Supersonic Turkey Cooking (STC) using Ansys Fluent

November 24, 2020 Alex Lefebvre

Come Thanksgiving one can find a variety of ways to cook a turkey. The most traditional way to cook a turkey is to roast it with some variations like grilling, smoking, or deep-frying. However, Supersonic Turkey Cooking (STC) is rarely considered, despite some great characteristics that will be discussed below. Before getting your turkey-cannon ready, let us run a few simulations to optimize the cooking first!


Dinner is ready, bon Appetit!
Surface temperature of a turkey flying at 525m/s (1722fps). The front and rear parts
of the turkey are getting crispy while the top and bottom are staying juicy.
Some low temperature around the back legs could prove problematic.

Modeling Methodology

The simulations presented below will leverage Ansys Fluent’s mosaic meshing capabilities to simulate a turkey in supersonic flight. Mesh adaptation is used to capture the most complex physics of STC while internal temperature is simulated via Conjugate Heat Transfer (CHT). The turkey is modeled as a “meat” material with a heat sink term to model endothermic reactions due to cooking and water evaporation. Viscous heating option is activated under the k-w SST turbulence model. The turkey is plucked, flying at constant speed ranging from 500m/s to 600m/s, elevation is sea level and exterior temperature is 50°F, a nice fall afternoon for supersonic turkey flight.


Surface mesh used for the STC study, the Ansys Fluent mosaic mesher poly-prism
captures turkey’s juicy curves quite well and with few elements.

Simulation Results

Using the methodology described above we found that only a narrow velocity band is appropriate for STC. At 500m/s the turkey’s insides are not rising to the recommended 165°F internal temperature. Safety first! We ask that you steer away from underpowered turkey cannons or risk food poisoning. A flight speed of 525m/s is the minimum you should consider for adequate cooking. The front and back areas are predicted to be crispy while the top and bottom areas should stay nice and juicy. Some areas on the turkey legs remain cool which is a letdown for those like me who prefer nicely broiled legs. Possibly extending the legs a little may alleviate this issue. For those who prefer a crunchier skin, and faster cooking, a flight speed of 550m/s is found to be adequate, however any speed above 575m/s is to be avoided since it would char the turkey’s exterior and risk being called “amateur” by some of your hungrier family members. Wait… is that just my family? At any rate, not an ideal situation that can be avoided thanks to simulations!

Follow up Research

Next year, Rand SIM will study STC using unsteady simulations with a focus on flight time required to cook the turkey properly.


The dynamic mesh adaptation captures nicely the bow shock in front of the
supersonic turkey at 525m/s. The center of the turkey while cooler is still above the recommended 165°F.


Minimum temperature recorded in the turkey for a range of flight velocity.
The recommended 165°F internal temperature is not reached for STC at or below 500m/s.

About the Author

Alex Lefebvre

CFD Simulation Specialist<br><br>Alex collaborates with clients to find solutions that meet their needs, whether it be new software, technical training, or consulting services. He completed his Ph.D. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Miami, with a focus on aircraft design. After the completion of his Ph.D., Alex worked in Formula 1 as a CFD expert where he helped the team produce a car that finished 5th in the world's championship.

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