Where to Put Thermometer in Turkey
No matter if you are making a turkey for Thanksgiving, Christmas, any holiday, or just for a gathering, it’s important to know where to put your thermometer in the turkey to tell if it’s done or not.
There are 2 to 3 main places you will want to check the internal temperature of your turkey before determining if it is done. We will take a deep dive into this below, in addition to other helpful tips and tricks when making a turkey.
Be sure to check out the following details so that your turkey turns out fabulous!
Let’s first look at a turkey’s anatomy so that you know which parts we are referring to when we say we are to stick a thermometer in a turkey. The main parts you need to know of a turkey include the turkey breast, turkey thighs and legs, and turkey wings. Please see the diagram below for reference.
Now, let’s look at the different types of thermometers there are, and how they are used.
Types of Thermometers
Oven-safe Probe Thermometer
An oven-safe thermometer is a kind of thermometer that can go into the oven. This is typically a probe thermometer that can tolerate hot temperatures. That means you can stick the probe into the turkey and leave it in while it is baking. This will help you monitor the internal temperature and prevent you from having to pull the turkey out to check on it.
Instant-read and Digital Thermometers
Instant read thermometers are the kind that you will need to pull the turkey out of the oven, an instant thermometer is used to get a read on the internal temperature of your turkey.
You’ll need to allow the thermometer to sit in the turkey for a few seconds in order for the temperature to register. This type of thermometer should not be left in the turkey as it is baking in the oven.
Pop-up thermometers, on the other hand, are those little thermometers that sometimes come in your turkeys. Typically, they are little red dot-shaped thermometers and are helpful because they pop up when your turkey is supposed to be done.
Where to Place Thermometer in Turkey
Now that you have a basic understanding of turkey anatomy, and the different types of thermometers you can use to tell the internal temperature of a turkey, let’s look at where you should place a thermometer in your turkey.
Turkey Thermometer Placement
Now, when you’re cooking a turkey, there are three places where you want to be sure to check the internal temperature of your turkey to be sure that it is fully cooked.
Additionally, if you are filling your turkey with stuffing you will also want to be sure to monitor the internal temperature of your stuffing. Now, let’s look at the different places you should place a turkey thermometer.
Turkey Thigh. First, you’ll want to put the thermometer in the turkey thighs to determine the internal temperature. When you insert the thermometer in the turkey thighs, you’ll want to insert the thermometer into the thickest part of your turkey thigh, as close to the bone without touching it as you can get.
The internal temperature of your turkey thigh should read at least 180°F in order for the turkey thighs to be fully cooked.
Turkey Breasts. Next, you’ll want to insert a thermometer into both turkey breasts. Insert the thermometer into both sides of your turkey breast in the thickest part, and into the center.
Ideally, you’ll want the internal temperature of both turkey breasts to read at least 170°F in order for the turkey breasts to be fully cooked and safe to eat.
Turkey Stuffing. Finally, if you are stuffing your turkey you will also want to check the internal temperature of your stuffing to be sure that it is cooked and safe to eat. The internal temperature of your stuffing should read 165°F for it to be safe to eat.
Monitoring the internal temperature of your turkey thighs and turkey breasts will allow you to be sure that your turkey is fully baked because these are the areas where the meat is thickest, meaning that if these areas are fully baked, the rest of your turkey should be done as well. It does not hurt to check other areas of your turkey just to be safe.
Once you have checked your turkey all over, and are sure that it is done, you can remove it from the oven and allow the turkey to rest.
The Safe Temperature for Turkey
Turkey Leg Internal Temp 180°F
Turkey Thigh Internal Temp 180°F
Turkey Breast Internal Temp 170°F
Turkey Stuffing Internal Temp 165°F
How to know if Turkey is done Without a Thermometer
The best way to tell when your turkey is done is to use a thermometer to check the internal temperature of your turkey thighs, breast, and stuffing.
However, if you do not have a meat thermometer there are a few other ways you can check your turkey to determine if it is done without using a thermometer.
Juices Run Clear. One sign you can use to help determine if your turkey is done or not is to tell if the juices run clear or if there is still blood in the turkey juices.
Cut Into The Meat. You can also cut into the meat, and see if it is tough, or easily pulls away from the bone. When you cut into the meat pay attention to the color of the juices to see if they run clear or if there’s still any blood. If you see any signs of blood coming from your cut, continue cooking.
Very Hot All Through. You will also want to be sure that your turkey is very hot all the way through. When the internal temperature of your turkey is hot throughout the entire bird, it is likely cooked through.
No Longer Slimy In Appearance. Finally, you can check the appearance of your turkey. If any of the meat still resembles slimy raw meat, then it is likely not yet fully baked.
Although the best way to tell when your turkey is fully baked is to use a meat thermometer inserted into the chicken breasts, chicken thighs, and any stuffing in the center, you can also use these ways to determine if your turkey is cooked without using a thermometer.
How long to Rest a Turkey
The amount of time you allow a turkey to rest before serving may vary depending upon the size of your bird. Most turkeys come with package instructions that will tell you approximately how long your bird should rest by the weight of your bird.
However, the good rule of thumb is to allow approximately 20 minutes at a minimum for your turkey to rest. Some larger turkeys can rest up to 30 to 40 minutes before serving. Be sure to check your bird’s package instructions for details.
How Long can Turkey Sit Out
Once a turkey has cooked, it should be left at room temperature for no more than two hours. Two hours applies when your room temperature is between 40°F and 90°F.
However, if your room temperature is 90°F or above your turkey should be left at room temperature for no more than one hour.
What if my Turkey is Done Early
If your turkey is done early that’s okay! This allows you to have time for your turkey to rest before serving. However, if your turkey is done way early, you may consider either storing it in your oven on the warm function, you can also cover your turkey in aluminum foil, or wrap it in thick towels to help keep it warm. You could also place your aluminum foil-wrapped turkey in a clean cooler so that it stays warm in the insulated container.
But what if your turkey is done cooking way, way, way too early? If this is the case, then it is a good idea to let your turkey rest, and cool. Then either refrigerate it or cut it into slices and refrigerate. You can then reheat your turkey shortly before you are ready to serve it.
How To Check A Turkey’s Doneness
When checking the turkey’s internal temperature what is the best way to go about doing this? Below is a step-by-step process of what this should look like.
These steps would primarily be for taking the temperature of your turkey using an instant-read thermometer. If you have probes in your turkey while it is cooking, then there is no need to remove your turkey and check the temperature.
Step 1: First, remove the turkey from the oven and close the door of your oven. Place the turkey on potholders or on your stovetop.
Step 2: Insert a thermometer into the thigh meat, on both sides. Hold the thermometer in place. The internal temperature of both thighs should read 180°F. Then check the internal temperature of the breast meat. The internal temperature of the breast meat should read 170°F. Finally check the internal temperature of your stuffing, which should read 165°F
Step 3: Rest the turkey. If your internal temperatures are reading correctly, allow your turkey to rest for a minimum of 20 minutes before carving and serving. Then enjoy your delicious meal!
Delicious Side Dishes
Cook Safely for Family and Friends
Cleaning The Thermometer. When using a meat thermometer it is important to clean your meat thermometer thoroughly before using, and after you are finished using it. There are a few different ways you can clean your thermometer.
Alcohol wipe or swab. Wipe the probe part of your thermometer off with alcohol wipes or swabs. Be sure to rinse your meat thermometer thoroughly in hot water after it is wiped off.
Food sanitizing solution. You can also dip your meat thermometer into a food sanitizing solution. Once again be sure to rinse it off in hot water after cleansing.
Boiling water. You can also clean your meat thermometer by sticking it in boiling water for at least 30 seconds.
Follow Food Safety For Poultry. When preparing a turkey it’s always important to follow food safety guidelines for preparing poultry.
This means that you should be sure to thaw your turkey in the refrigerator, allowing your turkey to sit at room temperature for an extended amount of time. Then be sure to completely clean your bird before it is baked.
Cook until your turkey is fully baked. Allow your cooked turkey to rest before serving. Any leftovers should be stored in the fridge or freezer and not left at room temperature any longer than two hours.
By following these simple food safety guidelines, your friends and family will have a nice dinner that’s not too memorable for the wrong reasons!
What if the turkey button not popping?
If your turkey button does not pop, that’s not the end of the world. Simply take an instant-read thermometer and check the temperature of your turkey’s breasts and thighs.
You can also check the internal temperature of the stuffing if your turkey has some. Be sure that the internal temperature of your turkey is safe before allowing the turkey to rest.
Where to Insert Thermometer in Turkey
To prepare your turkey so that it is cooked perfectly, it’s important to know where to place your thermometers. There are 2 to 3 main areas where you should place your thermometers in the turkey to check the internal temperature before deciding if it is done or not.
These areas include the turkey thighs, the turkey’s breasts, and if your turkey has stuffing in the center, check the internal temperature of your stuffing as well so that you can be sure it’s fully cooked. Now, let’s get making that delicious turkey!