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The High Heat Turkey Method

High Heat Turkey Method

There are more ways to cook turkeys for Thanksgiving dinner then there are turkeys being eaten on the last Thursday in November. Everyone – and their mother – has a strategy and the vast majority of them involve the turkey being in the oven for at least a few hours. I don’t think that there is only one perfect way to cook a turkey and so I am very open to trying new methods when I am ready to roast a big bird. I try to aim for a crisp (or at least not soggy) skin, relatively moist breasts and moist, tender dark meat. My usual method of high heat to start followed by a slow roast at a lower temperature works pretty well, but this year I decided to try an ultra-high heat cooking method to see how the turkey would turn out.

The high heat method, which I’ve mostly heard about as a good option for roasting chicken, not turkeys, calls for cooking a turkey at a high heat the entire cooking time. In theory, this seals in the juices while producing a crispy skin – and gets the turkey done in as little as 90 minutes! I skimmed through some of my past notes on the subject and decided to go with an old New York Times article as a guideline.

The High Heat Turkey, uncooked

Even though it wasn’t part of the NY Times instructions, I rubbed my fresh, not frozen, turkey all over with butter before putting it a roasting pan. I did not put the turkey on a rack, since it doesn’t matter to me if the very bottom of the bird is crispy or not. I popped my turkey into the oven at 500F and sat back to watch it cook. Once in the oven, I kept the door shut and resisted the temptation to peek for the first 45 minutes of cooking. My 14-lb bird was supposed to take up to 8 minutes per pound, about half the time of lower heat methods, but the instructions recommended checking on its internal temperature much earlier.

Overall, the high heat method worked well. The highlight was the fact that I made one of the most attractive looking turkeys I think I’ve ever done, golden brown with a crispy and flavorful skin. Another high point was that the bird took less than 90 minutes to cook. The downside was that the turkey was a little on the dry side because it is very easy to overcook the turkey at this temperature. An extra 8 minutes is a lot of time when the bird is only in the oven for 75 minutes total. If you want to give it a go, especially if you’re short on time, just make sure to check the temperature of the breast after about 1 hour in the oven and try to remember that the turkey will continue to cook when it rests, so you won’t have a bird that is too dry and only fit for turkey sandwiches the day after Thanksgiving. Also, you can’t make stuffing inside of this bird (I don’t do this in general, so it was not an issue for me), so that is worth considering if you’re a stuffing-in-the-bird fan.

I’d definitely go this route again, but since it takes a closer eye than a slow cooking bird, you might want to try a practice bird or two to nail down the cooking time. That said, I think that I’ll stick with my “traditional” way of cooking the bird most of the time because it gives you a bigger margin of error, even if the skin isn’t quite as perfect in the end!

The High Heat Turkey, sliced

The High Heat Turkey Method

Preheat your oven to 500F. Wash the turkey inside and out and do not dry. Rub skin with softened butter, if desired. Do not place anything inside the turkey. Place turkey in a large roasting pan. Tuck wing tips underneath the bird. Spread drumsticks away from the sides of the turkey without breaking the skin.

Place turkey in the oven. Cook for 45 minutes without opening the door. At this point, check the turkey to see if it is a dark golden brown. If it is too dark, cover it loosely with a piece of aluminum foil.

Continue roasting the turkey at 500F. After 60 minutes of total cooking time, check the temperature of the turkey breast with an internal read thermometer. The breast should read between 155 and 160. The temperature will continue to rise as the bird rests and will get up to 165 on its own (the USDA recommended breast temperature). The bird could take up to 8 minutes total cooking time per pound, but may take less.

Rest turkey for 15-20 minutes before carving.

*note: Tried with a 14.5-lb turkey.

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  • mooncrazy
    November 17, 2009

    I do a chicken on the bbq, split down the back and butterflied at 500 degrees and have wanted to try a turkey. Thanks for the hints, I’m going to give it a try.

  • April
    November 17, 2009

    Last year my family bought a deep fried turkey, however it was bought from a store that was closed on Thursday so it had to be picked up on Wendsday. My sister, who got the turkey, then just stuck it in the fridge and reheated it the next day. Later we found out you aren’t suppose to refridgerate, oops. So this year I decided to cook the turkey but will be going to her house and will get there with only 2 hours to cook a turkey, so I thought about just doing breast, but now I think I will try this high temp route, hopefully I won’t mess it up since I’ll be on an unfamiliar oven.

  • Baking Monster
    November 17, 2009

    oh goodness we tryed this last year well my father did and the whole house filled with smoke the turkey turned out fine but we didn’t have time to cook other stuff because my father poorly planned what he was doing. my uncle came in crawling on the ground because it was so smoky and we had to open all the windows and it was freezing. but the turkey was good just dont do it right before dinner.

  • Nicola
    November 17, 2009

    I do mine like this but to prevent the dry meat (usually only the breasts) I cook it breast down for teh first half so that the jiuces run down into that meat and then flip it over halfway through cooking to get the nice cripsy skin. Also, I do stuff the bird because it saves space in my small oven – the issues with this is that the stuffing can take a long time to heat up and leave a cold spot which creates uneven heating in such a short cook time. To avoid this I heat up the stuffing in the microwave and then pack it under the skin at the front of the breast immediately before it goes into the oven.

  • Lisa~~
    November 17, 2009

    I always use a high heat method for both chicken and turkey and over the years have learned a few tricks to always end up with a juicy and never over-cooked or dry bird. First is that I always cook my birds dark meat up so that as it cooks the juices from the dark meat drip down and through the white meat, naturally basting it. Even though I don’t turn the bird or care if the skin on the breast gets crispy, I always put the bird on a rack so that the heat can circulate better. I generally rub my birds with olive oil both inside and out as well as season in and out. Though I don’t stuff any of my birds I do put aromatics and generally some sliced citrus and garlic in the cavity. Finally for turkey, I use a probe thermometer inserted into thickest part of the breast and set the thermometer alarm for 158 degrees and after I remove it from the oven and allow it to rest the temp continues to rise and I always end up with a perfectly cooked and juicy bird. Have a great Holiday.

  • Krysta
    November 17, 2009

    Something else that I’ve heard that keeps turkey moist when cooking with high heat is to brine it first. I’m not the main cook for my family’s Thanksgivings, so I haven’t tried this out myself… And unfortunately for me, my dad LIKES dried-out turkey. He says that it tastes/feels underdone to him if it’s still moist. Drives me nuts!

  • Nutmeg Nanny
    November 17, 2009

    Wow a whole turkey in less than 90 minutes…amazing. I know the fad is pretty much over but I’m still a huge fan of deep fried turkey…yum!

  • grooming spaniel
    November 18, 2009

    Oh, It looks very tasty! I need to try it, I so love chiken!

  • Website Design Bournemouth
    November 25, 2009

    This is awesome post .I am definitely going to try this at home .
    hope it looks an tastes as its supposed to . Thanks for the post .

  • antec power supply
    November 25, 2009

    i liked it so much.Thanks for giving this post.Wish you best of luck.

  • Hanna
    November 26, 2009

    do you know if the turkey are cripsy?
    Or if i want a cripsy turkey from inside should I extend the cooking time?
    Can you tell me do you prefer? or what recommend you?
    a fresh turkey from the market or a frozen from the supermarket?

    oh a hint: for the crust/cutaneous you can spread the turkey with breadcrumbs.

  • acai supplment
    November 26, 2009

    Chicken is my favourite dish.

  • k20swap
    April 30, 2010

    This looks great, awesome tips here too.

  • Bob
    July 16, 2017

    I built a wood fired oven. It’s outside. I’m cooking a turkey today, and found this site. You know I’m going to try it.
    Good information. Thanks

  • Bob
    July 16, 2017

    Ok, very fast cooking time. 1 hour and 40 min’s It was done. Amazing , best turkey I have ever had. The oven was only completed around the 4th of July 2017 so this is the very 1st turkey I made in the wood fired oven. Everyone thought it was not going to cook or it was going to be dry. To their surprise and mine, it was perfect.
    I guess you will never know, unless you try. Thanks for all the information. Bob

  • Bob
    July 16, 2017

    PS; It was a 12 to 13 pound turkey.

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