Should You Let Turkey Sit Out Before Cooking? (You Might Be Suprised)

Wondering if you should let your turkey come up to room temperature before cooking it And how long can you leave it out before it becomes a problem?

There are benefits in allowing raw turkey to come up to temp before cooking but you need to be aware of how long you can safely do so.

Otherwise, there is a risk of bacteria growth, see exactly how long uncooked turkey can be left out, so your not worrying anymore!


Is It Safe Keeping Raw Turkey Out of the Fridge Before Cooking?

Yes, it is safe to keep a raw turkey out of the fridge before you cook, BUT UNDER A STRICT TIME FRAME.

Food poisoning from poultry can dangerous, risking it because you want to speed up the defrosting or cooking time is not worth it.

The Safe Time Frame for Raw Meat to Be Out of the Fridge

You can leave raw or thawing turkey at temps between 40°F – 140°F for no longer than 60 minutes.

There are some considerations that are highlighted below.

Although I want to set a general rule of thumb.

The factors to consider are;

– Was it defrosted or still part frozen?

– What is the ambient temperature?

The impact of these will be covered further but right now we can agree;

You can leave the turkey out before cooking but for no more than 60 minutes.

Note: Some types of meat are more prone to bacteria than others.

But it is better to be safe by applying this rule to any and all raw meat.

The ‘Danger Zone’ – Check for Food Safety!

What is the temperature range that food-borne bacteria multiply? Do not leave a raw or thawing turkey at temps between 40°F – 140°F for longer than 60 minutes.


What Are the Advantages of Leaving Turkey Out for 60 Minutes?

– Dries out the turkey surface to help achieve crispy skin on smoked turkey and lowers moisture evaporation.

– Relaxes the meat proteins which can help achieve tender cooked meat.

– Even cooking from an average internal temperature.

What Are The Risks Of Leaving Turkey Out For Over 60 Minutes?

– Food poisoning from bacteria growth.

– Potential cross-contamination on surfaces or other food products.


What if I Want to Defrost a Frozen Turkey by Leaving It Out?

Below are the 2 safe and common methods for defrosting a turkey. I want to state that you should never leave a turkey out or use hot water when defrosting. This will condition with dangerous temp range.

Methods for Defrosting Turkey

Defrosting in a Refrigerator

This is the safest way to defrost your turkey.

– Keep the turkey in the original packaging.

Check the turkey weight and estimate the defrost time.

– Place at the bottom on a roasting tray or something that will catch excess water.

Cold Water Method

– Re-wrap the turkey in 2 layers of plastic wrap.

– Fill up your sink or a container large enough with cold tap water.

– Submerge for 30 minutes and check again.

– If the cavity is still frozen then replace the water.

– Repeat every 30 minutes until thawed.

Defrosting Turkey in a Cooler

See how to defrost your turkey in a cooler here.

The Physical Signs to Tell if a Turkey Has Thawed

To see if your turkey is thawed see the following tips;

A frozen bird is solid to the touch and (obviously) be very cold to the touch.

But what if your turkey isn’t showing these signs and you want to be sure? The turkey flesh should have a little bounce to the touch. A good tip is to try and move the turkey wings to judge the wiggle room, they will move freely and without any sound, this is a good indication you no longer have frozen meat.


Use a Food Thermometer for an Accurate Reading

The physical signs are a great start.

But I will always recommend confirming with a food thermometer.

They aren’t just for checking cooked foods!

Using a calibrated instant-read thermometer will give you the exact temperature.

This is the most precise and accurate way of knowing if your turkey has thawed.

What Reading Is a Safe Internal Temperature for a Thawed Turkey?

The safe temperature for your turkey should be 32°F – 39°F.

Insert the probe into the middle of the breast meat and thigh.

Note: Sticking your probe in raw meat will cause contamination.

And the risk of a foodborne illness.

Do not forget to clean it straight after using it.

Turkey Meat – The Facts You Need to Know

There are two different types of meat in a turkey.

White from the breast meat and dark from the thigh or legs.

The white meat has a lighter taste and is dense texture.

The darker meat has a gamey taste as it is closer to the bones.

You are monitoring 2 internal temperatures.

Insert at least 1 digital meat thermometer into these cuts.

The dark leg meat should read 180°F.

The white meat should read 160°F.

Cooking Tips for a Flavorful Turkey

– Buy fresh and free range.

– Brine your turkey with a kosher salt and water solution the night before.

– Use a smoker with chips for a woodsy flavor.

– Cook at a slower pace and low heat.

– Use a spice rub with brown sugar to help form a crispy skin by caramelization.

– Wrap the turkey breast in tin foil while you wait for the internal temp of the dark meat.

– Use weight-based formulas to estimate timings.


Food Saftey Tips for Preparing & Cooking a Fresh Turkey

– Do not leave the turkey out unless you have to or are preparing it.

– Be aware of the dangerous temps that bacteria can multiply.

– Defrost safely with temp monitoring.

– Clean all surfaces and utensils that have had contact with raw meat.

– Check both the internal temps for the different types of meat.

Leaving Turkey Out the Fridge – A Summary

The cooking process for turkey can be long and technical.

Whether you are applying a brining process for a couple of days.

Or smoking instead of roasting in a hot oven.

It’s all personal preference for a deliciously cooked bird!

But make sure you start it safely and without contamination.

We should all be able to agree on that!

– Do not leave out more than 60 minutes.

– Follow food safety tips and advice.

– Do not defrost out of a refrigerator or in water above 40°F.

– Use calibrated probes to accurately monitor temps.

Smoke On!


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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