Is Turkey Done at 165° or 180°? (And How To Tell)

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You’re cooking a turkey, and it’s just about done, but wait, is it done at 165° or 180°? We’ve got the answer for you!

In this TheGrillingDad.com guide, you will learn:

  • Whether turkey is done at 165° or 180°
  • What to do when you see pink in your turkey
  • And much more!
a cooked turkey on a plate

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Is Turkey Done at 165° or 180°?

Cooking a turkey is a complicated endeavor, especially because most people only do it one or two times per year! This can lead to many questions as to knowing when a turkey is done and safe to eat. 

Generally, a turkey is safe to eat when it reaches a temperature of 165°Fahrenheit. You can cook dark meat to a temperature of 180° Fahrenheit, but white meat turkey should be pulled out of the oven at 165° otherwise, it will get dry. 

Still, have questions about the two different “done” temperatures for turkey? We’ve probably answered them below. Keep reading to find out. 

Why It’s Important to Cook Turkey Fully

Turkey is a form of poultry, meaning when it is undercooked, it carries many of the same diseases as chicken. Even if the turkey you have is disease free, eating it raw could result in food poisoning.

Some of the most common dangerous bacteria found in undercooked chicken is salmonella, which can bury all the way to the center of poultry meat. This means that if you do not cook poultry all the way through to 165°F, salmonella could be hiding in the uncooked portion. 

Plus, let’s face it, the consistency of raw chicken is just not nice to eat. Your family would probably much prefer to have a fully cooked turkey on the table during the holiday season. 

When taking the temperature of your meat in the oven, ensure you take it from the meaty portion of the turkey where the breast meets the thigh and avoid touching any bone as this will mess up your reading. 

Related >> Can You Cook a Partially Frozen Turkey?

carving a turkey

Why Are There Two Different Temperatures for Turkey?

There are two different temperatures for cooking turkey because there are two different types of meat on a turkey. White meat is the part of the turkey known as the breast and wings, while the thighs and legs are part of the turkey known as dark meat.

Dark meat turkey is absolutely delicious if you cook it to 180°F, but this temperature will overcook the white meat portion and cause the turkey breast to be very dry. This is why we suggest that you stick to cooking the turkey to just 165°F because dark meat cooked to 180°F must also be consumed right away for you to reap the benefits of the extra cooking temperature. 

This means that we think that overcooking your turkey breasts isn’t worth it during the holiday season. Mostly because these are usually large dinners, and very few of your guests will appreciate you cooking the dark meat to a higher temp. 

If you truly want to cook your dark meat to 180°F, you can remove the turkey from the oven, cut off the breasts, then return it to the oven to let the dark meat cook more. You can also create a tin foil tent for the breast portion of the meat to protect them from the heat. But as we stated above, we don’t think this is worth the hassle. 

So just cook your turkey to 165°F this holiday season. But, if you are cooking some turkey legs separately…definitely cook those to 180°F.

Creating a Tent for Your Turkey Breasts

You’ve decided to try the tenting method so that you can cook your turkey to 180° without drying out the breasts. Know that this isn’t easy, and it is something that takes a little bit of skill to master.

First of all, you need to find a way to fold the tin foil around the edge of the pan to keep it in place while also allowing it to be loose around the turkey. If the foil is too tight, the meat won’t cook properly. 

Once you’ve mastered that, there’s still one more element you need to decide, and that is when you plan to remove the foil from the turkey to allow the skin to brown. We recommend doing this 30-60 minutes before pulling it out of the oven.

Either way, know that this isn’t an exact science, and with the tenting method, if you cook your turkey to 180°, you still run a risk of overcooking your turkey breasts. 

What Happens When a Turkey is Still Pink?

If you’ve cooked your bird to 165°F and pulled it out of the oven to find the juices are pink or that there are still pink or red bits in the meat, don’t panic, as this is completely normal. Turkey has a protein that naturally makes the meat and juices of turkey look pink. Don’t return your turkey to the oven. 

Remember, a turkey will still continue to cook a bit after you pull it out. So even if you pull out your turkey at 160°, it will likely reach 165° as it sits. Ignore the pink and red juices, your turkey is just fine. 

When to Remove Your Turkey From the Oven

The final verdict is this, you should remove your turkey from the oven when the temperature probe shows you that the turkey breasts are between 160°-165°F. Then, let the bird rest for 5-10 minutes to allow it to complete the cooking process. 

If you want to cook the dark meat a little longer, to 180°F, remove the turkey breasts using a carving knife and place them under tinfoil to keep them warm while you cook the rest of the bird.

Final Thoughts on Is Turkey Done at 165° or 180°F

Overall, turkey is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F in its breasts. At this time, you can remove it from the oven even if you see pink juices in the pan. If you truly want to cook your dark meat to 180°F, you can do so, but either remove or tent the turkey breasts to prevent them from getting dry. 

Hope Davis

Hope Davis

Born in Denver, Colorado as the oldest of 5 children, I learned at a young age that the grill was one of the best ways to prepare food for a crowd. And during the winter storm months, when the snow was likely to knock out the power to our house, the propane grill was a lifesaver! You wouldn’t believe the number of things you can cook on a grill when necessary. With parents who couldn’t tell salt from pepper unless you told them, I spent my late teen years making my own seasoning mixes and marinades to dress the meat before barbecues. It wasn’t long before I developed a secret marinade that people still beg me to make for them today! When I was 21 years old I bought my first smoker. Picked up some cedar chips for making a cedar plank salmon...and well, the rest they say is history! I’ve been grilling and smoking all kinds of creations ever since and I’m always excited to share my passion with others through my favorite medium--writing!

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