Recently I decided to research heat transfer during turkey roasting. It turns out that this issue has been extensively studied by physicists and engineers.
As with houses, there are two basic camps: those who use computer modeling and those who make measurements. Some researchers feel more comfortable at a desk with a laptop; others feel more comfortable in a kitchen with a thermometer.
This was a cursory review
I wasn’t able to review all of the relevant literature. For example, I didn’t read the 1998 paper by H.C. Chang, J.A. Carpenter, and R.T. Toledo, “Modeling Heat Transfer During Oven Roasting of Unstuffed Turkeys,” because I’m too cheap. (You have to pay a fee to Wiley Publishers to download the article.)
According to the abstract, “A finite element method was used to solve the unsteady state heat transfer equations for heating of turkeys in a conventional electric oven.”
My inability to read this paper doesn’t bother me too much, however, since I’m more interested in measured data than computer modeling.
[Author’s postscript: A GBA reader named David Fay kindly e-mailed me the paper by Chang, Carpenter, and Toledo. The researchers wrote that “Simulation results revealed that increasing oven temperature reduced baking time but resulted in breast temperature reaching the designated endpoint much earlier than what would be required for thigh joint temperature to reach the endpoint.” One of the researchers’ notable achievements was the development of the turkey brick and the turkey cylinder. They wrote, “Intact turkey muscles were made into 10.2 Ã— 7.6 Ã— 2.54 cm brick-shaped samples. The simple geometry simplified calculations of the surface heat transfer coefficient. … Turkey breasts were cored into cylindrical samples 2.54 cm dia. Ã— 15 cm. The thermal conductivity probe was inserted into the center of the sample.”]
What shape is a turkey?