Is Turkey Done At 165 Or 180 Degrees? The Great Debate

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Any meat eater loves to enjoy a freshly cooked, piping hot piece of meat, whether it’s chicken, beef, or any other type. However, cooking can be a difficult task, and it’s dangerous to undercook meat.

When illness or food poisoning is a possibility, a cook wants to make sure that they cook their piece of meat for the right amount of time.

If you cook it for too long, though, it can get burnt or overdone! So it’s a difficult balance to strike, and cooking turkey is no different.

Which is why we’ve come to help you find the best temperature to cook your turkey at, so it’s as delicious and as safe as it can be. Is it 165 degree Fahrenheit, or 180 degrees? Read on to find out all about it!

Is Turkey Done At 165 Or 180 Degrees The Great Debate

What Temperature Is Turkey Cooked At?

There is some confusion about what temperature turkey is going to be cooked best at. This is because cooking is a precise thing to get right, a science where you need to make sure your meat is neither undercooked nor overcooked.

It’s fairly common that a recipe for cooking turkey will tell you to do it at a temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit. This is mainly because the dark meat parts of it can be cooked at this temperature without getting burnt or dry. 

However, other parts of the meat cook at different temperatures. If you cook the turkey breasts at 180 degrees, they’ll come out unpleasant and dry – which you don’t want!

As a result, they cook best at 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This is actually a good temperature to cook the turkey as a whole at, because it’s when the meat becomes safe to eat. 

Careful Cooking – An Important Word On Health

As we’ve said before, though, it’s extremely important to cook your meat properly. It needs to be cooked at the correct temperature and for the right amount of time, so that it’s completely cooked through and free of any raw meat hazards. 

This isn’t the case with all meats. Steak tartare, for example, is a dish of raw ground beef or horse meat – it even has a raw egg added for good measure! You can get ill if you eat some raw red meat, but it probably won’t be fatal. 

White meat, however, will cause you harm if consumed raw or undercooked. Chicken and turkey are likely to have harmful bacteria festering on them, such as the infamous salmonella.

To safely get rid of these harmful things, the poultry meat needs to be heated so that it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. 

However, it is easy to be tricked by the appearance of the meat when it comes out of the oven, so be careful. Sometimes there will still be pink bits in it, which you might think represent portions that haven’t been cooked through properly.

After all, raw meat has a pinkish shade to it when you buy it, so why wouldn’t that be the meaning?

Not so! Pink or red shades can actually be caused by things other than undercooking. Turkey contains a protein called myoglobin that is found in the muscles tissues. When this protein mixes with water, it creates pink juices that will bubble around the meat.

Understandably, if you then take the meat out and you see these pink juices, you may think it’s a result of undercooking and rawness, but this isn’t always going to be the case. 

However, you can’t just guess that the myoglobin is going to be the cause of any pinkness. It is still important to check that your meat has been cooked properly, and to do this you must check that both the breasts and the thighs have reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature. 

Another area of safety to keep in mind is what type you’re cooking – if your turkey is stuffed, the stuffing needs to be cooked as well. If stuffing doesn’t cook properly, you can still contract food poisoning, because the stuffing has touched the raw meat beforehand. 

For ease, and not to burn the meat itself, you could remove the undercooked stuffing and cook it separately. This way you can make sure that all your elements are nice and cooked when you eat, without overdoing either. 

Cooking The Turkey Breasts And Thighs

Cooking The Turkey Breasts And Thighs

We’ve noted before that it can be difficult to cook the different parts of the turkey properly, because both do best at different levels of temperature.

The meat of the legs and thighs of the turkeys can be cooked past 180 degrees Fahrenheit, and can even come out more delicious if you do it at that temperature.

On the other hand, though, the breasts will be done by 165 degrees and can actually suffer if they are cooked up to 180 degrees. That increase in temperature can make the meat come out dry – which could ruin the overall meal. 

So what should you do to get the best of both worlds? Why sacrifice one part of the turkey just to get the other part more delicious? Well, there are a few routes you can take to get the meat at its prime. 

One option is to use aluminum foil to cover up the turkey breasts, leaving the thighs open and exposed to continue to cook up to 180 degrees.

This way, the breasts should have their heat kept lower, insulating at 165 degrees or so, while the rest of the bird gets cooked to a higher degree of Fahrenheit. 

However, you must be careful if you do things this way. If you wrap the aluminum foil much too tightly, then the turkey will steam instead of roast, which will completely change the texture of the meat. 

Be sure to remove the foil within the last hour, though, because it’ll make your skin nice and brown and crispy. 

When Should You Remove The Turkey From Your Cooker?

Really, it’s a case of temperature – as always. For your own safety, and to actually get a nice meal, you will need to make sure that the turkey has actually reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

With a special food thermometer, stick it into the turkey meat when it comes out, checking the temperature of each bit just for extra measure. 

The crucial area among these, though, is the section where the turkey thigh meets the breast. This is the most important area to check, and it’ll protect your health if you do it right.

Stick the thermometer into the join, making sure not to touch any turkey bone. If you’re near to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, you can take the meat out of your oven and leave it to rest and cool. It will still keep heat while it does this, so it continues to cook – in a sense. 

Final Thoughts

So there you have it! Meat can be a very difficult thing to get right, hitting that sweet spot of not underdone but not overdone either. This guide on turkey should help you get that white meat cooked correctly, without any health hazards to yourself or others. 

Which temperature was best, then? 165 degrees Fahrenheit is going to do a good enough job and should make your meat free from bacteria.

The turkey thighs can be made even more sumptuous, though, if you cook them to 180 degrees. Just be careful not to let that heat affect the breasts, which will go dry.

And above all? Test the temperature. As long as all parts of the bird have hit around 165 degrees Fahrenheit, then your meat is going to be tasty and healthy.

Julian Wells

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