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Turkey Final Temp? And How long to rest the bird?

To what temperature do you cook your turkey? I have seen recommendations from 140 to 170 in the breast. I've had trouble with getting a non-dry breast, even in the brined birds.

And How long do you allow the bird to rest? Is there a certain number of minutes per lb? Or until the bird cools to a certain temperature?

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  1. I believe I just read that the USDA now recommends cooking to 165. I just made our yearly "practice turkey" (actually, now it's just that turkey is so cheap it's hard to pass up knowing that we'll be dining at my Mom's for Thanksgiving - I NEED those leftovers) and used a cheap bird, didn't brine, just rubbed butter, s&p under the skin of the breast & on top (no cheesecloth this time either), and baked/basted for about 4 hours/until the thermometer in the thigh read about 165. Then topped it with foil and finished everything else for dinner that night - it probably rested about 30-35 minutes all told.

    In short, I did the laziest turkey ever. And though I had *serious* misgivings as I cut into it, it was moist as could be, and still VERY hot.

    3 Replies
    1. re: shanagain

      What temp dis you cook at? We're not brining and I'm still trying to a moist bird...

      1. re: eriberri

        I cooked at 345, only because I couldn't decide on 325 or 350. Yay "compromise."

    2. Take your choice, but the usual temp recommendation is 169-165 degrees. You can let it cool a half-hour or so.

      Only way to get a moist breast I know of is to cook it part of the time breast side down. Turning a big bird brings out much fear and loathing, but it can be done.

      9 Replies
      1. re: mpalmer6c

        I just saw this recommended in a Southern Living article and actually snorted out loud at what would undoubtedly happen were I in charge of trying to flip a hot turkey "right side up."

        But, my dog would probably be VERY happy.

        Having said that, I'm sure it's delicious.

        1. re: shanagain

          fwiw...I was watching FoodChannel tonight and my favourite and only reason i watch, Alton Brown was on. He brined it (of course), then roasted it using one of those digital thermometers with the core. Place the probe in the large part of the breast, and roasted it to 151F. That allowed for aftercooking and resting. This way it wasnt overcooked dried out (Don't forget, the aftercooking could bring you up anywhere from 5-10 degrees.)
          (Please forgive any typos, fell down a week ago and my right hand is in a cast. (Guess who is NOT carving the bird this year.

          And now...in the words of my uncle, I say unto you

          GET ER DONE!

          1. re: ChefBoyofDees

            I used AB's method last year and was very pleased with the results so I will be doing it again this year. But in the instructions I have, taken from the Web site last year, he says the temperature at the thickest part of the breast should be 161, not 151, degrees. Any chance that 151 is a typo? Or has he revised his recipe?

            1. re: JoanN

              He revised his recipe in a couple of ways, including making gravy with the drippings, which I plan to do this year to see if it's too salty. I've been using AB's recipe for a very long time, and everyone loves it, even a guy who hated turkey before he had mine. :)

              1. re: Morganna

                Not having much luck trying to find this revised recipe online. Do you by any chance have a link to it?

                1. re: JoanN

                  He had a few revisions in the recent foodnetwork thanksgiving broadcast where he was answering audience questions about turkey.

                  The primary things I remember are 1) cook breast to 151 then rest for half an hour, covered, 2) he used the drippings to make gravy, (he said before they were too salty, I should have tried it myself before this, and just not added salt), 3) he didn't make a heavy duty foil breast plate for the breast after reducing the oven temp to 350 degrees, 4) he used linen twine to bind up the bird, tying down the wings and legs and such into a compact bundle.

                  Those are the things that diverged from his show of years ago that I can remember off the top of my head.

                  1. re: Morganna

                    Thank you very much, Morganna. I'll add these notes to my printed recipe from last year.

          2. re: shanagain

            If you are going to start breast side down and then "flip" it, get a couple of "ov=gloves". This lets you get a good grip on the bird and keeps the dog from having a turkey dinner.

          3. re: mpalmer6c

            That's how I've cooked turkeys for over 10 years now. I saw it on an old Marthe Stewart show years ago and decided to try it. After the first time, I've never looked back. I simply rub with butter, s&p, cook for the first hour breast side down, flip and finish to 165.

          4. The best way I have found to get a non-dry breast is to buy a good quality fresh turkey from a quality (read-not Butterball) producer. For a turkey breast I roast one side up for about 20 minutes, then the other side, then put it upright on the rack; this may not be practical for a whole turkey. Take it out of the oven at 165 internal temp and let rest 20-30 minutes.

            1. We are the bird standing alone. We cook to 150 and let it rest no less than an hour and preferably about an hour 15 minutes. While I am not a fan of turkey, the turkey lovers rave on how good our turkey is. We also always get a fresh, free range turkey, so not sure how that figures into the equation.

              1. First off, there are a million ways to roast a turkey, but here are some basics:

                1) Final temp should be 165F, but take the bird out of the oven when the thickest part between the thigh and the breast reaches about 155F. Carryover cooking will bring the temp up another 10 degrees as it rests.
                2) Typical resting time before carving is 15-25 minutes. Anything longer is not really necessary.
                3) As for a non-dry breast, brining definitely helps. And laugh if you like, but roasting the bird breast-side down for the first half of roasting time totally helps.

                Here's a fairly comprehensive guide for roasting. I use it every year: http://www.whats4eats.com/poultry/roa...

                1. There is one key here that only a couple other people have touched on - you need to be sure to account for the carry-over cooking which can take the bird sometimes well over the desire cooking temperature, sometimes 15 degrees or more depending on your oven temperature.

                  I'm an advocate for breast side down and then flipping myself. Of course take the roaster out of the oven (I put mine on the tile floor in my kitchen) but put it on a nice open level steady surface. There's no reason to think it's impossible to flip a bird like that.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: HaagenDazs

                    I think my problem might have been that I didn't account for carry over cooking.

                    I did a practice bird last night (its going to be used to make the gravy base - the whole bird was cheaper than buying a bunch of extra legs or wings.)

                    It was brined, roasted at 325 degrees, until it reached 165 fresh out of the oven. Then I rested it and I guess it kept cooking because the breast was dry.

                    1. re: Mellicita

                      Interestingly, on Alton Brown's special the other night, he took the bird out at 151 degrees and the 12 pound bird coasted to 164. (He was aiming for 165 and found that close enough.) That seems to me like a lot of carry over for a 12 pound bird, but I won't question the master. Alton Brown rocks!

                  2. I let it reach about 155F in the breast, but the dark meat should reach 180F. I do this by putting a large bag of ice on the breast for a few hours while I I let my refrigerated bird sit on the counter. When it goes in, the breast is much colder than the rest of the bird. If you do it just right, the breast will reach 155F at the same time the dark meat reaches 180F.

                    1. I usually take mine out around 149-151 and rest for 30-40 mins. Once I started doing that I realized that the real trick to moist turkey was not overcooking the damn thing.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: jgg13

                        exactly. Too hot and protein begins to toughen.

                        1. re: sandylc

                          I cooked a 14lb turkey using that exact recipe like this last night. The backbone bone gone let me use more of my oven and cook the turkey evenly. I took it out of the oven at 152 +/-2 . Let it sit for 20-30 minutes. Carry over time brought the meat to meet USDA safety temps. It came meat was moist the skin was crisp.
                          I used the backbone and neck for the gravy. For the stuffing I used turkey tails. Sautéed the tails and the placed them on top of the stuffing to keep it moist and flavored while it cooked in the oven. Then cut up the tails after they were cooked and put them ingot the stuffing.
                          I must say it was a great first time turkey experience.
                          Here's a pic of the bird before I put it in under the broiler to crisp the skin. (5 minutes)

                        2. This year we had a fresh free-range 20-pounder. I cooked it for 30 minutes at 500 degrees, then dropped the temp to 350 & continued roasting for around just a little over 2 more hours when my digital thermometer showed an internal temp in several places of 165. Took it out to rest for 30 minutes (remember - the temp will rise some after the bird comes out of the oven), & had the most glorious, juicy, crispy-skinned bird (both white & dark meat) ever. In fact, this was the first year that I thought the bird was so perfect, I insisted on a picture.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Bacardi1

                            165 really isn't a good final temperature. It's a very safe one but not good for moist turkey.

                            Your turkey only needs to reach 165 degrees for less than 10 seconds to meet the FSIS standard to be safe from salmonella. However you have the exact same level of safety if you hold at 156 degrees for 59 seconds.

                            The reason people settle on 165 degrees is not because it's a magically safe temperature (it's not). It's because it gives a safety net because internal temperatures vary in different places in the meat. Generally speaking, if you test at 165 degrees then you're probably fine even if your turkey is at 150 or 155 in other areas, because you'll have likely hit the pasteurization point anyway.

                            Years ago the standard used to be 185 degrees. It would be hard for the government to get sued for a recommendation like that. The guideline is now lower, but it is scientific fact that turkey can safely be cooked to temperatures lower than 165 with no additional risk. You just have to know what the rules are.

                            1. re: calumin

                              As I mentioned above I normally take my turkeys out at just below 150 but your point about uneven temps is a good one. I had an extreme example this year, I hadn't noticed it until afterwards but the breasts were very uneven in size (which explained why it'd never sit up evenly).

                              My probe thermometer started chirping at 145 (to give me a few minutes to assess such that I don't overcook it much beyond 150) but my thermapen was reading about 130. Turns out I was sticking my thermapen in the larger breast and the probe in the larger breast.

                              I ended up pulling it when the heart of the largest breast was 145 which left the smaller breast at 158. Not ideal but it worked out.

                              1. re: calumin

                                Well dear - go figure.

                                Both white & dark meat were not only juicy as all get-out, but as usual for many years now of our buying Whole Foods' free-range turkeys, the leftovers (both white & dark - & some of which we enjoyed just last night) are uber moist & juicy as well.

                                So since I seem to be doing something right, I ain't gonna change anything simply because you say that 165 "really isn't a good final temperature". ;)

                                (Oh, & my new oven is calibrated perfectly, & I use both a probe & an instant-read thermometer - so I'm covered on those fronts.)

                            2. Final temp depends on cooking time and meat thickness. Bacterial kill curves allow for low slow cooking eg sous vide if done correctly. Breast that looks and tastes "done" will be at 142 degrees for about three hours.

                              A 165 degree core temp guarantees that the breast will be dry and leathery.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: sal_acid

                                Wow. Guess my Whole Foods' fresh free-range turkey didn't hear about that "guarantee", because the white-meat leftovers we enjoyed last night were moist & absolutely fabulous. Go figure.

                              2. cook 180 for 2 and a half hrs and i was always told to rest the turkey the amount of time you cooked it.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: JDKnock

                                  "cook 180" what are you saying? So.....if the turkey takes five hours of 'low and slow' roasting you're saying to rest it for five hours?