Roasting a turkey in a convection oven can produce consistently delicious meat whether it is the centerpiece of a stunning Thanksgiving feast or simply destined to be carved up for sandwiches.
Turkey cooking in a convection oven
While standard direct (radiant) heat has a more intense and focused effect on food, convection heat is fan based and helps hot air to surround your oven’s contents so that they cook more evenly, caramelize more effectively and maintain moisture levels. For these reasons, convection cooking is of particular benefit when cooking a large piece of meat such as a whole turkey, and can help to ensure that you produce desirably crispy and tasty skin, and tender moist meat each and every time.
Heat rises, and for that reason the top shelves of your convection oven will tend to have the highest temperature. However, this strong heat may be too intense for a large turkey which will require adequate time to cook throughout. Because of this, your turkey should be placed in the medium- to upper-level racks where the steadily circulating warm air will surround the bird and result in beautifully cooked meat and the crunchy brown skin loved by all.
Regardless of the rack placement, you are advised to reduce the temperature level by 25° when baking a turkey in a convection oven as opposed to an oven using standard (radiant) heat. It is also advisable to bear in mind that using a dark-hued baking tray will attract and intensify the heat and could lead to overcooking. It’s a good idea to further reduce the oven’s temperature by 30° if cooking on a deep-toned base. The turkey should be placed in a shallow pan in order to expose as much skin as possible to the heat and produce more super-crispy skin in the process.
Specific guidelines for cooking your turkey
Here are some guidelines for preparing your turkey for cooking in a convection oven. However, please read your own specific oven’s user manual before beginning as all ovens vary.
- If using a frozen turkey, it is very important that you defrost your turkey in plenty of time. Allow one 24 hour period every 4 lbs. of turkey and defrost completely the day before you intend to roast the bird
- If you have room in your refrigerator, it is a good idea to brine the turkey the day before you plan to cook it. This is a food preparation method that adds extra moisture into lean meats and helps prevent the flesh from drying out during prolonged exposure in the oven
- Don’t forget to remove the turkey giblets and neck which can usually be found in the cavity of the turkey in a sealed plastic bag. You can use them to make gravy or stuffing if you wish, or simply discard if not
- An unstuffed bird should take anywhere from 2-4 hours to cook through and brown nicely in your convection oven. It is advisable to cook the turkey initially at 400° for 20 minutes then to reduce the oven down to 350° until cooked through. Again, this may vary with your own oven’s specifics and your turkey may require a cooler or hotter heat for a longer or shorter cooking period.
- The most reliable way to check the doneness of a turkey or any piece of meat you are roasting in a convection oven is to use a meat probe or thermometer. Once the sole preserve of chefs, these are now available from all good kitchen supply stores at a reasonable price and are a valuable addition to any home cook’s equipment. When cooked through, the turkey breast at its thickest point should register a temperature of 165° and the thigh 170-175°. It is a good idea to insert the thermometer in several parts of the turkey to ensure the meat is cooked through and safe to eat
- Once the optimum temperature has been achieved, it is very important to let the turkey sit for 20-30 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the bird. This is a step which many cooks neglect but which is absolutely necessary to ensure succulent and tender meat. During this process, the turkey should be removed from the oven and left to the side. Covering the bird with foil during the resting period will help to retain heat and ensure that it won’t need preheating before serving. Some cooks also turn the turkey upside down during this stage as they believe it results in an extra moist and delicious turkey, but this is not absolutely necessary.
Following these tips in conjunction with your own convection oven’s guidelines should ensure deliciously roasted turkey every time.
Have any other tips? Leave them in the comments below!