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Burning Question: At What Temperature Is a Turkey Cooked?

No matter what kind of turkey you'll be having this year, there's one question you'll need the answer to: what temperature does a turkey need to reach in order to be considered done?

Until 2008, the USDA recommended cooking turkey to an internal temperature of 180ºF. But based on the fact that bacteria threat salmonella cannot withstand temperatures of 160ºF after 30 seconds, the FDA now suggests a minimum internal temperature of 165ºF as measured by a food thermometer in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.

The FDA doesn't really account for the fact that the breasts cook slower than the thighs. Turkey experts like Butterball recommend cooking the breast to 165ºF and the thigh to 180ºF. The key number is the breast temperature, so stress less about the thigh temperature (as long as it's over the 160ºF ballpark). And, if you really want the juiciest white meat possible, factor in carry-over cooking. America's Test Kitchen says to pull the bird out of the oven at 160ºF, since the residual heat from the meat will raise the temperature to 165ºF as it rests for 15-20 minutes (but no more than 30).

We monitored our bird's temperature using a probe thermometer like iDevices: Kitchen Thermometer ($80).

Got a burning question? Tweet us any pressing questions you have about the culinary world, and we'll do our best to answer them.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Anna Monette Roberts
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Rosemary15200185 Rosemary15200185 2 years
Thank you so much. I just couldn't remember the temperature and you were the only one with ac straight answer. Butterball website just gave me cooking suggestions. You're the best!
suziryder suziryder 6 years
I've never dared to cook a turkey yet.. my mom always does it! Actually, I hardly ever make roast chicken, which is something I adore, because I had a bad experience of undercooking one in grad school and now I'm kind of creeped out/nervous about doing it myself. I guess an instant read thermometer should make it pretty clear that it's done, though! Isn't there also a test you can do by wiggling a leg? I never know if it should be loose or firm when it's done.
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