Cooking a turkey is like walking on eggshells. No matter how many times you’ve cooked it before, it’s always baffling. Did you stuff it right? How long was it supposed to cook? How long should it rest?
Turkey is the main event. If you get this wrong, your guests will end up just eating the sides. Man, that would be some disappointment, wouldn’t it?
One of the most common problems we run into while cooking a turkey is it cooks a lot faster. A quick Google search showed that the internet is sprawling with queries like “My turkey cooked faster than expected.”
And that’s why I decided to put pen to paper and let you in on what you’re supposed to do if your turkey cooked faster than expected.
Keep reading to know.
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My Turkey Cooked Faster Than Expected! What Should I Do?
If your turkey cooked faster than expected, you pose a challenge to enable the turkey to hold its temperature without letting it cook anymore. It’s complicated, but it’s not the end of the world – don’t worry!
Well, here’s what you should do.
If your turkey is done just one or two hours before serving, first let it rest uncovered for 20-30 minutes. This step is essential to let the turkey release its initial heat. This way, the turkey won’t overcook once it’s covered.
Wrap the turkey tightly in many layers of aluminum foil. Next, wrap it in a big towel and let it rest.
If you have a cooler handy, transfer the turkey to the cooler that has been heated by filling it with hot water, then emptied. Doing so will allow the turkey to hold its initial temperature without letting it cook further.
Having said that, bear in mind that the turkey’s internal temperature should be maintained above 140 degrees F/60 degrees C. At temperatures lower than this, harmful bacteria start multiplying.
If your turkey is done several hours before serving, let it rest first. Next, carve off the breast meat, the thighs, and the legs and arrange them neatly on a serving platter. Cover it generously with foil.
When it’s time to serve, reheat the platter in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes.
I know this isn’t the most aesthetic way to serve a turkey, but this method will ensure the meat is juicy and moist.
While at it, let’s discuss the right amount of time to cook a turkey.
How Long Does It Take To Cook A Whole Turkey?
As much as I’d like to be specific, the answer to this question differs depending on the turkey’s weight, stuffing, and cooking temperature. The rule of thumb is to allocate 15 minutes per pound in a 325 degrees Fahrenheit oven.
According to Allrecipes, If the turkey is unstuffed, it should be cooked at a rate of 13 minutes per pound at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
For example, let’s assume your turkey weighs 14 pounds. At the aforementioned rate, the bird should be cooked for 182 minutes – 3 hours 2 minutes.
If the turkey is stuffed, it should be cooked at a rate of 15 minutes per pound at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can assume the bird is cooked when the internal thermometer planted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
The thermometer mustn’t touch the bone during measurement. Or else the readout will be incorrect.
Now, let’s tackle some other likely turkey mishaps.
Cooking Time Is Up And Turkey Is Still Raw
It’s almost dinnertime, and everyone is ready to eat, but the turkey is far from being perfectly cooked. What can you do?
You have two options to choose from.
First method: Wrap the turkey with tin foil and crank the heat to 450 degrees F/230 degrees C. Note that if there is a heat source on the bottom, the roasting pan bits may get burnt when you escalate the temperature.
So, what you can do is add a cup of water, wine, or turkey stock to the pan to avoid burning.
Second method: Cut the turkey in half – right between the two breasts on the front and to the one side of the backbone on the other side. By cutting the turkey into 2 pieces, you can reduce the cooking time significantly.
You can go one step further and remove the wings and legs. Make sure to lay everything out to expose as much surface to heat as possible. This way, the turkey will cook much faster.
When the turkey is cooked, it should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit/75 degrees Celsius everywhere.
The Turkey Parts Are Uncooked
My worst nightmare in the kitchen is an undercooked turkey. The dinner is ready. You’re ready to serve. You start carving the turkey and realize some parts are not cooked despite your best efforts.
Now, if you toss it back into the oven to cook, you will end up with a dry turkey. And dry turkey is just as bad as undercooked turkey.
Luckily, there’s a quick trick to cooking these pieces to perfection without the risk of drying.
In a large pot, bring a generous amount of broth (turkey, chicken, or vegetable) to boil, and drop the uncooked pieces in the liquid. Boil them for a couple of minutes.
Note: If you’re going for a smoked turkey, note that the meat may appear pink or red. This doesn’t necessarily mean the turkey is undercooked. Make sure to use a thermometer to check.
The thing is that the chemical reaction between protein and smoke will cause this reddish color.
Turkey Is Dry
Dry turkey is a very possible outcome despite one’s best effort. One way to deal with dry turkey is to fill a spray bottle with warm chicken stock that will be used to spray over the meat while carving.
While this won’t make the chicken any moist, the spray will prevent it from further drying.
The next is playing up with the gravy. You can use anything from barbecue sauce to beurre blanc to add moisture and flavor to dried-out, flavorless meat.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is The Lowest Safe Temperature To Cook A Turkey?
According to the USDA, the lowest safest temperature to cook a turkey is 325 degrees Fahrenheit. At lower temperatures, for example, between 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit, the meat may harbor bacteria and be harmful to consume.
Can I Cook My Turkey at 200 Degrees Overnight?
I came across a couple of recipes that teach you how to cook the turkey overnight at low temperatures. This method is downright dangerous, to say the least. This method means the turkey will take longer to heat – amplifying the risk of harmful bacteria growth.
Moreover, it could also produce harmful chemicals that aren’t destroyed with cooking. USDA shares that the lowest safest temperature to cook a turkey is 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
What Is The Danger Zone For Turkey?
According to USDA, the danger zone for turkey is between 40-140 degrees F.
How Long Can Turkey Sit Out Before Cooking?
According to USDA, a turkey can sit out for 2 hours before and after cooking.
After two hours, perishable food like the turkey will be in the danger zone (40-140 degrees F), which is when harmful bacteria proliferate and make the food unsafe.
How Can You Tell If Turkey Is Spoiled?
You can tell if the turkey is spoiled by assessing its smell, color, and texture.
A pungent odor emanates from the rotting raw turkey like sulfur burps and rotten eggs. The skin darkens instead of being a pale white or light pink. The turkey can also be slimy.
Can Turkey Spoil While Cooking?
If the turkey is cooked at a temperature below 325 degrees Fahrenheit, it can get spoiled in the process.
What If I Left My Turkey Out Overnight To Thaw?
Thawing raw meat at room temperature for two hours or more will encourage rapid bacterial growth. So, no – leaving your turkey overnight to thaw is not a good idea.
Can Salmonella Be Killed By Cooking?
Yes, salmonella can be killed by cooking. Remember that salmonella thrives at a temperature range between 40-140 degrees F. Therefore, cooking the meat at a higher temperature for an extended period will kill salmonella.
What Temperature Kills Salmonella In Turkey?
Cooking turkey at a temperature above 165 degrees Fahrenheit kills salmonella. But, having said that, the turkey should be cooked at 325 degrees Fahrenheit at a minimum, according to USDA.
Final Words: My Turkey Cooked Faster Than Expected
Don’t worry at all! There are several ways to store turkey if cooked faster than expected.
If you cooked the turkey just an hour or two before serving, let the turkey rest for 20-30 minutes first. Next, wrap it in tin foil, cover it with a towel, and let it rest in a cooler.
If you cooked the turkey several hours early before serving, you need to carve the meat, lay it on a platter, cover it with tin foil, and reheat it before serving.