, stock, preserves, honey, or corn syrup.

A little goes a long way, though. Too much sugar in your basting liquid will lead to scorching.

Basting Liquids with Taste
A basting liquid might be the accumulated pan juices but it also might be so much more. To use the pan juices, pull the roasting pan out from the oven (no need to pull it all the way out) and spoon the juices over the roast.

You can also make a basting liquid in a saucepan while the roast gets going in the oven. Use flavors that complement the meat and the other dishes. For instance, on Thanksgiving, make the baste with chicken or turkey stock, white wine, and complementary herbs. (You won't want to make a baste with beef stock and red wine for poultry, but this would taste great on roast beef.)

Mix stock with wine or beer and sflavorings. These might be dried herbs, fruit preserves, a little honey, or even maple syrup. Be sure to add a little fat, such as butter or olive oil, because fat is a flavor conductor.

Some cooks like to jazz up the baste with vinegar, hot peppers, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, catsup, or soy sauce.

If you're tempted to use a marinade for a basting liquid - a popular idea for grilled food - be sure to brush it over the meat only during the first stages of cooking. Allow it to cook on the food for at least 10 minutes to kill off any bacteria.

Or, bring to marinade to a boil for a full five minutes before basting with it. This boiling kills any bacteria that may have developed during marinating.

One last word: if you decide basting is too much trouble, don't feel guilty. Cook the turkey or other roast at the correct temperature and for the correct length of time for a moist, flavorful meal.