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Trussing The Lost Art

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by Ruben Urias
The popularity of cooking in America has inspired many home cooks to attempt techniques that are all but forgotten.  Fortunately, many of these techniques do not substantially increase prep time, yet add immensely to the finished dish, not to mention the pride of the cook.  One such technique that will improve your poultry dishes is the use of trussing.   
Trussing is the simple process of tying your poultry with butchers twine prior to roasting.  The process of trussing compacts your bird to give it an appealing, uniform shape and help hold stuffing in place.  More importantly, trussing reduces surface area which promotes even cooking and helps retain moisture.  While there are literally dozens of trussing methods that you can use, I find this one useful when trussing poultry stuffed with stiff vegetables such as carrots or onions.  Further, the twine is very easy to remove and will not needlessly mark the edible portions of the bird.  
You can use this procedure on virtually any poultry you desire with positive results.  In the home kitchen, the likely recipients of trussing will be whole roasting chickens and smaller turkeys.  All you need is a 30-36" piece of butchers twine and a bird ready for roasting.  For this article, I used a 10 lb. turkey stuffed with quartered onions.     
On a clean work surface, place the bird breast-side down.  Fold the wingtips behind the back as if the bird was reclining in a lounge chair.  Once tucked, squeeze the wings tight against the body so that they sit relatively flush with the back of the bird.   
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After folding the wings, place the bird breast-side up on your work surface.  Fill the cavity with desired stuffing.  With the legs pointing toward you, take your butchers twine and center the middle of it with the cavity of the bird.  Place the twine under the legs, about one inch from the drum tips.  Now loop each leg with its respective twine end.  Cross the ends and pull tight so that the legs cross.
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Draw the twine across the leg joints and reposition the bird so you now face the neck. Firmly pull the twine towards you.  This will set the leg joints tight with the breasts and cover the cavity with the crossed legs.     
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 With the legs crossed, and pulled forward, you are now ready for the final tightening and knot.  Pull the twine tight one last time to compact the legs and breasts.  Then, run the twine from the leg joints across the outside edges of the wings.  Cross the ends of the twine and tuck one end over the other as if you are tying a shoe, then tighten.  Flip the bird to its side and complete trussing by tying a knot between the wing tips approximately one to two inches below the neck bone.  Finally, trim the excess lengths of twine and discard.  
For an even more compact shape, prior to tightening and tying, take both ends of the twine in one hand and firmly pull towards you while pushing the breast bone away from you with your free hand.  Then, tighten and tie as described above.     
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With the trussing complete, you may now roast your bird as directed by your chosen recipe.  To remove the twine after cooking, simply cut the twine near the wing, grab the end, and unravel it from the bird in one continuous piece.  The skin on the bird will be left unmarked, and the bird will retain its shape.  Carve as directed by your recipe. 
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The trussing method described in this article is helpful when working with a stiff or bulky stuffing since tension of the entire bird is easily controlled by the loose ends of the twine.  However, this method works just fine with softer stuffing, or a non-stuffed bird.  In fact, you may achieve an even tighter appearance than pictured!  Also note that an extremely large or small bird may require a bit more finesse to truss, but is still worth the effort.  
While trussing in the home kitchen may not be common nowadays, the search for traditional cooking skills and techniques is.  When your dinner guests see the appealing results of a well trussed bird, perhaps they too will attempt to master this skill and help revive this lost art.  And hopefully, in the not too distant future, home kitchens across America will be producing juicier and more beautifully shaped birds than ever! 


Comments (1)

I have not trussed a bird in ages.  Still truss roulades and other rolled roasts.
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