Putting a meat thermometer in a turkey

Updated February 21, 2017

Seasoning and technique are important when it comes to having a well-cooked turkey. However, the key to a tender bird lies in not overcooking it. Nearly everyone has had the misfortune of eating a dry turkey -- in fact, overcooking is one of the fears faced by novice cooks when cooking turkey. Fortunately, you can avoid a dry bird by paying proper attention to the internal temperature. If turkey is on the menu for your next family get-together, learning how to properly insert the thermometer and check the temperature can make the difference between a moist bird and a dry one.

Take a metal-stemmed meat thermometer and find the location of the heat sensor. This is necessary to ensure that you insert the thermometer deep enough into the turkey. The sensor may be located at the tip of the thermometer or halfway up the stem. For example, instant read digital thermometers have sensors in the tip.

Clean the thermometer with hot soapy water before using it, then dry it completely.

Lift the turkey from the oven as you approach the appropriate cooking time. Close the oven door and place the turkey pan on a flat surface. To make it easier to read and for the most accurate measurement, stick the thermometer from the side into the deepest portion of the breast, as opposed to sticking it in from the top. The thermometer should be 6.25 cm (2 1/2 inches) into the meat of the breast. Take care not to come into contact with the bone or go past the meatiest section into the cavity. If the thermometer suddenly slides easily, you may have gone too far and entered the cavity. If you feel as if you are hitting against something, chances are you have made contact with the bone.

Remove the thermometer from the breast and stick it into the thickest part of the thigh. Avoid touching the bone or entering the cavity of the bird as you are inserting the thermometer.

Take the thermometer from the breast of the turkey after obtaining your reading. If the bird is stuffed, go to the cavity and insert the thermometer straight into the stuffing so that the probe is near the centre. Don't touch any bone as you do so.


Turkey is safe to eat at an internal temperature of 71 degrees C (160F) -- however, the meat and juices will still be pink. At 77 degrees C (170F) for dark meat and 92 degrees C (180F) for white meat, the turkey's meat will no longer be pink and the juices will run clear.

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About the Author

Mai Bryant is a Northern California writer who specializes in writing about health-related topics, fashion and relationships. She began writing online in 2005 but has freelanced privately for more than 10 years. Bryant's eclectic professional background as a medical technician, a licensed cosmetologist, copywriter and event planner allows her to write with authority on numerous topics.