How to Tell When the Turkey Is Done
Q: My turkey comes with a plastic pop-up timer. Can't I use that instead?
A: You can, but many cooks have found them unreliable, usually resulting in overcooked turkey. The best method is to use an accurate meat thermometer, whether it be the oven-safe or instant read variety.
Turkey Tip: To test the accuracy of your instant read thermometer, insert the tip about 2 inches deep into boiling water. At sea level it should register 212 degrees F. If it does not, replace it; or if it has a calibration device, reset it for accuracy.
Q: How accurate are "recommended cooking times"?
A: None of us want an undercooked turkey—or an overcooked one! with so many variables, it's best to check your turkey with a meat thermometer before you estimate the bird to be done. Don't ever serve an undercooked bird, but in some instances, we've found the USDA recommended cooking times to be longer than necessary, resulting in an overcooked bird, so start checking your bird about 3/4th of the way through the total recommended cooking time.
Q: How can I tell when the turkey is done?
A: There are several ways to determine if the turkey is cooked through. For safety and doneness the internal temperature, as registered on a meat thermometer, must reach a minimum of 165 degrees, though most cooks will prefer up to 180 degrees F. in the thigh. The center of the stuffing should reach 165 degrees F in the cavity, and the center of the breast is done at 165 to 170 degrees. You can also prick the leg joint with a fork, and if the juices run just slightly pink or clear, the turkey is done.
USDA Timetable for Turkey Roasted at 325 degrees F.
Note: These times are approximate and should always be used in conjunction with a properly placed thermometer. Be sure to check the thermometer about 3/4th of the way through the time indicated so as not to overcook.
|Unstuffed Weight||Roasting Time|
|8 to 12 lbs||2-3/4 to 3 hours|
|12 to 14 lbs||3 to 3-3/4 hours|
|14 to 18 lbs||3-3/4 to 4-1/4 hours|
|18 to 20 lbs||4-1/4 to 4-1/2 hours|
|20 to 24 lbs||4-1/2 to 5 hours|
|Stuffed Weight||Roasting Time|
|8 to 12 lbs||3 to 3-1/2 hours|
|12 to 14 lbs||3-1/2 to 4 hours|
|14 to 18 lbs||4 to 4-1/4 hours|
|18 to 20 lbs||4-1/4 to 4-3/4 hours|
|20 to 24 lbs||4-3/4 to 5-3/4 hours|
- What size turkey should I buy?
- Is it better to buy one large turkey or two small ones?
- Should I buy fresh or frozen?
- What about turkeys that have been injected with fats and seasonings?
- What about turkey parts and frozen stuffed turkeys?
- How long can a whole turkey be kept frozen?
- How long can a fresh turkey be kept refrigerated?
- Thawing Rules
- Thawing Methods
- Turkey Thawing Charts
- Is it best to cook the stuffing inside the bird, or separately in a baking dish?
- If I do want to stuff the bird, what's the best way to do it?
- How much stuffing do I need?
- Do I need to close up the cavity after it has been stuffed?
- Preparations Step-by-Step
- Stuffing & Trussing
- Do I need to truss the bird's legs, or can I just roast it the extra effort?
- Roasting Step-by-Step
- How do I keep the breast meat moist when cooking?
- Use a Meat Thermometer
- My turkey comes with a plastic pop-up timer. Can't I use that instead?
- How accurate are "recommended cooking times"?
- How can I tell when the turkey is done?
- USDA Timetable for Turkey Roasted at 325 degrees F.
- Rules for Making Gravy
- Making the Basic Gravy
- Additions to Gravy
- Basic Carving steps
- Removing the Thigh, Drumstick & Wings
- Carving the breast
- Storing leftovers
- Reheating leftovers
- Back to Thanksgiving Headquarters
This page modified November 2006