What Temperature Should A Cooked Turkey Be?
Turkey Dinner Food Safety
Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, so I thought I’d take a minute to share about Food Safety in the home. Thanksgiving Turkey dinners (or any holiday meal) often has the home cook busy trying to make several different recipes at the same time, making it easy to overlook Time-Temperature Sensitive* food, which can result in much more than post-meal indigestion.
**Time-Temperature Sensitive foods are foods in which, given enough time at the wrong temperatures (between 41-135 degrees), bacteria will grow very rapidly. This is including items such as meat, dairy, baked potatoes, cut melons, sprouts, and even cooked grains like rice. After cooking, these foods would normally need to be thrown away after sitting out at room temperature more than 4 hours. **
My best piece of advice when it comes to kitchen safety: Get A Kitchen Thermometer! It also may be called a food probe. If you don’t have one, pick up an instant read kitchen thermometer at the store. This simple one from Target is inexpensive and will help you determine if the temperature of your food is hot or cold enough for safety reasons.
If you have a kitchen thermometer, you can make sure it’s calibrated correctly by holding the stem in a pot of boiling water. If the thermometer reads 212 degrees, you’re good to go.
So, what temperature should the turkey be?
That’s a good question with only 2 correct answers: Turkeys should either be 41 degrees or lower, or 165 degrees or higher. 41 is refrigerated temperature, and 165 is cooked. Ideally, the turkey should spend as little time as possible between those two numbers.
Don’t rely on the little button thingy in many turkey breasts to tell if your turkey is cooked enough. Simply insert the thermometer into the inside of the turkey thigh (not touching the bone) at least up to the “dimple” on the thermometer stem. If it reads 165 degrees (quickly), your turkey should be done. Let it rest for at least 20 minutes before carving so the heat can re-distribute and the meat is nice and juicy. Also your hands might not get as scalded during the carving process.
Thawing a Turkey Safely
Let’s talk about Thawing a Frozen Turkey – or any other large meat item, for that matter. The best and safest method for thawing a frozen turkey is in a tray or pan, in the refrigerator for a few days. If you forgot to put the turkey in the fridge a few days early, the next safest way to thaw the bird is to put it in a pan, in the sink, under cold running water until thawed, then cook right away. This may take a while, but I can admit to having to do this to an under-thawed turkey on Thanksgiving morning. DO NOT – under any circumstances – leave a turkey sitting on the counter to thaw. This is extremely dangerous and can get people very sick – which I’m sure they will not appreciate.
Basic rule of thumb: If any of the items in your dish need refrigerated under normal circumstances (eggs, butter, milk, sausage, etc.), keep it in the fridge unless you are about to cook it.
Serving, Holding, and Storing the meal
If your family likes to set out the Thanksgiving meal and graze for a few hours, you may want to invest in some “crockpots” or steam tables to keep the hot food at safe temperatures (over 135 degrees, remember).
Once the hungry masses have had their fill, promptly seal the food into appropriate, air tight containers, and get everything back into the fridge as soon as possible. If the food has sat around at room temperature for 4 hours, it will be safer to toss it rather than store it.
To sum up: Don’t let the raw food sit out too long; make sure you cook the food to the correct temperature; and don’t let the cooked food sit out too long.
We hope you have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving.
Keller Williams Pacific Estates