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Nov 23, 2006 04:41 AM

Breast up or down?

How do you cook a turkey? Breast up or down? My recipe says to cover the breast with foil 1/2 hour after the start of roasting so I guess that means the breast should be cooked up?

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  1. Generally, start breast side down to brown the back. Then flip breast side up, using wadded up paper towels.

    Recipes are all over the place, with lots of conflicting instructions. Some say to brown the skin first at 425 or so, foil, then turn down the oven to 350 to finish roasting slower. Others will have you start at 350, foil early, then unfoil near the end of cooking. At this point, turn up the heat to 450 to brown the skin then.

    I've tried both ways, and they both work. Relax. It'll all come out good. :)

    1. I've always started mine breast side down for an hour at high heat ~400 degrees IIRC, then flip it. After I flip it, I turn down the heat. Comes out awesome! I use the method described in The Best Recipe. It's the best one I've tried after years of experimentation.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Kiyah

        I think this is the recipe I've been searching for .... where do you find it?

      2. breast up wearing a cheese cloth...i know some say no to basting but keep up with it every 20, 30 mins and always have a nice moist bird.

        1 Reply
        1. re: AnneM

          I've done this way and the breast-down method. Both work rather well, but there are downsides to each. Breast-down method, as many have posted, requires a breast-up flip at a lower temperature. For a 20-lb bird with lots of stuffing, this is really difficult. Especially if, like me, you put small potatoes or onions around the bird. It's MUCH easier to turn the bird if you roast the bird breast-down on a V-rack, which also ensures crispier skin all over. The cheese cloth method is really interesting, and requires a bit more consistent attention than breast-down. Also, at some point, you have to take the cloth off, or it will stick to the skin and you won't have beautiful crispiness. At that point, you really need to turn up the basting. It does keep the moisture on top of the bird, and each time you baste the cloth absorbs whatever it can to keep moist.
          If you have a V-rack and a bird < 12 lbs, then go for the bird turning. Otherwise, go for the cheese cloth and baste with a bit of sherry after taking the cloth off towards the end (as it starts sticking). The sherry will add a deeper glaze and lock in more moisture than a typical butter-salt-pepper (and sometimes lemon) rub.

        2. I have followed Cooks Illustarted's method with excellent results. For 18-20 lb turkey, breast side down for 60 minutes at 350 degrees, then flip and roast for 2.5 hours at 250 degrees. Finish off at 400 degrees for 1.5 hours. Baste when turning only- no need for additional basting, especially if you brined your turkey.

          2 Replies
          1. re: madsdadus

            I have never done a bird "upside down". Isn't it kind of ackward to flip a 20 lb bird? Espcially if it's hot?

            1. re: RenoRed

              Use either turkey forks (very large serving-fork looking tongs) or use lots of wadded up paper towels. I recommend removing the entire roasting pan from the oven and getting it on top of your range to execute the turning, or be extremely careful if you are doing it over the oven rack. But it works and the results are a completely browned turkey.

              One caveat- I have not used convection roast yet (Wolf ovens have a great convection roast feature that a friend swears by), so not sure if convection roast would do a better job and eliminate turkey turning.

              Good luck.

          2. I used to do the flipping business but don't bother any more. It is awkward and a bit dangerous and I really never have been able to tell a difference. What i don't like about breast down are the grooves left in the breast by the rack.