Worried about getting your turkey from 140° to 165°F within a safe timeframe? Any good cook understands the “danger zone” where bacteria can grow quickly in that temperature window.
Read on to find out how to get the best results every time and how long it takes to get a turkey from the temperature of its danger zone of 140°F to perfect doneness.
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How Long to Get Turkey From 140 to 165
It is generally impossible to confidently say how long it will be before the meat is done once the turkey crosses the 140-degree threshold.
Some people like to make an estimate based on the cooking temperature and the weight of the turkey.
Even then, the meat may hit the target temperature within 30 minutes, it could also take an hour or more.
However, it’s best to throw away the timing charts and use an instant-read thermometer to guarantee perfectly cooked meat every time.
Significance of the 140°F Mark
The temperature range between 40°F and 140°F is called ‘the danger zone’. Keeping meat within this range for long periods can lead to illness.
When the meat’s internal temperature goes above 40 degrees, the types of bacteria that cause food poisoning tend to breed at a much more rapid pace.
Once the meat’s internal temperature hits the 140-degree mark, though, the heat is able to fight back against the bacteria.
So Is the Turkey Done at 140°F?
Interestingly, the answer to whether the turkey is considered done at 140°F is no.
The USDA recommends cooking poultry to an internal temperature of 165°F, which makes it safe to eat as bacteria can’t survive for longer than a couple of seconds at this temperature.
Asthe temperature of the meat will continue to rise as the turkey rests, we advise pulling the turkey from the heat when thebreast meathits the safe temperature of 160 °F.
That way, it will be thoroughly cooked, yet pleasantly juicy.
How Long to Cook a Turkey per Pound
The general rules for how long to cook turkey per pound according to the USDA are as follows:
- Unstuffed turkey: 15 minutes per pound at 325°F, or 13 minutes per pound at 350°F.
- Stuffed Turkey: 16 to 17 minutes per pound at 325°F, or 14 to 15 minutes per pound at 350°F
These times apply whether you are using a fresh turkey or a defrosted turkey.
What Temperature to Cook a Turkey At?
You should bake the turkey at 350°F for any turkey less than 14 pounds.
For a turkey over 14 pounds, bake at 325°F.
How to Check Turkey’s Temperature
For the most accurate results, you’ll want to check the turkey’s temperature by inserting a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey breast.
Make sure the probe of the thermometer is not touching the bone. A temperature reading of 165°F to 170°F means it’s done.
Stall in Temperature While Cooking Turkey
The stall—the point at which a large cut of meat seems to stop cooking for hours on end—usually occurs at around 150°.
This phenomenon is common when smoking a brisket and pork butt.
Since the stall is caused by evaporative cooling, in theory, it can affect any cut of meat, including turkey.
However, since the turkey cavity is hollow and therefore less dense than a solid cut like brisket, the stall period isn’t likely to last long.
If you notice that the thermometer seems to be holding at 150°or so, be patient. The number should begin to rise again in 30 to 60 minutes.
What if the Turkey Cooks Too Fast?
Sometimes you test the internal temperature at the estimated halfway point, and the breast meat has already cooked to 140 degrees.
Firstly, you shouldn’t panic. This means the turkey has pulled out of the danger zone and is a good sign.
If you are worried that the turkey may be cooking too fast, you have some options:
1. Tent the turkey breast with foil to shield it from the heat. While this can slow things down, it may also result in rubbery skin if you smoked turkey with crispy skin you shouldn’t do this
2. Lower the temperature of the oven or smoker by 10 to 25 degrees.The unit could be running hotter than the set temperature.
3. If everything fails, and the turkey is ready before you are, you can keep it warm in an oven with a low temperature until serving time. The meat should stay above 140 degrees for up to 4 hours.
Factors That Can Affect the Cooking Time of the Turkey
The total time taken to cook can fluctuate based on a number of circumstances. Here’s a list of the most common ones:
- Cooking method: Whether you choose to roast the turkey or smoke it
- Accuracy of the oven or smoker: the temperature of the smoker can vary by up to 50°
- Positioning of the turkey on the cooking grate
- Whether or not you are using a roasting pan, and the depth and size of the pan
- Accuracy of the turkey’s weight
- Exact dimensions of the turkey
- Fat content of the turkey
- Temperature of the turkey before cooking
- Whether you tented the bird with foil at any point during the cook
- Whether the meat was fully thawed or not
- Whether you opted to stuff the turkey or not
Thawing the Turkey
You can make a more accurate guess regarding the length of the cook by making sure the turkey is fully thawed.
Turkeys that are partially frozen can take 25 percent longer to cook than those that are completely defrosted.
When you cook a turkey that is still completely frozen when you put it in the oven or smoker, it can take 50 percent longer to hit the right temp.
For best results, take the turkey out of the freezer a couple of days before prior to when you plan to cook it. You should allow 24 hours for every 5 pounds of meat.
Set the turkey breast facing side up on a rimmed baking sheet.
Place the turkey on the lower shelf of the fridge. Be sure to check that your refrigerator temperature is set to 39° or lower, then close the door.
The bird should be thawed on the day you’re ready to start cooking.
There’s no real way to accurately estimate the time taken for your turkey to reach 165°F from the 140°F mark during the smoking process.
However, by following the steps mentioned above, you can ensure that you get a perfectly roasted turkey with tender and juicy meat that leaves everyone speechless!
Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).
I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.
You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!
You can read more about me on our About Us page.
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