Thinking about cooking a Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving meal, with all those nostalgic dishes that need to be not just delicious but also timed to perfection, can seem like a daunting task. And the most intimidating of all is the turkey. The turkey cook time is tricky — go too long, it'll be dry; too short, and you risk the health of your guests. And why is it always Thanksgiving Day when you realize you don't have a meat thermometer? Luckily, how to tell if a turkey is done is easier than you might think — even without a thermometer. For all our home chefs who don't have a meat thermometer and would rather not buy one just for Thanksgiving, we talked to the experts behind the Turkey Talk-Line at Butterball. This is exactly how to tell if a turkey is done without a meat thermometer to ensure a fully cooked yet still moist bird.
1. Find Out the Cooking Time Based on the Weight of Your Turkey.
Using Butterball's turkey-cooking calculator is the easiest way to find out how long your turkey will need to cook based on its weight. A 20-pound turkey will take three and a half to four hours to cook at 325°F.
2. Don't Open the Oven Door to Check the Turkey Temperature Frequently.
Although it's tempting to check on your turkey, opening the oven only lowers the temperature and prolongs the process, potentially screwing up your initial estimated time. Keep the oven closed until you're about two-thirds of the way through to check on it for the first time. If the turkey breasts are getting too browned too quickly, cover the turkey in a tent of foil. If they don't look browned, feel free to skip that step.
3. Monitor Thigh Temperature to Know When the Turkey is Done
The deepest part of the thigh muscle is the very last part of the turkey to be done. The internal temperature should reach 180°F. To check for doneness without a thermometer, pierce the thigh and pay attention to the juices: if the juices run clear, it's cooked, and if the juices are reddish pink, it needs more time. Put the turkey back in the oven, and check again after a short time.
—Additional reporting by Lauren Harano