No holiday is defined by its meal quite like Thanksgiving. And the most important part of Thanksgiving dinner is the perfect turkey recipe, of course. Cooking a turkey perfectly is something that gives people a lot of anxiety because you only do it once or twice a year. How can you tell when your turkey is done cooking? Luckily, most grocery store turkeys come with a handy little plastic pop-up timer that springs to life when your bird is done roasting. It’s something that cooks around the country rely on. But should you?
We’re sorry to say, but the answer is no. These pop-up timers are actually really inaccurate. There’s a reason that turkey has a reputation for being dry, and it’s because of these timers. If they ever pop at all, it can be too late. Or even worse, they could rise too early and your turkey could be underdone, putting you and your guests at the risk of food poisoning.
So how do you know when your turkey is done? Carol Miller, a Butterball turkey talk-line expert, answered all our turkey questions, and she revealed there is truly only one way to ensure your bird is properly cooked. You need to check the internal temperature.
“You can’t tell if a turkey is done just by looking at its color. And some people just cook by the time. They look and it says three to three and a half hours, so they cook it for three and a half hours and take it out of the oven,” Miller said. “But you really need to cook by temperature. Early in the season when we get someone on the phone or via email, we remind them to get that meat thermometer out, buy one if you don’t have one, and make sure it’s calibrated.”
Indeed, a properly calibrated meat thermometer is the only way to make sure your turkey is cooked to perfection. Your turkey needs to be 165 degrees F at the innermost part of the thigh and in the thickest part of the breast. And if you didn’t know that you can’t rely on your turkey’s pop-up timer, you may need to know what other turkey buying, roasting and carving mistakes you’re making.