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I've seen so many different methods for roasting chickens and turkeys that it makes me laugh. Basting every 10 minutes. Breast up/Breastdown/Breast facing the full moon. Wrapping the whole thing in cheesecloth. Oy.

My lazy-man's theory is that the juice is going to get out of the bird no matter what we do. Cheesecloth isn't going to stop it from coming out and is just going to make the skin soft. Basting may help get a golden skin, but the juice isn't going to penetrate and find it's way back into the bird. If anything, a dry outer skin will retard the passage of moisture through and out of the bird.

Do you baste? If so, how?

Does your "no brining" apply to poultry as well?

One more quickie -- we had a discussion here about penne ala vodka. The thought was that because all the alcohol would evaporate from the vodka (leaving water), adding vodka to the sauce wouldn't add any flavor. All that vodka sauces I've tasted have tasted like vodka was added. Do you have an opinion?

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You’re absolutely right—meat loses juice during cooking no matter what you do to or have around its surface.

No, I don’t brine chickens or turkeys either.

Basting can be useful in a couple of ways. It delivers flavor to the meat surface, where it can get concentrated and maybe transformed by browning; and if the liquid includes water, then it cools the meat surface by evaporation, slows the cooking (as does opening the oven to do the basting!), and helps slightly reduce the over-cooking and drying-out of the outer layers of the meat. All that said, it’s also a lot of trouble! Most of the time I don’t bother.

On vodka in cooking—you never cook out all of the alcohol. Alcohol does have a lower boiling point than water, so you do evaporate a lot of it, but significant amounts remain bound to both the water and fat phases of the dish.

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