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How To Tell if A Turkey Is Done

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Wondering how long to cook a turkey? There are two ways to tell if your Thanksgiving turkey is done, says chef Dwayne LiPuma of The Culinary Institute of America: temperature and clarity of juices.

How Long To Cook a Turkey

The most reliable method for determining turkey doneness is temperature. You want the meat at the thickest part of the bird to register 165F for food safely, but because turkeys are so large, you can remove the bird from the oven when the thermometer reads 160F -- during the resting phase, the temperature will rise another 5 degrees, he says. Insert the thermometer into the breast up near where the head would be, since you want to check the thickest part.

If you don't have a thermometer, you can opt to look at the clarity of the juices. When the turkey is done, there will be no more pink in the juice. Make a cut between the thigh and the breast and look at the juice that's released -- if it's at all pink or red, put the bird back in the oven.

Video Transcript

I'm Chef Dwayne LiPuma, from the Culinary Institute of America, and today I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: how to temp a turkey.

There are two basic ways to tell when your turkey is done. One is by temperature, and one is by the clarity of the juices. The first way we're going to do it is by temperature. Please remember that with a piece of meat this big, there is a thing called carryover: after you take it out of the oven, the temperature is going to go up by at least five degrees. So if we want it to cook to 165 degrees, we have to be sure to pull it out of the oven at 160.

It's really important that you insert the thermometer where the meat is its thickest. That would be where the breast is up near the head. You can see that it goes from thin to thick right here. Take this thermometer and insert it straight in. It goes in nice and easy, and it's only going to take a minute, a minute and a half, for the temperature gauge to get to where you want it to be.

The second way, if you do not have a thermometer, is to make an incision between the thigh, the leg, and the breast. And as you cut right here with your knife, you'll see that the juices will either run out clear, or will still have a little bit of red. If it still has red in it, it needs to go back into the oven for however much longer it takes. If the juices run clear, your turkey is ready to be sliced.

A rule of thumb is to let your meat, your roast, sit out for at least twenty minutes. If I was to slice this immediately out of the oven, it would just bleed out all its natural juices - so the rule of thumb with any roast is as soon as it comes out, let it sit; the meat starts to cool, and when things start to cool, they start to contract, which brings back in their flavor.

By looking at the thermometer, we see we're at exactly 160, which is great. We're going to remove the thermometer and leave it to the side. We'll let our bird rest twenty minutes prior to slicing.

That's how you check the temperature of a turkey.