Why You Shouldn’t Rely on Your Pop-Up Turkey Timer

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Don’t under- or overcook your bird this holiday
are turkey pop-up timers accurate
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How to really tell when your turkey is done.

While there are plenty of food-centric holidays on the calendar, no holiday is defined by its meal quite like Thanksgiving. And the most important part of Thanksgiving dinner is the turkey, of course. Cooking a turkey perfectly is something that gives people a lot of anxiety. According to a survey by Butterball, 80 percent of people preparing a Thanksgiving feast for the first time worry about cooking the turkey correctly. 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?

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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? Last year, a Butterball turkey talk-line expert answered all our turkey questions, and she revealed the only way to ensure your bird is properly cooked.

“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,” she 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.”

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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. But just because you know what temperature your turkey needs to be cooked to, that doesn’t mean mistakes won’t happen. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to save your turkey when something goes wrong.