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Turkey Not Cooked?

Asked by dianat. Answered on 26th October 2011

Full question

Hi, I use an instant read thermometer when roasting free range chicken and turkey (185F at thigh and 165F at the breast). I let the bird sit and rest, but when I go to carve it - the dark meat is near raw in some places. Help!

Our answer

An instant read thermometer is usually a reliable way to check if poultry is cooked and they rarely go wrong, but it may be worth checking that your thermometer is working correctly. It is very easy to do this, just bring a saucepan of water to a boil and dip the tip of the thermometer in, it should read 212F/100c.

The FDA recommends that the "safe" temperature for cooked poultry is 165F/74C so if you are getting this temperature with a thermometer then the poultry is cooked. Indeed you only need to cook the bird until the thickest part of the thigh registers this temperature and the internal temperature should rise by a few degrees more when the turkey rests. You can also check by piercing the thigh and checking that the juices that come out are clear - if they are pink or contain traces of blood then slightly longer cooking is needed.

We suspect that when you carve the turkey you are seeing traces or streaks of red/blood in the meat by the bone. This does not necessarily mean that the turkey is not cooked. Unfortunately it is usually due to bone marrow seeping out from the bones which some say is due to poultry nowadays being killed fairly young so the bones are still soft and porous. Sometimes it can also be caused by the poultry not being left to hang for long enough after slaugter to let the blood drain away sufficiently.

If seeing the steaks disturbs you then you can try brining the bird before cooking it (see Nigella's brine in Christmas, p115) as this can help to draw out any blood left in the thighs.

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