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Should a turkey breast be cooked covered or uncovered?

When cooking a turkey breast, one of the main considerations is whether to cook it covered or uncovered. There are pros and cons to each method, and opinions differ on which is better. Some of the key factors to consider when deciding between cooking covered vs. uncovered include moisture retention, skin crisping, flavor, cook time, and convenience.

Key Differences Between Covered and Uncovered

Here is a quick overview of how cooking a turkey breast covered vs. uncovered differs:


– Retains more moisture and juices
– Cooks faster due to trapped steam
– Skin is less crispy
– Turkey can re-absorb evaporated juices and flavors


– Skin is crispier
– Slower cooking time as moisture escapes
– Turkey may dry out
– More opportunity for smoky, roasted flavors

So in summary, covering the turkey breast helps keep it moist and tender while uncovered cooking results in crispier skin with more surface browning.

Moisture Retention

One of the biggest differences between cooking a turkey breast covered vs. uncovered is moisture retention.

Covering the turkey breast helps trap steam inside, which keeps the meat very moist and juicy. The evaporated juices cannot escape so they re-absorb into the meat.

Cooking uncovered allows moisture to freely evaporate from the turkey breast. While this helps crisp the skin, it can also lead to drier meat. The turkey loses juices instead of re-absorbing them back.

If your priority is keeping the turkey breast as moist and tender as possible, covering the meat is likely the better option. However, the uncovered turkey can still be juicy if removed from the oven as soon as it’s done and properly rested.

Skin Crispiness

Cooking a turkey breast uncovered is the clear winner when it comes to crispy skin.

With the open-air exposure, the turkey skin dehydrates, browns, and crisps up beautifully. Trapping steam by covering the meat leads to mushy, wet, pale skin with poor texture.

So if you want that snap-crisp skin with deep golden browning, uncovered is the way to go. The skin will likely turn out gloopy and disappointing if cooked under a foil tent or lid.

However, there are some tricks to help improve skin crispiness for covered turkey breasts (see tips below).


Cooking method can affect the final flavors in a turkey breast. Covering vs. leaving uncovered impacts:

– Browning – Uncovered allows the maillard reaction to occur, enhancing flavor through browned bits forming on the skin.

– Herb/spice flavors – Uncovered cooking allows any rubs or herbs coating the skin to concentrate as moisture evaporates.

– Smoky/roasted notes – The open air of uncovered cooking lets the turkey absorb subtleties like a smoky aroma from an outdoor grill or oven.

– Re-absorbed juices – Covered cooking means turkey juices re-penetrate the meat, acting like a natural basting.

So uncovered cooking can promote more complex flavors from browning, smoke, spices and direct heat. But covered meats can also develop a tasty concentrated turkey juice flavor.

Cook Time

Cooking covered speeds up the cook time compared to uncovered. Here’s why:

– Trapped steam inside the covered turkey acts like an oven within an oven. The hot steam cooks the turkey breast rapidly from all sides.

– With uncovered cooking, moisture freely evaporates from the turkey breast instead of heating it up. This slows down the cooking process.

– Food scientist estimate covered cooking can reduce cook time by around 25%. A 90 minute uncovered turkey may cook in only 60-70 minutes covered.

So if you’re short on time, covering the turkey breast is the quicker cooking option. Go uncovered if you want to leisurely roast and don’t mind extra oven time.


There’s less involvement when cooking the turkey breast covered:

– Set it and forget it. Once the turkey is covered, no need to fuss over it.

– Prevents mess. Contained juices can’t spill or spatter in the oven.

– Self-basting. No need to manually spoon pan juices over the turkey to add moisture.

Going uncovered requires more attention:

– Must monitor to prevent burning or overcooking.

– Turkey needs periodic basting for moisture and flavor.

– Spills or splatters are more likely.

So covered cooking offers more convenience for busy and messy cooks! Those opting for uncovered will need to actively manage temperature and moisture levels.

Tips for Cooking Turkey Breast Covered

Here are some tips to get the best results when braising or roasting turkey breast covered:

– Use a tent of foil rather than a lid so steam can escape. This prevents wet skin.

– Start uncovered to brown the skin, then cover to finish cooking.

– Brush skin with oil before cooking for added moisture barrier.

– Sprinkle salt on the skin – this draws out moisture to improve crispiness.

– Remove cover in the last 15-30 mins to crisp the skin after moisture cooks through.

Tips for Cooking Turkey Breast Uncovered

To optimize uncovered cooking, here are some useful pointers:

– Roast at high heat (350°F+) to accelerate browning and crisping.

– Dry out the skin thoroughly before cooking using paper towels.

– Rub skin with oil and seasonings to boost flavor and moisture barriers.

– Tent with foil if turkey browns too fast, but remove for the last 30 mins.

– Baste every 30 mins with pan drippings to prevent drying out.

Covered vs. Uncovered Cooking Methods Comparison Table

Cooking Method Pros Cons
Covered Roasting
  • Keeps meat very moist
  • Faster cooking time
  • Minimal effort required
  • Skin is less crispy
  • Fewer complex roasted flavors
Uncovered Roasting
  • Crisp, browned skin
  • Enhanced roasted flavors
  • Slower cooking time
  • Meat may dry out
  • Requires more effort


So should you cook your turkey breast covered or uncovered? There are good arguments on both sides.

For optimally moist meat and faster cooking, covering the turkey breast is ideal. Use foil tents and finish uncovered if crisp skin is also a priority.

Uncovered roasting gives the benefit of crispy skin and great caramelized flavors. Keep the heat high and baste the breast frequently to prevent drying out.

If you can’t decide between juicy meat or crispy skin, try compromising by starting covered and finishing uncovered. Get the best of both worlds!

At the end of the day, it comes down to your priorities and cooking style. Both methods can produce delicious turkey breast when done properly. Test out different approaches to find your personal preferences.