Is Turkey Done At 165 Or 180 Degrees? The Great Debate

Turkey is often served hot or cold, but does it matter? The answer is yes, because cooking temperature affects the taste and texture of meat.

Is Turkey Done At 165 Or 180 Degrees? The Great Debate

Cooking temperatures vary depending on the type of food being cooked. For example, poultry should be cooked to 160 °F (71 °C) while beef is usually cooked to 145 °F (63 °C). 

To ensure that your meal tastes good, you should always cook your food to the proper temperature. This way, you get the best flavor and texture from your food.

There has been a lot of debate about the right temperature to cook your turkey. In this article, we will be discussing whether your turkey is done at 165 or 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cooking Turkey To 165 Or 180 Degrees Fahrenheit

Recipes differ on what temperature you should be cooking your turkey, too. In some recipes, it says that you should cook your turkey until it reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

Yet it is known that once the turkey meat reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit it is safe to eat.

Although, it is also known that once turkey breast meat reaches past 165 degrees Fahrenheit, then it is known to get quite dry.

However, the dark meat of turnkey can be cooked to 180 degrees. As the white and dark meat cook at different rates, it is important to check the temperature of both types. 

Why Is Cooking Temperature Important?

The main reason why cooking temperature is so critical is that it affects how tender your food is. When you are cooking your food, the heat causes proteins in the food to break down into smaller pieces.

These small pieces of protein are called amino acids. They help give foods their unique flavors and textures.

When you cook your food below its boiling point, the proteins in the food do not break down as much. Therefore, they remain larger than when you cook them above their boiling point.

This means that you end up with different textures and flavors in your food. If you want to make sure you have the best tasting food, you need to cook your food to the correct temperature.

It is particularly significant to cook any kind of poultry to the correct temperatures. Poultry needs to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

As at this temperature, all harmful bacteria have been destroyed. Therefore, the risk of food poisoning is reduced, and you don’t have to worry about undercooked meat. 

Turkey Breasts Vs. Turkey Thighs

While most people would agree that the darker meat is tastier, there are many who believe that the lighter meat is actually more succulent.

Many chefs prefer the light meat for its juiciness and tenderness. However, if you are looking for the darkest meat, then you should go for the thigh. It is firmer and drier than the breast meat.

If you are going to serve your turkey with gravy, then the thigh meat is the better choice. The breast meat tends to absorb the gravy, making it soggy.

On the other hand, the thigh meat is firmer and dries out quicker. This is why many people choose to serve the turkey thighs over the breasts. 

Yet, the main difference between the two is the cooking of both. 

The white meat like the breasts of the turkey will be cooked to perfection once it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Once it goes past this number, the breasts will begin to dry out, leaving you with an unpleasant texture. 

However, dark meat like the leg and thigh meat on a turkey can be cooked past 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dark meat does a lot better when it is allowed to reach these higher temperatures. However, your white meat then suffers. 

If you want to let the dark meat to carry on cooking, after the white meat has reached its optimal temperature.

Then remove the breasts and put them to one side while the rest of the turkey continues to cook. Or you can shield the breasts from the heat by covering them in foil while still attached to the bird. 

What Do Pink Juices Mean?

If you decide to remove your turkey from the oven before the dark meat has had a chance to reach 180 degrees Fahrenheit, then you may notice some pink juices in your roasting tin.

Even some meat may still have a reddish hue to it. This could frighten any chef, as they may fear that the bird is undercooked. 

However, those pink juices don’t mean that the turkey is undercooked. Within turkey, it contains myoglobin, this is a type of protein that you will find inside the muscles of the bird.

Is Turkey Done At 165 Or 180 Degrees? The Great Debate

This is also what gives the meat of the bird its pink color. As a result, when water and myoglobin mix together, then you will notice pink juices in your roasting tin.

Sometimes the myoglobin won’t change color until the meat is overcooked. As long as your turkey has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees, then you have nothing to worry about. 

How To Tell When Turkey Is Done

You can tell when your turkey is done by using a thermometer. You need to insert it into the thickest part of the breast.

Once inserted, leave it in place for 5 minutes. If the thermometer reads 160 degrees Fahrenheit, then your turkey is ready. 

However, if the reading is less than 160 degrees Fahrenheit, then you need to continue to cook the turkey. In order to ensure that the turkey doesn’t become too dry, cover it in foil.

You can then pull your turkey from the oven, and your turkey will continue to cook as it rests, and the internal temperature will go up to 165 degrees. 

Also insert your thermometer into the thickest part of your turkey to make sure that the temperature is correct. Otherwise, some areas of your turkey may be cooked, and other areas could be undercooked. 

If your turkey is stuffed, you also need to make sure that the stuffing has reached its own safe temperature as well. This is because eating undercooked stuffing could cause illness that are caused by eating raw meat. 

If your stuffing isn’t ready once your turkey is cooked. Then remove the stuffing and add it to a buttered casserole dish.

Then you can put the stuffing back in the oven, while your turkey is resting. Once your stuffing has reached 165 degrees, then it is safe to eat. 


Turkey is a very popular meat that many people enjoy. It is easy to prepare and makes a great meal. Yet, there has been a large debate about the right temperatures you should be cooking your turkey too. 

The truth is that you can cook your turkey until 165 degrees, and it will be safe to eat. This is the best temperature for your white meat, but the dark meat needs to reach 180 degrees.

This turkey is secretly a complex bird to bird, as you don’t want to dry out the white meat, yet you want the dark meat to taste just as good. 

Always check the temperature of your turkey with a thermometer. Hopefully, this article has given you an insight to the correct temperature you should be cooking your turkey to. 

Thanks for reading!

John Rinder
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