Test Kitchen tips: Testing turkey for doneness

Thanksgiving turkey.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

You’re roasting a turkey in the oven, and while it may look like it’s ready to eat, you have no idea whether it’s actually done. What do you do?

There are a few simple ways to test turkeys (and all poultry) for doneness:

  1. Grab the end of the drumstick and twist it slightly; if the meat is done, the bone should twist easily at the knee.
  2. Check the juices: If the turkey is done, they will run clear (if they are still pink, the turkey needs to cook longer).
  3. Feel to make sure the meat is firm, and check with a knife to see that the meat is no longer pink.
  4. Check with a thermometer: This is the most foolproof way; a turkey is done when a thermometer reaches at least 165 degrees. Slide the thermometer into the hip meat, in between the leg and breast; make sure the thermometer does not touch the bone, as this will give an artificially high reading (the bones heat faster than the meat).

Stuffing the bird: Want to stuff the bird before roasting? If you cook the stuffing in the turkey, you’ll need to cook the stuffing to a safe temperature, at least 165 degrees, since it has come into contact with raw poultry. Because the turkey cooks faster than the stuffing, the meat may dry out before the stuffing is done. It’s probably easiest -- and safest -- to cook them separately.


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