Get a perfectly cooked turkey with this guide to taking a turkey’s internal temperature.

Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Advertisement

The best way to guarantee guests a perfectly roasted, juicy turkey―one that's not over- or undercooked―is to get a clear internal temperature read on your bird. But beyond taste, finding the right turkey temperature will also ensure your Thanksgiving meal is safe to eat.

While guidelines for how long to cook a turkey are great for timing out your Thanksgiving meal prep, you can't assume standard cooking times will result in a safe internal turkey temperature. For that, you'll need the right tools, and sadly, the "pop-up" temperature indicator that comes on top of your turkey is not it. While cute, "pop-up" timers aren't always accurate, so the USDA always recommends using a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of turkey.

Our go-to pick? An instant-read meat thermometer which you can get for around $10. You can also use an oven-proof food thermometer if you prefer. Once you have the thermometer of your choice, here's how to take your turkey out of the oven at just the right temperature.

The Safe Temperature for Turkey

Your turkey is done when it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the USDA. It doesn't recommend stuffing your turkey before roasting, but if you do, stuffing must also reach 165 degrees when measured with a food thermometer. Use these approximate timelines to determine how long it'll take your turkey to reach a safe minimum internal temperature:

Estimated Turkey Cooking Times

Weight

Unstuffed Cook Time

Stuffed Cook Time

4 to 8 pounds (breast)

1½ to 3¼ hours

Not usually applicable

8 to 12 pounds

2¾ to 3 hours

3 to 3½ hours

12 to 14 pounds

3 to 3¾ hours

3½ to 4 hours

14 to 18 pounds

3¾ to 4¼ hours

4 to 4¼ hours

18 to 20 pounds

4¼ to 4½ hours

4¼ to 4¾ hours

20 to 24 pounds

4½ to 5 hours

4¾ to 5¼ hours

Where to Put a Thermometer in a Turkey

When taking your turkey's temp with an instant-read meat thermometer, place it in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. If you're using an oven-proof food thermometer, insert it in the thickest part of the inner thigh before placing your turkey in the oven.

Turkey temperature: how to take a turkey's temperature, where to put thermometer in turkey, and more
Credit: Getty Images

How to Check a Turkey's Temperature

  1. When you're ready to check the temperature of your turkey, remove it from the oven completely and close the oven door to retain heat.
  2. Slip an instant-read meat thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey thigh, pricking the bird just above the crease between the thigh and the place where the turkey breast begins.
  3. Drive your thermometer into the meat and make sure it doesn't touch a bone, or you'll get an inaccurate reading.
  4. When an instant-thermometer reads 165 degrees, your turkey is ready. If using an oven-proof thermometer, once the thigh has reached 165 degrees, check the temperature of the wing and the thickest part of the breast, according to the USDA. If you get a read of 165 everywhere, you're good to go.
  5. When your turkey has reached 165 degrees or higher, cover it loosely with aluminum foil and let it sit for 30 minutes before carving. This will allow the cooking juices to be reabsorbed by the turkey, which will ensure moist, tender meat.