It can help the cooking process if you put aluminum foil over turkey during roasting. There are two ways to do it: enclose the turkey in the foil before roasting it in a hot oven; or, use the foil as a tent to control the level of browning.
When deciding whether to cover your turkey with foil or not, consider that enclosing it makes it cook faster. But, the turkey skin, though golden, won't come out crispy.
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If you're looking for a crispier result, you should tent your turkey with aluminum foil. The tent method yields perfectly brown, crispy skin and a slow-roasted flavor, but it takes more time.
If you are fully enclosing your bird in foil, don't stuff your turkey. The faster cooking times don't allow the stuffing to heat quickly enough to kill foodborne bacteria in the stuffing. If you are tenting the turkey, you can stuff it.
How to Cook a Turkey With Aluminum Foil
If you have a limited amount of time to roast your bird, you can cover turkey in aluminum foil beforehand, which will shorten the cooking time. Just make sure you don't seal the foil so that it's air-tight, or moisture will be trapped inside and affect the end result.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, as recommended by the University of Illinois Extension.
- Tear off a piece of 18-inch-wide, heavy-duty aluminum foil that is three times longer than the length of the turkey. Lay it over a large roasting pan, centered lengthwise.
- Lay the turkey on the aluminum foil breast-side up. Brush the turkey with melted butter or vegetable oil.
- Bring the sides of the aluminum foil up along the sides of the turkey. Bring the ends of the foil up over the top of the turkey. Overlap the ends of the foil so that they will stay in place, but don't seal them so they are airtight.
- Put the turkey in the oven. Roast the turkey until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads a minimum of 165 F on a meat thermometer, according to the University of Illinois Extension.
The cooking time for a turkey wrapped in foil will vary based on the weight of your bird. An 8- to 12-pound turkey will need 2.75 to 3 hours to cook through at 325 F, according to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. Roasting at a higher temperature lowers this cooking time.
Foil Tent Turkey Cooking Instructions
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place the turkey in the roasting pan breast-side up.
- Brush the turkey with melted butter or olive oil.
- Make a tent with the foil by creasing a piece of foil in the center. Prop it up over the turkey. The ends will be in the roasting pan. Stand the center up 1 inch over the turkey breast to allow for air flow.
- Put the turkey in the oven. Roast it until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads 180 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit. Let the turkey stand for 20 minutes, as recommended by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, to improve ease of carving.
Another Way to Roast Turkey With Foil
Another way of making a foil tent turkey involves roasting it without the aluminum foil for the first two-thirds of the time. At the two-thirds point, lay a piece of foil loosely over the turkey to keep the breast from browning further while the thigh meat continues to heat to the desired temperature.
Turkey won't brown well if it is covered with aluminum foil. If your turkey is looking a little pale for your taste, remove or fold back the foil for the last 30 minutes of roasting. To season your turkey, place fresh herbs, onions, garlic, or peppers in the cavity before roasting it.
- University of Illinois Extension: "Turkey for the Holidays - Foil Wrapped Method"
- University of Illinois Extension: "Traditional Roast Turkey (Unstuffed)"
- American Heart Association: "Saturated Fats"
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: "Let's Talk Turkey - A Consumer Guide to Safely Roasting a Turkey"