Learn how to make the juiciest turkey! All it requires is a few key tricks and a good set of thermometers to have a juicy turkey recipe people will rave over.
This recipe is sponsored by ThermoWorks. All opinions expressed are my own.
Tired of dry white meat and rubbery dark meat? Is a juicy turkey really too much to ask for? All it takes is a few simple tips and tricks, a good set of thermometers, and you’ll be able to make a perfectly cooked turkey with juicy white meat and tender, fall-apart dark meat year after year. We’ll cover everything you need to know from start to finish to roast a turkey to juicy goodness!
We recommend having a set of good thermometers on hand, one that can provide an instant reading and another for constant monitoring that can measure the internal temperature of your turkey while it is in the oven. For these purposes we strongly recommend the ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4 as an excellent all-purpose instant-read thermometer. It’s extremely durable and provides a quick and accurate thermal reading you can rely on. The second thermometer we recommend is the ThermoWorks ChefAlarm. It is perfect for items that require accurate temperature reading over an extended period of time. This makes it great for roasting a turkey, but you can also use it when smoking meat, deep frying, home brewing, or sous vide. These two thermometers will help make your Thanksgiving turkey the best you’ve ever roasted, but they’ll also come in handy all year long.
Internal Temperature Targets
We have two targets that we are looking for with internal temperature. We want a different temperature for white meat than we want for our dark meat. For our white meat (breasts) we are looking for an internal temperature of 150-155 degrees Fahrenheit. For our dark meat (legs) we are looking for 175-180 degrees Fahrenheit. The higher temperature is to help breakdown extra connective tissue in the turkey’s legs, thighs, and wings.
In order to achieve these ideal temperature readings, we recommend chilling the breast meat prior to roasting and letting your dark meat warm slightly at room temperature. To do this you’ll want to fill two plastic sandwich bags with ice and clip them together. Place them over the top of the turkey so that the bags hang directly onto the breasts. Let your turkey sit on the counter like this for 1 hour prior to roasting. The breasts will reduce in temperature and the dark meat will rise towards room temperature. This cool trick gives your dark meat a head start with the desired temperature differential when it’s time to roast, and it is perfectly food safe (see Food Safety below).
Next, place the tip of the oven-safe ChefAlarm probe in the center of the turkey breast and set the high alarm to beep at 155 degrees Fahrenheit. Relax with your family about 2 and a half hours until the ChefAlarm beeps. Then it is important to double check the internal temperatures of your turkey with an instant-read thermometer like the Thermapen Mk4. Open the oven and insert the Thermapen’s probe tip deep into the breast and pull it up through the meat slowly. If you see any temperatures on the display below 150 degrees Fahrenheit, return the turkey to the oven to cook a little longer. You can also test the dark meat with the Thermapen. There, the lowest reading should be above 175 degrees Fahrenheit for best results, but is safe to eat above 150 degrees.
Traditionally, turkey is roasted starting at a higher temperature to blast it with heat and form a crust before the temperature is lowered. In order to get a more even cook on our turkey, and to keep the temperature balance between our dark and white meat, we recommend cooking at a consistent 350 degree Fahrenheit temperature the entire time.
To Baste or Not to Baste?
Basting is a traditional method for ensuring a juicy turkey, but does it really work?
PROS: Spooning the juices back over the turkey lets them seep down into the meat, providing a refresh of juices to the bird.
CONS: One of the main downsides to basting your turkey is that every time you open the oven door the ovens temperature goes down by as much as 50 degrees. Depending on your oven and how consistent it is at maintaining temperatures, it could take quite a while for it to recover.
If you decide to baste your turkey, limit your basting to two different times, evenly spaced during the cooking process.
It’s important to follow USDA recommendations for food safety, and we’ve got you covered in this recipe. There are a couple of important times and temperatures to keep in mind. Your turkey is safe to sit out at room temperature for a total of 4 hours. These 4 hours will include both before and after roasting as well as serving. This means it is completely safe for your turkey to sit out with the breasts under ice packs in order to chill the white meat and still leave you with 3 hours to work with to get your turkey into the oven, rested, and served.
The second safety number to keep in mind is that turkey meat is safe to eat when cooked to an internal temperature of 150 degrees if maintained for at least 5 minutes. Since our turkey will continue to maintain that temperature, and will even go up in temperature during the resting period, it is 100% safe to cook your white meat to only 150 or 155 degrees Fahrenheit in the oven before letting it rest.
Watch the video below where Rachel will walk you through every step of this recipe. Sometimes it helps to have a visual, and we’ve always got you covered with our cooking show. You can find the complete collection of recipes on YouTube, Facebook Watch, or our Facebook Page, or right here on our website with their corresponding recipes.
Juicy Turkey Recipe
- 1 whole turkey
- 1 cup salted butter sliced
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 2 teaspoons ground oregano
- 2 teaspoons ground basil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Use an instant read thermometer to test the internal temperature of the turkey to make sure that no part of it is frozen. Internal temperatures should be above 32 degrees F. Remove the turkey from its packaging and place onto a roasting pan. Discard neck and gizzards.
- Fill two plastic sandwich bags with ice. Clip them together and place them on the bird so that the ice can chill both breasts. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour, then discard ice bags. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.
- Starting at the neck cavity, loosen the skin from the breast and drumsticks by inserting fingers and gently pushing between the skin and meat. Place slices of butter in between the skin and the meat.
- In a small bowl, stir together paprika, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. Sprinkle over the skin of the entire turkey and rub in to coat.
- Insert an oven safe thermometer probe so that the tip of the probe is in the center of the breast of the turkey. The probe should be inserted from the neck area and be parallel to the roasting pan.
- Bake in the preheated 350 degree oven until the internal temperature of the breasts reaches 150-155 degrees. Baste 1 to 2 times if desired.
- Use an instant read thermometer to test different parts of the bird for doneness and to ensure that the breast meat really is 150-155 degrees in the center. The dark meat in the legs should register between 175 and 180 degrees F.
- Once the internal temperatures reach their desired level, let the turkey rest 20 minutes before carving.