Alton Brown's Trick For Evenly Roasted Turkey Requires Nothing More Than Foil

It's no secret that turkey is considered one of the more difficult birds to roast evenly. The leaner breast meat is always going to cook faster than the dark meat, so you might as well carve up the turkey and cook them separately. Actually, if you listen to Alton Brown, you shouldn't. In an early episode of "Good Eats," Brown explains that all you need to "deliver an American icon at the table" is what he calls a "turkey triangle," a large, triangular sheet of aluminum foil. 

Why the shape? Well, the breast of a whole turkey tapers from wings to legs in the form of a large triangle. Brown's trick is to take the foil and shape it to the breast before the bird goes into the oven. To do this, he rubs the foil with a little canola oil to keep it from sticking to the turkey skin and presses the foil onto the breast. The foil being mailable forms a breastplate that Brown likens to that found in a "bad Wagner opera."

All humor aside, the foil does, in essence, act as a protective plate for the turkey. Only, instead of protecting against broadswords, the foil protects against the heat of the oven. And, for Brown's roasting method, heat is key. 

A hotter, shorter roast

Brown begins by roasting his turkey in a 500-degree Fahrenheit oven. The idea behind putting the turkey in a screaming hot oven is so that the intense heat browns the skin. It's similar, in principle, to searing a steak. Brown keeps roasting the turkey like this for only 30 minutes, allowing the whole bird to become evenly browned. Once the half hour is up, he takes his plate of aluminum foil and places it over the breast.

The heat is turned down to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. This may seem like a high temperature, but with the foil protecting the breast meat, it is insulated against the penetrating heat of the oven. The dark meat, because it is fattier, takes longer to cook. However, thanks to that fat, the dark meat hardly ever dries out. You're looking for doneness temps of 175 degrees for the dark meat and 165 degrees for the breast meat. A 14-pound turkey, using this method, should take an hour and a half. 

By protecting the breast meat with the aluminum foil, you slow down the cooking of the breast meat. This allows the dark meat to catch up with it, as otherwise, without the foil, the breast meat would surely finish cooking long beforehand. And the very last thing you want when presenting your prized bird is one that's got dry, chalky breast meat, and undercooked dark meat. So, keep things simple and use the foil triangle.