Should I Cover My Turkey With Foil While Cooking?

Wondering if you need to cover your turkey with foil while cooking?

Aluminum foil plays a part in many recipes.

Especially when it comes to the holiday season for a delicious roasted turkey!

But at what cooking stage should I use it to cover my juicy meat?

Or is the preferred method to do this at all?


To Wrap or Not to Wrap a Turkey With Aluminum Foil

The cooking time for an entire turkey can easily go past the 10-hour mark.

Which is plenty of time for the meat to dry out.

Although you still need to make sure the meat has reached the proper temperature.

Otherwise, you could easily add an extra hour of cooking.

This is why we do recommend you wrap the turkey when cooking.

Just at the right period so the heat can penetrate the turkey.

Do Not Cover the Entire Turkey When Cooking

What you don’t want to do is wrap the turkey before it on the roasting rack!

Or before the raw meat has had a chance to become roasted meat.

But more of that later…


Cover the Breast Meat at the Right Internal Temperature

The time to cover with foil is when the breasts have reached a safe eating temperature.

How long this takes depends on the weight and your smoker/oven temperature.

There is a different target temperature for the types of meat in a turkey.

Read further to fully understand when and why you need to cover the turkey in foil.

How Does Foil Help in Cooking a Turkey?

Below are some simple reasons why aluminum is a great tool.

For a lot of recipes as well as a turkey.


Protection From the Heat Source

A foil tent will reflect heat from a hot oven or white charcoal.

The turkey breast meat cooks quicker than the thigh meat.

Covering with a piece of aluminum foil will lower the chance of burning.

Locking In Moisture

The excess water in the meat proteins will evaporate.
Leaving you with dry and bland meat.
Covering with foil will stop the rate of evaporation and keep the meat moist.


Are There Disadvantages When Covering Turkey in Foil?

It would help if you didn’t cover or wrap the turkey prematurely while cooking.

Enjoy crispy skin?
Intense heat is required at the start of the cooking process.
This helps form the delicious golden brown skin.
Reflecting the heat too early stops this tasty crisp skin from forming.

Resting the Turkey Covered in Foil

Do you want to try and completely cover the turkey when resting?
Yes, you do!

Rest the bird with aluminum foil for at least 20-30 minutes.

Simple steps like this will maximize moisture retention in the meat.
So you didn’t get the foil on as quickly as you wanted?
This will still help a great deal.

What Types of Meat Are There in a Turkey?

Dark meat in the thigh and white in the breast meat.

The darker meat is located nearer the bones.

It has a gamey taste and more fat.

White meat is lighter-tasting, dense, and tender.

But can be prone to going dry.
This is why we cover it to keep the breast meat moist!


What Internal Cooking Temperature Does the Meat Need to Be?

Below are the internal temperatures for each type of meat.

The dark meat in the legs and thighs should read 180°F.

The white breast meat should read 165°F.

So you cover the bird in foil when the breasts reach 165°F!

Using an Accurate Meat Thermometer

It is almost impossible to estimate the exact time in any of your cooking methods.

Although I have included the calculation further on.

Accurate temperature readings from a digital meat thermometer are the best.

The best way to know if the breast temperature is 165°F!

So you can be sure when you cover the turkey with foil.

Note: Insert 2 probes a few inches deep into a breast and the thighs.
That way you are monitoring the entire bird at the same time.


Cooking the Turkey at a Medium Heat of 275°F

A whole fresh turkey needs some love and plenty of time.

Medium and indirect heat with space.

Oh – and kosher salt, melted butter, and fresh herbs!

Smoked or roasted turkey at should be cooked at 275°F
Producing golden turkey skin and even cooking the meat.
So you don’t have to wait too long for the dark meat to cook.
While you cover the breasts in foil and wait for that holiday meal to be ready!


Calculating Approximate Roasting Times at This Temp

At a temperature of 275°F, raw turkey meat will cook at 30-35 minutes per pound.

Do you have a 13-pound turkey?
13 (weight) x 35 (rate of minutes) = 455 minutes (7.5 hours)


Other Techniques for Cooking Turkey

Brining Turkey Before Cooking

Are you wondering if you can apply a salt solution to raw turkey meat?

Yes, yes, and yes.

Make a brine solution with kosher salt, black peppercorns, and cold water.

Submerge the whole turkey or at least the entire breast.

Leave this in your refrigerator before cooking for at least 2-4 hours.
Or overnight if you have time.

The added water will reduce the likelihood of the delicate meat burning or drying.
I was meaning you can be a bit more liberal when covering with foil. 

What Is the Best Seasoning for a Delicious Turkey?

The brining process gives us plenty of time to prepare our seasoning.
Be creative with whatever poultry rub or prepared stuffing you enjoy.

Be conscious if you use fresh ingredients.
As a seasoned turkey can burn more quicker.
Meaning you may have to cover them with foil before the breasts reach temperature.
I enjoy a standard turkey rub with garlic powder and paprika.
But honestly, this is up to you!


Summary – Should I Cover My Turkey With Foil While Cooking?

– Do not cover before or at the start of the cooking process.
– Cover when the breasts reach an internal temp of 165°F and wait for the dark meat.
– Brine to allow extra moisture to reduce drying.
– Covering in foil for too long can stop the skin from forming.
– Covering in foil for too long can slow the cooking process.

– Not covering in foil can result in burnt and dry breast meat.
– Use a meat thermometer to know when to cover.

Smoke On!


Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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