Does GE’s New Turkey Setting Deliver the Perfect Bird?
Consumer Reports tried the cycle for GE smart ovens for holiday cooking
Roasting a whole turkey is notoriously tricky—even confident cooks can find it challenging. Should you brine? Which rack position? Cover the turkey with foil? How long and at what temperature should you cook the bird so the dark meat is done but the white meat is still moist?
Help is here—at least for some. GE recently unveiled a new oven cycle for its smart ranges and ovens, which promises to help you roast a juicy and tender holiday bird without researching recipes, preheating the oven, or adjusting the temperature. The oven setting—aptly named “turkey”—is really a free software update for the hundreds of thousands of owners of GE Profile, Café, and Monogram smart ovens or ranges. If you own one of these models, you can open GE’s SmartHQ app on your phone and download the new setting, which walks you through the cooking process.
GE's Turkey Setting Is User-Friendly
If you’re fortunate enough to own a Profile, Café, or Monogram range or wall oven with the GE SmartHQ app (free on Apple and Android app stores) and it’s synced to your smartphone, all you need to do is open the app to begin the automatic software update. (Haven’t synced it yet? That’s easy too, and only adds about 10 minutes to the process.) Once you select the turkey setting, the app walks you through a series of prompts and directions for preparing a turkey.
You select the size of your bird, and the app recommends a rack position before directing you to insert your oven’s built-in probe into the thickest part of the breast. You then place the bird into the oven, insert the probe’s plug into the port in the oven cavity, and press start on the app. The oven then turns on automatically and, according to GE, selects the cooking temperature using an algorithm that takes into account your exact oven model and the weight of your turkey.
The app and oven chime and you’ll get a push notification on your phone when the internal temperature of the bird reaches 170° F. That’s just above the 165° F that CR’s experts and the USDA recommend for safety and in line with what many chefs recommend to ensure a fully cooked and tender bird. The oven stays on until you turn it off, either manually or using the app.
The App Provides Real-Time Temperatures
A lot of the anxiety that comes with cooking a turkey stems from not knowing when it might be done.
The SmartHQ app may help allay some of that worry by allowing you to check on the internal temperature of your bird along with the oven temperature (see screenshots of the app, below). While there’s no display of an estimated cook time, you can get a sense of when your turkey will be done by watching its internal temperature rise over time. Having that info could also make you less tempted to open the oven door to check the bird’s progress—more on that just below.
GE's Turkey Setting Can Save You Time
In our assessment, the turkey setting shaved about 40 minutes off the total cooking time. Roasting times were about 2 hours and 15 minutes for the dedicated-cycle bird, which we cooked at 325° F, versus almost 3 hours for the one cooked traditionally, also in a 325° oven.
Since both birds cooked at the same temperature, the time savings for the turkey-cycle bird likely came from the fact that the turkey setting eliminated the step of preheating and we never felt the need to open the oven door to check on our bird. Each time we did that with the conventionally roasted turkey, it likely caused the oven temperature to drop, slowing the cooking process. A 40-minute time savings can make a big difference if, besides the turkey, you’ve got sides you need to cook in the oven for your holiday meal.
The App and Oven Remove Most of the Guesswork
There’s really no magic oven temperature for roasting turkey. For a smaller bird, a temperature that’s too low may cook the meat through before the skin can crisp. For a larger turkey, a temperature that’s too high can brown the skin before the meat is safe to eat. By automatically selecting the right temperature based on the GE oven model and bird size in our evaluation, the app and oven produced great results. And it still yielded a moist, delicious bird with golden skin.
But our first assessment of the setting didn’t go quite as planned. And that points up one potential pitfall with the cycle.
Is the Bird Really Done?
In our lab, when we roasted the bird without using the turkey setting, we took the temperature of the meat in the thickest part of the thigh (without touching bone) because legs and thighs generally cook more slowly than breast meat. And we removed the bird when it reached 170° F.
As noted earlier, GE’s app instructs you to insert the probe into the thickest part of the breast, not the thigh, and on our first run with the turkey setting, the app chimed after about 90 minutes to let us know the bird was done. But it wasn’t. While the temperature appeared to reach 170° F in the breast in that short time, when we moved the built-in probe to test the thigh, we found the temperature in the dark meat was only 137° F. So we reinserted the probe into the thigh and roasted the turkey for another 39 minutes until the dark meat registered 170° F degrees, at which point the app chimed again that the turkey was cooked.
When we asked GE about this discrepancy, they noted that it can be tricky to fully insert a probe into the thigh of a turkey, which is why they specify placement in the breast. For us, the premature chime may have been caused by the probe not being fully inserted into the breast—while the tip of the probe was in the thickest part of the breast, several inches weren’t fully submerged in the turkey. That’s usually not a problem with an instant-read thermometer, but with the leave-in oven probe, it’s possible that exposing the shaft of the probe to the warm air in the oven cavity caused it to ping prematurely.
So we roasted a third turkey, this time with the probe entirely submerged in the breast and the tip landing in the thickest part (see the images, below), and we got perfect results throughout the entire bird.
In our subsequent follow-up with GE, a spokesperson said, “If your temperature probe has been inserted correctly, your turkey should be perfectly cooked when the temperature reaches 170 degrees. If consumers want to double-check the turkey doneness, they can use a secondary meat thermometer to check other areas of the bird for added reassurance.”
Regardless of why we got the one troublesome result, CR’s experts agree that it underscores the importance of taking the temperature of your turkey in multiple locations (including the thigh, as in the photo below) to test doneness. “To be sure the turkey is safe to eat, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh and breast and the innermost part of the wing," says Consumer Reports nutritionist Amy Keating, RD. "Make sure all three spots read at least 165 degrees.” In our final round, the bird roasted on the turkey setting hit temperatures from 166°-170° F in the breast, thigh, and wing with our instant-read thermometer.