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"How long should a roasting turkey be covered with foil?"

When roasting a turkey, for how much of the cooking time should one cover it with foil?

Patricia Marder
Jackson, Tennessee


Still have more questions? You'll find more answers in our archived monthly feature articles by the Inquisitive Cooks.

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Hello Patricia,

When some people get ready to cook a turkey, they immediately reach for the foil. But long cooking under foil holds in moisture, so the turkey tends to stew in its juices rather than roast by dry heat. And moisture trapped next to the skin results in a rather ashen-looking bird.

A golden-brown, crispy outer skin only happens when the surface of the turkey reaches 300°F to 400°F. These high temperatures foster browning reactions that create deeper colors and more-pronounced flavors. Foil insulates the bird, blocks the heat needed for browning, and often increases cooking time.

The biggest challenge in cooking turkey is that the breast tends to cook before the dark meat. Using foil to block some of the heat from reaching the breast is an attempt to ensure that both light and dark meats cook at the same rate and end up being done at the same time. Instead of using foil, try dipping cheesecloth into melted butter and laying it over the breast. The grid of the cheesecloth holds fat on the surface, but the bird still browns through the cloth’s open weave. Baste the turkey thoroughly every half hour to keep the cheesecloth from sticking, and when the turkey’s almost done, baste it as you remove the cheesecloth so that the skin doesn't tear. Then, if the bird is brown but not quite cooked inside, lay foil over the top without tucking in the sides—more like a canopy than a tent.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Anne & Sue




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