Turkey Button Not Popping (How to Know the Turkey is Done)

Has your turkey been in the oven forever, but the turkey button isn’t popping? Don’t worry, there’s a simple answer to this problem. 

In this TheGrillingDad.com guide, you will learn:

  • Why the turkey button isn’t popping
  • How to check if your turkey is done
  • And much more!

Turkey Button Not Popping

Many turkeys come with a small plastic button that will pop when the turkey reaches the proper temperature. This makes it quick and simple to tell if your turkey is finished. 

But you calculated that it would take 4 hours to cook your turkey, and the button hasn’t popped yet. You don’t want to overcook your turkey, but eating undercooked turkey is bad too. 

One reason the button may not have popped is because it’s faulty, but the truth is, you shouldn’t be using this button to cook turkey in the first place. These buttons are triggered to pop when the meat reaches 180°F, which means if the button has popped, you have already overcooked your turkey. 

Instead, you should use a meat thermometer to check if your turkey is done, as this is a more reliable method and will ensure you don’t eat overcooked or undercooked turkey meat. 

Read on to learn more about the button in turkey, why you shouldn’t use it, and how to know if your turkey is done without one. 

What is the Button in a Turkey?

The button in the turkey, sometimes called the turkey button, is a small plastic bit that is in the turkey when you purchase it from the supermarket. Usually, it’s somewhere in the breast meat. 

This button is an automatic timer that is designed to release or pop out, when the meat reaches a specific temperature. While they can be very helpful when it comes to cooking some meats, we recommend not using them when cooking turkey.

The way this device works is that there are two pieces of plastic put together. This plastic is designed to withstand high heat, so it won’t melt in the oven. Inside the plastic, however, there is a small bit of metal that is designed to melt. 

This metal is holding back a spring. When it gets hot enough to melt, which is about 180°F, it does so, releasing the spring, which pushes the plastic part out. 

While this is an ingenious invention, because the meat has to reach such a high temperature in order to pop, it will only do so long after you should have removed your turkey from the oven. The reality is, turkey breast meat cooked to 180°F will be dry and not nice to eat. 

thanksgiving turkey on the table with side dishes in the background

Do Pop-Up Timers Work?

Pop-up timers are a cool invention, but unfortunately, they shouldn’t be trusted when cooking meat. 

Meat is expensive, whether you are cooking turkey, steak, or a nice pork chop, and putting the fate of your dinner into the hands of a plastic pop-up timer is just a bad idea. First of all, you have the concern that the pop-up timer won’t work.

If the pop-up timer fails to work, which happens sometimes, you will overcook your meat to the point where it is inedible, and you are left with no dinner. Even if yours does work, 180°F is not the recommended cooking temperature for very many meats. Therefore there is no meat that we recommend using the pop-up timers in. 

Rather, we suggest you purchase a reliable meat thermometer and use the old guess and check method. This is the method where you guess around what time your meat will be done (using calculations, of course), then start checking the meat using your meat thermometer around that time. 

This method may seem archaic, but at least it will give you results rather than having to guess if it will work or if it’s a dud! 

Inkbird WiFi Grill Meat Thermometer
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07/13/2024 01:48 pm GMT

Can You Buy Pop-Up Timers?

While we never recommend using the pop-up timers included with your turkey, they can be purchased on Amazon for use with other meats. 

You are much better off investing your money in a quality meat thermometer. If you don’t want to spend your entire holiday checking in on the turkey, you may even want to splurge for a Bluetooth thermometer that you put in the turkey and then monitor from your phone while it cooks! This takes all the guesswork out of cooking the turkey and lets you relax until it’s time to pull it out of the oven. 

Yummly Smart Meat Thermometer with Wireless Bluetooth Connectivity
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How to Know if Turkey is Done

If you’ve relied on the pop-up timers in the past, it can be sad to pull one out of the turkey and throw it away, after all, it just seems so easy! But we promise that there are many better ways to know when your turkey is done. Below are the methods we use. 

Estimate Cooking Time

Before you cook any piece of large meat, where you are cooking it in your oven, or your smoker, you should take a moment and estimate the cooking time for your bird. For example, if you plan to roast your turkey at 325°F, then you should estimate 15 minutes per pound of turkey. 

This will give you a good idea of when the meat should be done so that you aren’t hovering over the bird for the entire cooking time. But this method, on its own, will not tell you that a turkey is done. 

Temperature Check

The best way to tell if your turkey is done is to use a meat thermometer to check the temperature. You can pull a turkey out of the oven once it reaches 160°F as it will cook the last 5° as it rests. 

Related >> Is Turkey Done at 165°F or 180°F?

Ensure you put the meat thermometer in the thickest part of the meat, and that it doesn’t touch the bone or go through the turkey and out the other side.

We recommend starting your temperature checks during the last hour of cooking just in case your turkey is cooking faster than you realize, this way, you won’t accidentally overcook it. 

Related >> Turkey Cooking Temperature: 325 vs 350 – Which One is Best?

Checking the Meat

You can cut into the thickest part of the turkey meat and take a look. When cooked, turkey meat should be opaque and white, and the skin should become brown and crisp. 

The problem with this method is that you can’t always see when a turkey is done, and there is still a lot of guesswork involved. We recommend only using this method in addition to a meat thermometer. 

Final Thoughts on the Turkey Buttons

Overall, relying on a plastic button to tell you when your turkey is done is not a good idea. These buttons are programmed for too high of a temperature for turkey, and if you wait for it to pop, you will likely overcook your bird. 

Instead, invest in a decent meat thermometer (maybe a Bluetooth one for convenience) and keep your turkey in the oven until it reaches the safe temperature of 165°F.

Photo of author

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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