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Nov 25, 2009 12:12 AM

Turkey thermometer placement question

I've always placed the thermometer in the deepest part of the thigh, but I just watched and read Alton Brown's turkey recipe and noticed that he recommends placing it in the deepest part of the breast. Given that the breast will cook faster than the dark meat, if you cook to a final breast temp (after resting) of 165, won't the dark meat be undercooked (assuming, for the sake of argument that anything under 165 is undercooked, which I don't necessarily agree with)? if so, why would you take the temp at the breast rather than the thigh?

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  1. I take it in the breast right near the thigh, cook to 165 then rest for up to an hour, yet sometimes it's still a little pink at the joint there . But since we don't really eat the dark meat much, that works for us. I throw it in the soup pot the next day and all is well.

    1 Reply
    1. re: coll

      Thanks - that's what I've done as well, although I cook to a lower temp (150).

    2. Balancing the "done" temperature between breast and thigh is nearly impossible, even for Alton Brown. The best way I know of to ensure that both are properly cooked is to remove the leg/thigh and bake it separately (and longer) in the same oven. Remember that bacteria in undercooked foods resides in the juices that flow while it's being carved and, if the meat does contain living colonies of bacteria, those critters will infiltrate the rest of the meat on the platter. If you want to keep the breast moist with the leg/thigh fully cooked you might want to try laying a well soaked but not quite dripping wet (water or wine) cheese cloth (folded into many layers) atop the breast area of the bird while it roasts and remove it when the leg/thigh test reaches 160 - 165 degrees (I prefer to err on the side of safety) then leave the bird in the oven until the breast reaches the temperature you're looking for and allow for the rest period after removal from the oven. I like me finished bird to be a bit over 170 degrees when I carve it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: todao

        actually, i believe that most of the bacteria lives on the surface, though it may be carried by the liquid. Beyond that, though, underdone turkey is just unpleasant. the meat needs to be cooked long enough to firm, particularly the dark meat. i agree with the pulling at 160 to 165 (i like dark meat, and hate bloody joints, so i take the temp at the deepest point in the thigh). an hour or so rest and it's 170 to 175. and perfect.

      2. I know it's past Thanksgiving, but for those cooking a turkey for Christmas, a little note. I too saw the episode with Alton cooking a turkey. He placed the turkey in the oven at 500 degrees for 1/2 hour, and then lowered the temp to 350 degrees. This, according to Alton, get the dark meat cooking faster adn therefore allows the temp to reach the 185 required for dark meat. After the initial 1/2 hour. he also placed an oiled triangle of aluminum foil over the breast for the remaining cooking time at 350. I placed my thermometer in the breast and pulled the turkey at 165 degrees and let it rest with a tent of foil over it for 45 minutes. It was perfect. The color was beautiful and the breasts were absolutely dripping with juices and there was no signs of bloody joints and everything was cooked. The meat was all cooked to perfection! I also cooked it unstuffed with some apple, cinammon, onion, rosemary and sage in the cavity. I must warn you thought that the oven will smoke for the first 1/2 hour at 500 degrees, but it did not affect the taste of the bird. I also must state that it only took about 2 hours and 45 minutes to cook a 21 pound bird using this method. That initial 1/2 hour really makes a difference and gets the bird a roasting!!