The science behind Thanksgiving cooking


TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – You may not find making the thanksgiving bird an exact science.

However, you might be surprised at how much science goes into cooking the feast.

Before you put the bird in the oven, you need to make sure that it wasn’t out of the fridge for any significant period of time. Biologist Dr Peter Coppinger says limiting bacterial growth before cooking is key.

“The thing about bacteria is that they replicate very quickly,” urged Coppinger. “They can divide as quickly as every 20 minutes. Even in a short period of time left out, these bacteria will start to exponentially grow.”

Once the bird ready for the oven, you may be presented with two cooking options: conduction or convection.

Conduction is the physical transfer of heat between two objects.

Convection is a more uniform way of cooking according to Chemistry Expert Dr Rebecca DeVasher.

“Conduction cooking typically takes a longer time,” said DeVasher. “Convection cooking, usually a shorter time. The humidity differences are the big ones when you’re talking about particularly fatty meats or roasting birds.”

Convection is the transference of heat between two fluids of varying density, like hot air and cold air, which create little currents. Cooking with a convection oven will help you lock in the juices in your holiday feast. Leaving the proteins in the meat exposed to heat too long might leave you with a dry taste.

“Proteins can break down too much, and then we will have a drier turkey,” stressed DeVasher. “So you don’t want that, you don’t want to overcook your turkey.”

Studies have show that eating overcooked meat can lead to a higher cancer risk.

Once you believe bird is done, use a meat thermometer in three spots near the core, including any stuffing.

165°F is the number you need to hit before eating.

Happy Cooking!