How You Should Position Your Oven Rack When Roasting Turkey

Every year when Thanksgiving rolls around, it's safe to say that thousands if not millions of people in the U.S. and Canada begin to think about cooking a holiday turkey. In fact, according to University of Illinois Extension, 46 million turkeys are consumed every year on turkey day, and in 2020, Americans spent $783 million on turkey alone, per Finder

Once you get the bird home, there are many ways you can choose to cook it. Some people may need room in the oven for other dishes, so they decide to grill or smoke their turkey. It's especially popular in the South to deep-fry a turkey, which is dangerous if not done correctly (via Claggett & Sykes Law Firm). You could argue, however, that the most popular way to cook a turkey come holiday time is to roast it, and that comes with its own set of challenges, like not seasoning it enough or drying it out, per Omaha Steaks.

After you choose a cooking method, there are still numerous questions to consider. Should you brine it first? Should you stuff it? What about spatchcocking a turkey? There are a million tips and tricks for cooking the perfect turkey, so while you ponder all the information at hand, one of the first decisions you might want to make is to move the oven rack, and here's why.

Adjust the rack so the turkey is in the middle

When oven roasting or baking food, you want that item to be in the most center part of the oven so that it receives even heat, according to Taste of Home. It might seem intuitive to have more than one rack in the oven on a holiday so you can prepare more dishes at once, but you might want to consider letting the turkey be the sole resident of the oven during its cooking time so it can cook evenly.

Normally, when you're cooking something in a flat dish like green bean casserole, if you center the rack within the oven, the dish will be in the center as well. Since a turkey is much taller than a casserole dish, in order for the bird to be the center of attention, the rack may need to be moved to the bottom. Additionally, Simply Recipes notes that if the turkey is too close to the top of the oven, you can end up with a burnt bird. 

If the lower position of the rack has you worried about under-cooking the thighs and legs, Taste of Home notes you can put your bird in legs first since the back of the oven tends to retain the most heat.