Give It a Rest

It's a well-kept secret that's not supposed to be a secret – and this year we're determined to put the controversy to rest. It's the question as to what temperature to cook your Thanksgiving turkey. Despite your neighbors' or coworkers' insistence on the old standard of 180°, poultry is safe when cooked to an internal temperature of 165°. That 15° is critical – it can mean the difference between "pass the gravy, please" and "best turkey ever!"

Take these steps to ensure success on Turkey Day and any day:

  • Brine your turkey.
  • Let your turkey rest at room temperature up to an hour before putting it in the oven. It will help the interior of the meat reach temperature faster, and less time in the oven means less time for your turkey to potentially dry out.
  • Test your meat thermometer to ensure accuracy. You can find a number of great videos on how to test and/or calibrate your particular model online (try the manufacturer's site or YouTube).
  • Temp the bird in the right spot. Test both the fleshy part of the breast and also in the thigh, but don't touch bone; it's superconductive and will throw off your reading. Insert the thermometer in the center of the thickest part, away from bone, fat and gristle.
  • Remove your turkey from the oven before the desired final temperature is reached. During this "rest period," the temperature may increase 5-20° or more. Keep the turkey loosely covered with foil to ensure it doesn't cool too quickly. Larger birds will increase in temperature more than smaller ones. A 12 lb. turkey, for example, can easily handle an hour of rest and will increase an average of 20° after it's removed from the oven (continue to test the turkey to see that it reaches a safe temperature).
  • When the turkey is done, don't rush to carve it. Let the roasted turkey stand, covered, at room temperature for at least 20 min. and up to 45 min. to allow the juices to retract back into the meat. Don't worry. The bird will stay warm. The resting period also frees the oven for cooking or reheating other foods.

165° is a safe poultry temperature, as recommended by the USDA.

More Turkey Day Tips

  • To be sure you have enough turkey for leftovers, allow 1 ½ lbs. per person.
  • To defrost frozen turkey, thaw in the refrigerator, allowing 24 hours for every 5 lbs. of poultry. DO NOT thaw at room temperature.
  • If you stuffed the bird, the temperature of the dressing should also be 165°.
  • For food safety, all meat should be removed from the carcass and refrigerated within 2 hours of removing from the oven.

Featured Recipes

Buttermilk Brined Turkey Breast
Cranberry Salsa
Buttermilk Brined Turkey Breast with Cranberry Salsa

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