If you are cooking turkey, one of the biggest questions you need to answer is where to put the turkey in the oven to make sure you get the right results from it. Too high in the oven and the turkey will burn.
What rack to cook turkey on in the oven? You usually want to place the turkey on the lowest rack of your oven, because this positions the top of the bird in the center of the oven. The parts of the turkey that cook more quickly, the legs and wings, will be lower down and so will cook a little more slowly – which is perfect for ensuring that they don’t overcook.
What Rack Should You Cook Turkey On in the Oven?
Turkeys should be placed on the lowest rack in the oven, at its lowest position. Because turkeys are generally very large, this should prevent the top of the bird from being too close to the top of the oven.
Cooking a turkey well can be tricky, because it is a large piece of food to put in the oven, and there is a risk of the top burning before the bird is cooked in the center. However, if you position the turkey correctly, neither the top nor the thinner legs or wings should burn.
You should take out any racks that will sit above the bottom rack. This makes more room for the turkey and allows the heat to circulate better. Set these aside and don’t use them. If you want to make trays of vegetables or other meats, you will have to do these separately, because you don’t want to block the heat from getting to the turkey – so don’t put them above the turkey in the oven.
The positioning stays the same whether you are using a convection oven or a conventional oven. In both cases, positioning the turkey higher up in the oven will result in the meat burning, or at least becoming dry. Being low down should ensure that it stays succulent and cooks at the same rate as the rest of the bird.
What Temperature Should Turkey Be Cooked At?
The temperature will depend to an extent on the type of the oven you are using, as convection ovens cook a little faster. If you have a conventional oven, cook the turkey at 350 degrees F. If you have a convection oven, lower the temperature to 325 degrees F.
If the turkey is a particularly small one, you may wish to decrease both oven temperatures by about 10-20 degrees F, because the turkey will cook more quickly. For larger turkeys, make sure you have the temperature high enough.
Regardless of the kind of oven that you have, it’s a good idea to use a meat thermometer whenever you are cooking turkey, because it’s very important to check that the center of the meat has reached the desired temperature before you serve the bird.
If the inside of the turkey is not cooked to the correct temperature, there is a high risk of food poisoning. The meat must reach an internal temperature of 170 degrees F before it is safe for you to eat.
The only reliable way to tell whether the turkey has reached this temperature inside is to use a meat thermometer. Always check the temperature of meat at its thickest point before serving it. You don’t want to give your guests food poisoning!
How Do You Prevent Parts of the Turkey From Burning?
The thinner bits of a turkey are sometimes at risk of burning, and this is something that you should be aware of whenever you put a turkey in the oven. It can be difficult to stop a turkey from burning in places before it has finished cooking, but aluminum foil is generally the answer.
If your turkey is browning too quickly on the legs or wings, you can use a tent of aluminum foil to protect them. The foil will still allow the turkey to heat up, but it will protect it from the extreme heat of the oven, and this should stop it from burning.
You can tent the whole bird with aluminum foil if it is burning in several parts, or just cover the bits that are burning. This will let you leave the turkey in the oven for longer without having to worry about dealing with charred meat at the end of the cooking process.
Which Way Up Should the Turkey Be?
Your turkey should be placed breast-side up on the roasting tin, with the wings at the bottom of the tin. This allows the fattest part of the meat to be exposed to the most heat, at the top of the oven, and ensures that it cooks as evenly as possible.
If you place the turkey the other way up, you may find that you run into problems, because the turkey’s legs and back will often brown faster. There is a risk of them burning before the breast meat is cooked, even if you use aluminum foil.
You should therefore make sure that the turkey is positioned the right way up, and the breast will be exposed to the heat at the top of the oven.
Some people do recommend cooking turkey with the bird upside down because this reduces the need to baste, stops the breast meat from drying out, and can speed up the cooking time. However, this isn’t the traditional way of cooking turkey, and it does mean you may have to flip the bird during the cooking process to get crispy meat.
It may be worth giving this a try some time, but if you are a beginner at roasting turkey, consider sticking to the standard method.
When cooking turkey, you should make sure that the bird is placed on the lowest rack in your oven, whatever kind of oven you have. This will allow the meat to properly cook through, minimizing the risk of the thighs and wings burning, or the central breast meat being under-cooked. Always use a meat thermometer before you serve your turkey.