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HELP?! Alton Brown Turkey Temperature

I am making my first Thanksgiving and have decided to make Alton Brown's Brined and Roasted Turkey because it has gotten so many rave reviews. However I am in a predicament. It seems his cooking times for the turkey have changed over the past 10 years. In his original show with the turkey he puts a foil triangle over the breast and cooks it to 161. But last night on a Food Network Thanksgiving Special he made the same bird but without the foil triangle and cooked it to 151. After letting it rest for 15 minutes the temp had risen to 161.

So my question, which way should I cook my turkey? To 161 w/the foil triangle or 151 without the triaingle?

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  1. Go for the lower temp. I haven't use Alton's recipe (but I have wet-brined) and I pull my turkey out at 155. With the carry-over cooking (resting) the temp comes up to 165* and that's enough for a properly cooked turkey. I trust Alton's expertise.
    I missed the special, rats. Was it a new one this year?

    1 Reply
    1. re: bushwickgirl

      Did Alton's bird last year very good. Most likely I took bird out before 161.

      dc

    2. Hello, I was wondering the same thing! I saw the special as well. I would hate to overcook the white meat if I did not use the triangle. I would take it out at 151 but will the dark meat be cooked enough?

      1 Reply
      1. re: ciaobruno25

        I hate undercooked turkey - the texture grosses me out....I would go for the higher temp. Brining will make your bird juicy even at the higher temp.

      2. Here's the deal: undercook the legs and the breast stays moist; overcook the breast and you won't have blood at the hip joint. Brining helps a lot with the moistness, so unless you have a very low tolerance for dryness and a very high tolerance for turkey blood, i'd push it to 160 to 165 (the idea of a temp as specific as 151 or 161 is ludicrous ... even false. take the temp in a couple places and you'll see that it varies).

        5 Replies
        1. re: FED

          To avoid dry breast meat, try this technique I saw on America's Test Kitchen. In making a Large Turkey, ATK cooled the Breast of the Turkey by placing ziplock bags of ice on top of the Breast. So when you start roasting, the Breast will be colder in temperaturer than the Thighs and Legs (and Back). This will lengthen the normal cooking time for Breast meat and results in moist Breast meat and fully cooked dark meat.

          1. re: Norm Man

            If the bird is brined, you can badly overcook it and the breast is still moist, from all reports.

            It certainly won't be dried out if you cook til the dark meat of a brined bird is satisfactorily done. I'd cook to a higher temp than 151; I certainly wouldn't hesitate to do so.

            When I roasted a brined bird til the breast was 165, it was as moist as the brined and deep fried turkey we had the same day. Brining buys you so much wiggle room on cooking time, really.

            1. re: Norm Man

              ah, the "just out of plastic surgery and in recovery" bird.
              do people actually do these things? isn't it easier just to cook it correctly?

              1. re: FED

                I do cook it correctly, but other folks on the boards have found that if they make a mistake, brining covers the crime. I noticed that Tom Colicchio's turkey recipe on epicurious says to cook to 175, really high, I think.

            2. re: FED

              161 is no more specific or ludicrous than 160. Nature doesn't really care about whether a temperature ends in zero on the Fahrenheit scale. If I had to guess, Alton specifies 161 because he wants to emphasize that, no, really--you need to get the breast at least this hot, not kinda-sorta-close-enough-and-everyone's-waiting. Looks like, in the past eight years, he's changed his mind a bit on the target temperature. I'll have to check that out.

            3. We have used the Alton Brown "Breast Foil Method" for years now. Not having the recipe right in front of me, do I recall correctly: brine, pat dry, form foil breast plate, place bird in oven at super high temp for 25 mins, remove, place oiled foil breast plate on, lower oven temp and then cook undisturbed (a big thing w/Alton...no basting) until probe reaches 160ish. We LOVE his method but do recall that while we do exactly as mentioned above, we take it out sooner...closer to the probe reaching 150-156 and then tent w/foil until ready. It is always so perfect and beautiful! This year we are road tripping to Ohio and doing a family Thanksgiving with an outside deep fried bird AND Alton's roasted version above (ala Bon Appetite 2000?? I have it upstairs) I am going to post all about it in my blog....how they stacked up, etc, etc...I love Thanksgiving and can't wait! Happy Thanksgiving!

              1. Surely Alton Brown is pulling our legs with a suggestion of temps = 151 or 161!

                7 Replies
                1. re: janniecooks

                  "Surely Alton Brown is pulling our legs with a suggestion of temps = 151 or 161!"

                  -It's called pretentiousness.

                  1. re: TrishUntrapped

                    But the temp rises like 10-15 degrees sitting under the foil tent as long as it's tended right out of the oven...no? That's why he has you take it out early. I only do turkey once a year so I am no expert but we use Alton's method on Turkey Day and it's always cooked perfectly. Love the probe thermometer. Everyone swears by their method, brine...not to brine. Baste...not to baste. Stuff...not to stuff. You've got to love this time of year...!

                    1. re: care11

                      Care,

                      Agreed with what you say. The question is why Alton uses the odd numbers 151 and 161.

                      1. re: TrishUntrapped

                        Got it...it's true. I would like to think he is just that "precisely scientific" about his cooking method. For instance during his "experiment" the thermometer really did register 151 and so that it was he has to post. I might believe that to be true if he hadn't then come out with the 161 temp....you know. Anyway, we get our fill of Alton once a week on, The Next Iron Chef!

                        1. re: TrishUntrapped

                          Because he's Alton Brown, the kitchen science clown.

                          1. re: TrishUntrapped

                            Some digital thermometers that have alert capability don't stop on every degree of temperature. For example, mine goes every 4 degrees, so my choices are 158 or 162.

                        2. re: TrishUntrapped

                          I can't find it right now, but I read that in recent years, it was discovered that most harmful bacteria can't survive above 160 degrees. I believe Alton originally added one degree (probably for liability), and advised people to cook until 161 degrees, which should meet the minimum requirements to render most bacteria harmless.

                          I'll be pulling my turkey out around 150 degrees, and then letting it rest. It will likely rest for > 90 minutes, which should bring the temperature up to the mid 160's.