The Turkey Baster

The Turkey Baster

Use the turkey baster to baste roast dishes with, externally and internally


Resembling an oversized glass pipette, the turkey baster is a curious and oft-maligned utensil that has a wide range of practical uses in and out of the kitchen. Its primary function is in the transfer of hot liquids from place to place, and it is because of this that it is generally assumed that its name is derived from its widespread use in basting turkeys. Although there is little doubt it is ideally suited to this purpose, the origins of the name of the turkey baster are far less simplistic.

The turkey baster originated from an ancient Roman device known as the bastardius, one of a range of specialist tools used in Roman baths. An olive oil dispensing device, the bastardius is known to have been used in combination with the strigil, a large wooden slapping implement. The Roman scribe Faecus Foetidus, in his treatise Plumbing Systems and Sewage of the Roman Republic, describes the bastardius as an asbestos tube one cubit in length, from which olive oil heated by volcanic processes was dispensed onto the skin of bathers immediately after their emergence from the frigidarium, the coldest of baths, and immediately before slaves gave them a relentless slapping with the strigil. While the origin of the name strigil remains unknown, the name bastardius clearly derives from the cries of the bathers subjected to this treatment. While such traditions have survivied relatively unchanged in certain public schools, a form of the bastardius continues to be used in the Turkish bathing industry to this day.

But it was not until the Victorian era that this device, known at that time as the Turkish bastard made its leap into the kitchen. At that time, owing to a combination of public school tradition and the popularity of Turkish baths with the Royal Navy, all ships of the line were equipped with Turking bathing implements for use by the officers on board. It was aboard just such a ship that, on Eisteddfod Day 1837, the Welsh explorer, philanthropist and amateur chef William William Williams found himself on the small dodo-infested Island of St. Blodwyn off the coast of New Wales. Dining on fried dodo every day, Williams became increasingly frustrated at the fact that the ship was not equipped with a proper oven, which was the only thing that prevented him from preparing the (then) traditional Eisteddfod roast dodo that, along with laver bread and squirrel was so popular in Aberystwyth at the time. Driven almost insane by this predicament, Williams finally resorted to dismantling major structural elements of the ship to construct his oven, using much of the wood from the hull as fuel, and raiding the ship's Turkish bath for suitable cooking utensils. Although the ship's log recovered later did not recall precise details of the Williams Oven, the tragic tale of the death of the crew from what is likely to have been food poisoning received such popular acclaim in the press that the dodo baster became a popular utensil in many Welsh kitchens, selling particularly well during the Eisteddfod. Its subsequent change of name to turkey baster was simply an inevitable consequence of the sad demise of the dodo as an important component of the British diet.

Today, the turkey baster finds many other uses in the kitchen, from the precision icing of celebratory dishes to the insertion of liquid fillings in breads and meat. It is a reliable substitute for a spoon and its rubber bulb can also serve as an interesting table decoration. In trained hands and with the proper protective clothing it can even be used to safely handle Miracle Whip. And, as many people are all too aware, it has a range of uses in the bedroom which, in the interests of not spoiling anybody's appetite, will not be described here.

Happy Birthday, fat boy The turkey baster is an extremely useful tool for the precision icing of celebratory dishes, such as Birthday Carrot, a much healthier alternative to cake that is simple to prepare and is guaranteed to surprise
Use this utensil to make traditional Eisteddfod roast dodo



  • use the turkey baster to transfer hot liquids, such as when basting turkeys;
  • use the turkey baster to baste other roast dishes, including poultry, pork, laver bread and squirrel;
  • use the bulb of the turkey baster as a diverting and unusual table decoration;
  • use the turkey baster for activities outside the kitchen, including, but not restricted to, Turkish bathing.


  • use the turkey baster as a substitute for any other kitchen utensil than a spoon;
  • get excessively frustrated if you're Welsh and during Eisteddfod find yourself surrounded by birds you could cook if you only had a suitable oven. Remember that these days, wherever you are, it's only a few miles to the nearest Kentucky Fried Chicken.

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