Real-time turkey: using a thermometer to ensure safety

Color is a lousy indicator. So are those pop-up thingies that Michele wrote about last night. There was one on my bird that I was apparently supposed to insert. Or not. It  popped after 20 minutes. Useless.

Poultry should be cooked to an end-temperature of 165F or 74C, as measured by a tip-sensitive digital thermometer. The problem with 15-pound turkeys is that the breast was creeping up to 140-150F, while the stuffing and other parts were languishing at 120. Foil over the breast helps, but it’s always a problem; and why gravy was invented.

This isn’t perfect, and cross-contamination is always a concern, but I removed the two turkey breasts, ensured they were fully cooked, scooped out the stuffing and brought it to a safe temperature in the microwave. The remainder of the bird went back in the oven.

A delicious meal was had by all. To avoid problems with Clostridium perfringens, I took the remainder of the turkey apart within an hour, the good meat in the refrigerator, the rest into the stock pot – turkey stock is really one of the best parts of the (subsequent) meal.

Stick it in.

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About Douglas Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Dr. Douglas Powell editor, retired professor, food safety 3/289 Annerley Rd Annerley, Queensland 4103 61478222221 I am based in Brisbane, Australia, 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time