How to Cook a Turkey like an Engineer

How to Cook a Turkey like an Engineer

Mike Gruetzmacher, Simcenter CFD Specialist, Siemens Digital Industries Software


In her role as Thanksgiving commander and chief, Julia Child once remarked: “A meal doesn’t have to be like a painting by Raphael, but it should be a serious and beautiful thing, no matter how simple.”


If simplicity works, Child might also have clarified: Just don’t overcook the turkey.

Or undercook it, either.


This is where Siemens’ software – which can create digital twins of everything from racecars to smart factories – might come in handy.

Sure, it’s typically used by aerospace companies like Boeing to run virtual simulations advancing the next generation of design and manufacturing.


But it has other purposes too. In fact, with Thanksgiving upon us, we thought Siemens Stories readers might want to see how our software was once used to create a digital twin of a turkey inside an oven. The goal, of course, was to figure out how to perfectly roast a turkey.


The analysis simulated a convection oven with a fan pushing air horizontally over the bird. The virtual turkey was also placed on a virtual rack to provide space for air to move below it.


By running computational fluid dynamics software and conducting airflow analyses, the engineer was then able to offer two helpful insights.

1. A convection oven might not save time.

By having a fan to move hot air around, convection ovens are thought to cook turkeys faster than a conventional bake oven, leading your resident chef to think he or she can put the bird in a little later.

Analyzing streamlines, though, showed that the sheer size of a turkey presents airflow challenges. It’s difficult to arrange the bird inside the oven in a way that allows airflow to circulate around all areas of the turkey.


To quote the engineer who conducted the simulation: “The air coming out of the fan follows the path of least resistance. To go under the turkey, it has to travel around the wall of the roaster, down between the turkey and roaster wall, and then make a 90° turn to flow under the turkey. All the while, the air slows down, and cools down.”


As a result, very little air goes into the roaster, or under or through the turkey.


2. If using a convection oven, make sure to rotate the turkey.

We pride ourselves at Siemens on making real what matters. But what really matters today is that you rotate the turkey: In a convection oven, the side closest to the fan will cook more quickly – or maybe dry out more quickly – than the opposite side.


Furthermore, cooks who like to use stuffing should feel no reason to worry. Stuffing doesn’t disrupt airflow – “because there is very little airflow to speak of” – nor does it “necessarily lead to longer cooking times and dryer turkey meat,” the engineer wrote.


From the digital enterprise to the digital kitchen, happy Thanksgiving to our readers – and good luck to all cooking the turkey.


Published On: November 20th, 2018