Turkey Temperature: 165 or 180 Degrees? Unraveling the Confusion

Determining the optimal temperature for cooking turkey can be a perplexing task, with varying recommendations from different sources. This comprehensive guide delves into the intricacies of turkey temperatures, exploring the rationale behind the 165°F and 180°F guidelines, and providing practical advice to achieve perfectly cooked turkey.

Understanding the Temperature Discrepancy

The disparity in recommended turkey temperatures stems from the different cooking methods and the varying internal temperatures required for different parts of the bird.

165°F (74°C): This temperature is recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for ensuring food safety. It is the minimum internal temperature at which poultry, including turkey, is considered safe to consume. This temperature effectively eliminates harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella.

180°F (82°C): This higher temperature is often recommended for cooking turkey thighs and legs. Dark meat, such as thighs and legs, requires a higher internal temperature to break down the connective tissues and achieve tenderness. Cooking to 180°F ensures that the dark meat is cooked thoroughly and safe to eat.

Balancing Safety and Tenderness

While food safety is paramount, cooking turkey to 180°F throughout can result in dry and overcooked breast meat. Turkey breast, which is primarily white meat, is more prone to drying out at higher temperatures.

To achieve a balance between safety and tenderness, it is recommended to cook the turkey breast to a lower internal temperature, typically between 155°F (68°C) and 165°F (74°C). This range allows the breast meat to retain its moisture and tenderness while still ensuring food safety.

Cooking Techniques and Temperature Considerations

The cooking method also influences the appropriate internal temperature for turkey.

Roasting: When roasting a whole turkey, it is essential to monitor the temperature of both the breast and the thigh. Aim for an internal temperature of 160-165°F (71-74°C) in the breast and 175-180°F (79-82°C) in the thigh.

Smoking: Smoking a turkey requires a lower cooking temperature over a longer period. Target an internal temperature of 155-165°F (68-74°C) in the breast and 170-175°F (77-79°C) in the thigh.

Tips for Achieving Perfectly Cooked Turkey

  • Use a reliable meat thermometer: This is crucial for accurately measuring the internal temperature of the turkey.
  • Insert the thermometer correctly: For the breast, insert the thermometer into the thickest part, avoiding the bone. For the thigh, insert it into the thickest part between the leg and body.
  • Allow for carryover cooking: Once the turkey is removed from the oven or smoker, it will continue to cook internally due to residual heat. Allow the turkey to rest for 15-20 minutes before carving to ensure even cooking throughout.
  • Consider brining: Brining the turkey in a saltwater solution helps retain moisture and flavor, allowing you to cook the turkey to a lower internal temperature without compromising safety.

Understanding the rationale behind the 165°F and 180°F turkey temperature recommendations is essential for achieving perfectly cooked turkey. By balancing food safety with tenderness, and employing proper cooking techniques, you can enjoy a delicious and safely cooked turkey every time.


It’s not necessary to remove your turkey from the oven, smoker, or fryer before carving and serving. Resting your turkey is. We recommend a 30-minute rest before carving.

Why rest? Two important reasons…

How to Cook a Turkey In Depth: Everything You Need to Know…

There is no other holiday that concentrates so much attention on just one dish—the Thanksgiving Turkey. If the turkey isn’t right, the day gets an asterisk. When the turkey is cooked to perfection, it seems to increase everyone’s gratitude. Cooking a perfect Thanksgiving turkey on cue is a little like being called in to throw the winning touchdown when you haven’t touched a football all year. That’s not even to mention the real danger of food poisoning with poultry! And YET, how often do you cook a whole turkey during the other 364 days of the year? Maybe at Christmas? Maybe never! But don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.

After reading the “at a glance” headlines, it’s time to take a closer look. Let’s start with some of the most common questions….

Is turkey done at 165 or 180?


Is turkey at 180 overcooked?

The internet and cookbooks all give too high a temperature. But despite what they all say, you absolutely should NOT cook your turkey breast meat to 165°F (74°C) or to—heaven forbid—180°F (82°C)!

Is a turkey fully cooked at 165 degrees?

Hold the thermometer still until the numbers stop increasing. If it is not ready, return it to the oven. According to the Department of Agriculture, a turkey must reach 165 degrees F to be safe, but you can take it out of the oven as low as 160 degrees F because the temperature will rise at it rests.

Can you eat turkey at 170 degrees?

At what temperature is a turkey done? Check these places on your turkey and look for these temperatures: 180°F in thigh. 170°F in breast.

Can turkey reach 165 but still be pink?

Only by using a food thermometer can one accurately determine that poultry has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F throughout the product. Turkey can remain pink even after cooking to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F. The meat of smoked turkey is always pink.

How long should a Turkey be held at 165 degrees?

Even if your turkey didn’t reach 165°F (74°C), it only needs to be held for 25.6 seconds at 160°F (71°C) to reach the same level of food safety (a 7-log reduction in pathogens as defined by the USDA). 5. If you want your turkey skin to stay crispy, keep the turkey uncovered during the rest.

How do you know when a Turkey is done?

This can lead to many questions as to knowing when a turkey is done and safe to eat. A turkey is safe to eat when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. You can cook dark meat to a temperature of 180°F, but white meat turkey should be pulled out of the oven at 165° otherwise, it will get dry.

What temperature should a Turkey be?

What Should the Temperature of a Turkey Be? You’ll find that most people (including the USDA) consider the turkey to be done once it’s reached a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F (75 degrees C) in the thickest part of the thigh.

What temperature should a turkey breast be cooked to?

Overall, turkey is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. At this time, you can remove it from the oven even if you see pink juices in the pan. If you truly want to cook your dark meat to 180°F, you can do so, but either remove or tent the turkey breasts to prevent them from getting dry.

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