Where to Put a Meat Thermometer in a Turkey Breast

Updated March 23, 2017

Measuring the internal temperature of cooked turkey ensures the meat has been heated to the point at which it can be eaten safely. Knowing at what temperature to pull turkey from the oven will also ensure that the meat will be tender and not overcooked. Digital or metal thermometers can be used for this purpose, and proper placement will ensure a correct measurement.

Taking the Temperature

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that turkey be heated to an internal temperature of 165 degree for safe eating. To get a proper measurement, place the probe of the thermometer into the centre of the thickest part of the breast. If you have reached bone, you have pushed too far. Once the thermometer has been set inside the meat you can read the temperature.

When it reads 73.9 degrees C, pull the breast out of the oven, cover it, and let it rest for at least 15 minutes before you begin carving. This will raise the internal temperature about another -15 degrees C, which will ensure the entire breast has been cooked thoroughly. It also allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat making for easier carving and a more tender meal.

Digital or Dial

A variety of thermometers are now available to the home cook. Digital and dial instant-read are among the most common.

Digital thermometers are becoming more common in home kitchens as they are relatively inexpensive, deliver precise measurements and can be easier to read than the standard metal devices. A convenient feature of digital thermometers is that they can be set to sound an alarm when your food has reached the desired temperature. Some of these products are heat resistant and can be used directly in the oven. Other versions have cords attached to the probe and to a unit that stays outside the oven.

The standard metal versions that have a probe and a dial display work just as well, but without the bells and whistles. One advantage of these thermometers is that you won't run out of battery power right before testing the temperature of the Thanksgiving turkey.

Calibrating the Thermometer

No matter which version you choose, you will want to check its calibration occasionally. You can do this by placing the probe end of the thermometer into a glass of ice and water. The ice bath should measure 0 degrees C.

If the measurement is off even slightly, you will need to make an adjustment. Check the manufacturer's guidelines on how to do this with the electric versions. Usually, the simple metal tools can be adjusted manually by adjusting a screw on the back or base of the dial. Don't shirk this part of the process. Meat that is even a couple of degrees undercooked can be dangerous to consume.

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About the Author

Nikki Jardin began freelance writing in 2009 and focuses on food and travel articles. She has been a professional cook and caterer for more than 20 years. She holds a degree in environmental science from Humboldt State University.