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Turkey Cooking Temperature

Reaching the correct internal turkey cooking temperature is critical.

If your internal turkey cooking temperature is too high the meat will be dry and stringy, if it is too low your turkey may be unsafe to eat. So reaching to correct temperature is one of if not the most important steps in cooking a turkey.

The best way to see if your turkey is done is with a calibrated instant read thermometer. When a turkey reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit or 74 degrees Celsius your turkey is safe to eat. But there is a lot of meat in a turkey and that meat will be different temperatures in different areas of the bird. So you have to take the temperature of the turkey in two places.

Turkey Temperature


First, the breast. To take the temperature of the breast insert the instant read thermometer into the breast from the neck side of the bird (do not touch the rib.) Insert the probe downward deep into the breast. read the lowest temperature it measures. If the lowest registered temperature is above 155 F. the breast will be done because the temperature will continue to rise as you let the turkey rest for 15 to 20 minutes after the bird is removed from the oven. This does not defy the laws of thermodynamics, it is because of residual heat in the hotter parts of the meat and bones causes the cooler meat to continue to rise in temperature. So as long as you are using an accurately calibrated thermometer and are measuring the lowest temperature of the breast the turkey can be removed at 155 F. as long as you allow the turkey to rest for 15 to 20 minutes after removing it from the oven.

Second, the leg. Take the temperature of the leg in the upper, inner leg opposite from the breast. The joint where the leg attaches to the body is the last part of the leg to reach a safe temperature. If the leg is not done and the breast is you are better off removing the legs and finishing them in the oven by themselves. There is no need to overcook the breast just because the legs are taking too long. The rule is the same for the turkey cooking temperature of the legs. If the lowest temperature of the legs reads above 155 they will be done after they have rested for 15 to 20 minutes. During the resting time the turkey reabsorbs juices so that they are not lost during carving.

The plastic pop-up thermometers that come in some turkeys do assure that the turkey is safe to eat, but they tend to be sure that a safe temperature has been reached at the expense of being certain that the turkey is juicy and tender. You have much better control with your own well calibrated instant read thermometer.

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