Turkey is one of the most important parts of celebrating Thanksgiving. Moreover, most people also prefer roasting turkey at home, which is fun but can be a daunting task too. It might even happen that your turkey ends up being undercooked. If that happens, you can be prepared for it by reading this article!
It is never fun to eat undercooked food. Even more so if it is meat, other than the fact that it does not taste good, it can also be very harmful to health, and hence, you should avoid eating it by all means. But there are chances that, at some point, it may happen that your turkey remains undercooked inadvertently.
This is a pretty common occurrence, as cooking turkey can surely be a task. Moreover, cooking it right can be an even bigger task! This is especially true if it isn’t something you have done very often. Turkey, although poultry, is quite big in size. Hence, when compared with something like chicken, it is a tougher task to get it just right.
Now, as I mentioned earlier, it is indeed always better to know all about undercooked turkey before turkey day arrives, as it will make you prepared. In this article, you will learn everything possible when it comes to undercooked turkey! Now, let us dive right into it!
How To Know If Turkey Is Undercooked?
Cooking a turkey is surely a big task. Regardless of what method you go for or what part of the turkey, it is a waiting game when it comes to cooking turkey and getting it right. By getting it right, I mean getting the perfectly cooked turkey that is also juicy and tender and not at all dry.
Of course, there are some really easy ways to tell when it comes to how well the turkey is cooked. However, sometimes it is also about getting the turkey perfectly right when it comes to the texture and flavor too. So, are there ways to know whether your turkey is cooked right or not? Let us have a look!
1. With A Probe Thermometer
The easiest and probably also the most accurate way to check if your turkey is undercooked is by checking its internal temperature. If you have a probe thermometer lying around somewhere in your house, Thanksgiving is probably the best time to put it to use!
To check whether your turkey is undercooked or not, insert the thermometer into the thickest part of its flesh, both on the thigh and the breast. If the thermometer reads 161 degrees Fahrenheit for the breast and 171 degrees Fahrenheit for the thigh, your turkey is perfectly cooked.
Anything lower than that means that your turkey is still undercooked and needs more time in the oven. Moreover, in case your thermometer denotes the correct temperature, but if you see pink flesh around the joints of the turkey, that is quite alright. That does not mean that your turkey is undercooked.
2. With A Fork
Another way to tell if your turkey is undercooked or not before carving it is with the help of a fork. This method is good to go if you don’t have a probe thermometer handy. To check if your turkey is undercooked, you can pierce the turkey with a fork in the mid-thigh section.
Once you pierce the turkey with a fork, you will see some juices running out of it. If the juices are red or pink in color, your turkey is still undercooked and needs to be in the oven for a little longer.
Although the thigh is what usually takes the longest to cook, it is also important to check multiple parts of the turkey. This is to know whether they are all cooked or not.
What Does Undercooked Turkey Look Like?
In the above section, I mentioned some ways to check whether your turkey is cooked or not. But it is also important to know what undercooked turkey looks like so that you can even get an idea just by looking at it. Here, I have mentioned what three types of undercooked turkey look like, just to get a better idea about all the different types.
1. Undercooked Turkey
It is actually not very tough to tell if a turkey is undercooked or not by sight. You may have seen that once the turkey is fully cooked, it will have a white to light brown color throughout the meat. However, if a turkey is undercooked, the flesh will be majorly pink in color.
Here, it is also important to remember what I said earlier. Sometimes, it may happen that your turkey might just be very mildly pink at the joints, even though the internal temperature is optimum.
That is quite alright, as this does happen around the joints sometimes. But if you see big blotches of pink flesh everywhere, then your turkey is most certainly undercooked.
2. Undercooked Ground Turkey
Since ground turkey is a processed form of turkey, it does cook a lot faster than a whole turkey. But that also means you have to be extremely careful not to overcook it. Perfectly cooked ground turkey is mostly light brown in color.
It can, however, sometimes also be a little gray or white. Undercooked ground turkey, on the other hand, is really pink in color. So, if you see a ground turkey with really big pink blotches here and there, it is surely still undercooked.
3. Turkey Bacon
Lastly, another popular variation of turkey is turkey bacon. Turkey bacon, similar to pork bacon, is very light pink in color when it isn’t cooked. When it comes to turkey bacon, it should not be served undercooked.
Undercooked turkey bacon will have a pink appearance, with some of the fat still intact on it. If your turkey bacon is perfectly brown in color and also crispy at the same time, that means it is perfectly cooked and good to serve.
What Does Undercooked Turkey Taste Like?
Contrary to popular belief, poultry is something that should really not be eaten if it is undercooked, as it can be very harmful. So, if by chance you cannot recognize if the turkey is undercooked or not by looking at it, you can take a little taste to check the same. But here, it is important to know what exactly undercooked turkey tastes like to be prepared.
Undercooked turkey has a very bland flavor when compared to a properly cooked turkey. A turkey that is perfectly cooked will have a juicy interior and flesh that is perfectly chewy. On the other hand, undercooked turkey is really very firm and extremely chewy and will not have any flavor.
Even if you rub the turkey with a decent amount of spices, you won’t really be able to taste any of those. This is because the meat would not have had enough time to soak up all the spices.
What Will Happen If Undercooked Turkey Is Consumed?
Undercooked meat, in any form, can be quite harmful to human beings. However, some types of meat are eaten rare, like steaks and even lamb, for that matter.
However, pork and poultry are two things that will surely get you sick if eaten undercooked. So, are the adverse effects of eating raw turkey that bad? What even happens if the undercooked turkey is consumed?
Turkey, as it is a type of poultry meat, carries a high amount of salmonella. Although this is the most associated bacteria with raw poultry, undercooked turkey can also carry certain other bacteria like E.Coli and campylobacter.
All of these are extremely harmful to health. If they enter your body by means of consuming undercooked turkey, you can have health effects like vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and some cases, can be fatal too.
Why Does Turkey Remain Undercooked?
Cooking meat can be a tricky task, especially true if you are not used to it. Moreover, with every sort of poultry, the cooking process can actually be quite different.
Chicken is surely one of the easiest types of poultry to cook right, and turkey, well, let’s just say that it can take a little time to get it just right. So, is there really a reason why turkey remains undercooked? There can be a few reasons that are worth mentioning.
1. Improper Thawing
When it comes to cooking turkey, there are actually many factors involved that you may not even have considered. Since turkey is a huge bird, thawing it correctly is also a huge factor in the cooking process.
The first rule when it comes to thawing a whole turkey is to make sure that it is not left at room temperature for too long. Leaving a turkey out at room temperature for too long will, firstly, not thaw it properly.
There is a high chance that at least parts of the turkey, mainly flesh that is deeper and thicker, will not be thawed properly. Moreover, if the turkey is left out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours, there is a chance of it contaminating harmful bacteria. So, it is always best to thaw turkey in cold water to ensure proper cooking later on.
2. Improper Oven Temperature
Another important factor as to why your turkey might remain undercooked is that the oven temperature might not be correct. Whenever roasting a turkey in the oven, the temperature has to be between 350 degrees to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
This, of course, depends on how big the turkey is and the method of cooking. However, the average temperature that the oven should have while roasting a turkey is the range that is mentioned above. Before you roast your turkey, check the temperature of the oven with a probe thermometer.
3. Improper Temperature Of Cooked Turkey
Another reason why turkey might remain undercooked is if, once cooked, the temperature is not optimum. It is really important to check the temperature of the turkey once it is cooked with the help of a probe thermometer.
The temperature at the thickest part of the turkey breast should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit and that for the thigh should be 171 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything lower than that means that your turkey is not properly cooked.
The Right Cooking Temperature For Turkey
After knowing all of this about why turkey remains undercooked, the next question that may come to everyone’s mind is what the right cooking temperature for turkey is supposed to be like. As turkey is a huge bird, most people prefer either roasting a whole turkey or parts of it in the oven or smoking it.
The best temperature to cook the turkey at, whether roasting it or smoking it, is to start off at around 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Usually, after one hour, the temperature should be brought down to somewhere between 325-350 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, it should take 30 minutes for each pound of turkey to cook.
Why Is Turkey Cooked Upside-Down?
That is not really the case with every turkey recipe, but quite a lot of recipes do demand the turkey to be cooked upside down. This may sound like a strange phenomenon to many, but as usual, we are not used to cooking anything upside down. But is there a reason behind this, or is it just like that? Let us take a look.
The reason why a lot of recipes, especially while roasting a turkey, demand it to be cooked upside down. Here, when the turkey is placed upside down, it is closer to the heat source as compared to keeping it the other way around. So, dark meat tends to cook faster with this method.
Moreover, when a turkey is cooked upside down, all the juices begin to collect in the meatiest portions of the turkey rather than trickling down. This gives the turkey a richer flavor and a juicier finish and hence, some recipes require turkey to be cooked upside down.
How To Recook Undercooked Turkey?
Even after knowing all about the accurate methods of cooking a turkey fully, it can happen that your turkey remains somewhat undercooked. Well, if that happens, there is honestly no need to worry as, as I mentioned earlier, there are very high chances of not getting a turkey right in the first go.
Now, the best method to recook an undercooked turkey is always to put it back in the oven or smoker. The reason behind this is that if you try recooking an undercooked turkey in a microwave, or let us say, a stovetop, there are honestly very high chances that the texture of turkey may go a little off.
Although it will end up cooking all the way through, you will be left with a tough piece of turkey, and no one really wants that! So, whether you realize that your turkey is undercooked before or after carving it, there are ways to fix them both! Let us take a look at how this can be done!
1. Recooking Uncarved Turkey
Right before you begin carving your turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, you may realize that the turkey is really tough and is not carving properly. If you cut open the inside just a little bit and see that the turkey is still pink on the inside, your turkey needs to be cooked further.
For that, all you have to do is again preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. I would highly recommend inserting a probe thermometer in the meatiest portion of the turkey at this point.
Once the turkey is back in the oven, let it cook until the probe thermometer reads a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit for the breast and 171 for the thigh. Just as it reaches that temperature, you can take the turkey out as it is completely cooked.
2. Recooking Carved Turkey
Afraid that your turkey will be pink after you are done carving it? Don’t worry! You can actually, very easily recook a carved turkey too! Once your turkey is carved, try keeping the breast and thigh pieces intact as they are. But the rest can be carved into slices if you would like.
Next, place these turkey pieces onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Place them in an oven that has been preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. This will, in fact, cook the turkey much faster as it has been broken down into smaller pieces.
Now, check the turkey at 15-minute intervals. Once the temperature reaches the optimum one that I mentioned before, you can take the turkey out of the oven and serve it hot!
Cooking turkey right can be a task, as the bird is quite large. However, eating undercooked turkey can be much worse as it can cause a lot of adverse health effects, mainly salmonella. Hence, it is really important to make sure that your turkey is cooked thoroughly before serving it.
The best way to check this is with a thermometer, and in case your turkey still remains undercooked, you can recook it very easily! I hope this information has helped you enough to be prepared for some serious turkey cooking on Thanksgiving day!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Which part of the turkey is most prone to remain undercooked?
The thigh of the turkey is most prone to remain undercooked as it is an extremely thick and meaty portion of the bird.
Can the stuffing inside the turkey remain undercooked?
Yes, it can happen that the stuffing inside the turkey may remain undercooked, despite the turkey being fully cooked. Hence, it is usually better to cook the stuffing separately.
What is the best way to fix undercooked turkey?
The best way to fix undercooked turkey, whether carved or uncarved, is to put it back in the oven and roast it for longer. Other methods of cooking may change the texture of the turkey.
For how long should a turkey be cooked upside down?
The method of cooking a turkey upside down is quite similar to cooking it in any other way. Just make sure that the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees for the breast and 181 degrees Fahrenheit for the thigh. At a temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit, a pound of turkey should take half an hour to cook.
How long should you recook an undercooked turkey?
When it comes to recooking undercooked turkey, the timing can differ based on whether the turkey is carved or not. However, on average, recooking should be done until the internal temperature of the turkey is optimum.
What does an undercooked turkey burger taste like?
Turkey burgers are quite famous, but as I mentioned before, eating raw turkey is very hazardous. So, an undercooked turkey burger, similar to a roast turkey, will lack flavor and will be very chewy.