Cooking the Perfect Turkey–With Science!

By Brett Israel | November 24, 2009 12:00 pm

turkeyTake Andy Rooney’s advice and prepare your Thanksgiving feast from scratch this year. After you’ve bravely hunted down a flightless bird and plucked its feathers, turn to science for the proper way to prepare a turkey. However, cooking it the scientific way won’t be easy, according to a classic article from

…you can see you will need to make a series of compromises to cook a “perfect” turkey. The outside needs to be heated to between 140 and 200°C to make sure the Maillard reactions provide plenty of the “Turkey” flavour for the gravy. The tender breast meat wants to be heated to no more than 55 to 58°C to keep the muscle proteins from contracting and becoming tough. The tougher, collagen rich, legs and wings need to be heated to a higher temperature (say around 65 to 70°C) to denature some of the collagen.

Did you get all that? Good. The problem is that the different parts of the turkey require different treatments, yet it absolutely must be cooked whole so the elder males can battle over who gets to carve the bird in front of the family. This rules out the obvious solution of cooking the parts separately. Luckily, suggests an elegant solution: covering the turkey breast with aluminum foil for most of the cooking process.

But if this kitchen chemistry doesn’t have a big enough wow factor, and you don’t trust yourself with a deep fryer full of hot oil, DISCOVER’s list of hi-tech ways to cook your bird will give you plenty of reasons to be thankful on turkey day.

Related Content:
Thanksgiving Dinner in Space!
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Thanksgiving for Fish: Food Chemicals Go Through People & Back Into Water Supply
DISCOVER: Think Tech: 4 Hi-Tech Ways to Cook Thanksgiving Dinner—and Store the Leftovers

Image: flickr / stevevoght

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