Uncooked Turkey 101: What To Do If Turkey Is Not Fully Cooked

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Learn how to handle a turkey uncooked, how to recook an undercooked turkey, tips to cook it properly, and how to know when it’s done to avoid embarrassment.  

Turkey Uncooked 101: What To Do If Turkey Is Not Fully Cooked
Turkey Uncooked 101 pin

Cooking turkey is essential during the Thanksgiving family gatherings. 

It’s been the poultry of choice since 1841 and is a popular dish as a single turkey can feed a large family, its meat is tender and juicy, and it’s also more affordable than other types of meat. 

You should cook turkey well to remain within food safety guidelines. 

But what happens if you find pink turkey meat after you carve the roast?

Let’s find out more about what it means and what to do if you have undercooked Thanksgiving turkey in front of you and a living room full of guests behind.

What Does Undercooked Turkey Look Like?

Uncooked Turkey 101: What To Do If Turkey Is Not Fully Cooked 1
What Does Undercooked Turkey Look Like

When you pierce the thickest part of the turkey meat – the thigh or breast – the juices should run clear. If the juices look pinkish or reddish, then the turkey has not been cooked through. 

You may come across a situation where the turkey is cooked but the juices are pink.

According to USDA, if you find that the internal temperature has reached 165°F (74°C) throughout the whole turkey, it’s good to eat even if the juices are pinkish.

Undercooked turkey meat will be pale in color and soft and squishy to the touch. 

Cooked turkey meat is firm when you touch it, not hard or tough like an overcooked turkey.

What To Do If Turkey Is Not Fully Cooked?

How To Recook Undercooked Turkey
How To Recook Undercooked Turkey

Can you recook undercooked turkey? Thankfully, yes!

Follow the steps below:

  1. Turn the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Chop off the breasts and legs of the turkey. 
  3. Put these undercooked parts on a baking sheet and in a roasting pan
  4. Pour chicken broth on top and cover with heavy foil to keep the meat from drying.
  5. Put the turkey pieces in the oven.
  6. After every 15 minutes, check the internal temperature until it reaches 165°F (74°C). 
  7. Pierce with a fork in the thickest parts to see if the juices run clear.
  8. Slice and serve. 
  9. For the rest of the undercooked turkey, pour on top the juices from the pan or some butter, cover with foil, and put it back in the oven after turning down the temperature to 325°F (163°C).

Is It Okay If Turkey Is A Little Pink?

What Causes Turkey Meat To Appear Pink
What Causes Turkey Meat To Appear Pink

Pink turkey meat doesn’t necessarily mean the meat is raw. 

Here’s why the turkey can be slightly pink:

Nitrates and nitrites are naturally present in turkey meat which gives it a pink tint. 

Myoglobin is a protein found in meat. When treated to high heat, it turns brown but at lower temperatures, it retains a pinkish hue. 

That’s why grilled or smoked turkey meat is pink.

Due to the natural smoke and liquid smoke flavor used in professionally smoked turkey, the meat is typically pink.

Gases in the oven react with the myoglobin in the turkey meat and turn it pink.

Young turkeys have less fat and thinner skin. When they are cooked, the heat from the oven penetrates the meat, cooks it at a deeper level, and activates the enzymes that turn the turkey meat pink.

Also, the porous bones of young turkeys allow hemoglobin to bleed into the meat, making the meat near the bones appear pink. 

What To Do When You Find Out The Bottom Of Turkey Not Cooked?

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What To Do When You Find Out The Bottom Of Turkey Not Cooked

When you start to carve the turkey, you discover that the dark meat on the bottom of the turkey is not cooked even though the turkey breast is at 165°F (74°C).

In this case, remove the fully cooked breast meat and to keep it warm and moist, set it aside and cover it to prevent it from drying.

Make a broth on the stove by using chicken bouillon or pan juices mixed with water. 

Chop the uncooked dark meat and add to the broth when it comes to a boil. 

You can also pour the broth over the uncooked turkey after removing the breasts.

Then stick it in the oven after covering it with heavy foil.

Keep track of the temperature so that you don’t have overcooked turkey. 

Hope that answers your question can you cook a partially cooked turkey?

If Turkey Is Chewy Is It Undercooked?

Yes, when the turkey is chewy, the surface is overcooked and dry but the inside is undercooked. 

This happens as a result of slow cooking at a low temperature for a long time. 

What Happens If You Eat Undercooked Turkey?

Uncooked Turkey 101: What To Do If Turkey Is Not Fully Cooked 3
What Happens If You Eat Undercooked Turkey

Eating undercooked turkey is not only an underwhelming experience but also hazardous to your health

Salmonella from undercooked turkey can cause severe food poisoning with the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Fever
  • Runny tummy
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Tips To Avoid Serving Undercooked Thanksgiving Turkey

Uncooked Turkey 101: What To Do If Turkey Is Not Fully Cooked 4
Thanksgiving Turkey

Here’s the cooking process to make sure your turkey is fully cooked:

  1. Buy the turkey as per the number of guests you will have. It’s one to two pounds per guest
  2. Consider 13 to 15 minutes of cooking time per pound of turkey.
  3. Preheat the oven.
  4. The turkey needs to be cooked at a higher temperature at the beginning at 450°F (232°C). Reduce the temperature to 350°F (177°C) after 15 minutes.
  5. You will need 4 hours to cook a 15-pound whole turkey
  6. The top of the meat should be brown and the baking pan should have a lot of juices. 
  7. You should allow the turkey to rest for 15 to 20 minutes if it’s small or 20 to 30 minutes if the bird is larger before carving.

The resting time raises the internal temperature, keeping the turkey warm.

If you want to save time on cooking, you can buy a smoked turkey. And if there are leftovers, you should know how to reheat a smoked turkey for the best taste and texture. 

How To Tell When Turkey Is Done

Here are some signs to tell when your turkey is ready to serve:

  1. Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of the turkey for 165°F (74°C). The thermometer shouldn’t touch the bone
  2. If possible, check the internal temperature before taking the turkey out of the oven. Otherwise, put the turkey back in the oven after pulling it out.

You can get a probe-style thermometer that can be inserted into the turkey throughout the cooking process. 

  1. If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer at hand, pierce the part where the thigh and breast meet to see if the juices run clear. If it’s still red or pinkish, you should cook the turkey for some more time. 
  2. Take the temperature of the stuffing if you have put a stuffed turkey in the oven. It should be 165°F (74°C).

The Bottom Line

Let’s face it – cooking a whole turkey is a lot of work. 

But with proper planning and timing, you can do a stellar job of cooking a beautiful turkey and score brownie points with your friends and family.

Just follow the tips to avoid serving uncooked turkey and you should be fine. 

Your work won’t end with the Thanksgiving meal though!

It pays to know how long does turkey last in the fridge to make the best of the leftovers. 


How Long Is Turkey Good For In The Fridge Uncooked?

Uncooked turkey is good for up to two days in the fridge. 

Can Turkey Be Slightly Undercooked?

There’s no room for even slightly undercooked turkey as salmonella can grow and cause food poisoning. 

How Do You Know If Turkey Is Uncooked?

If the internal temperature in the middle of the thigh or breast meat has not reached 165°F (74°C), the turkey is uncooked. 

Can I Put Turkey  Back In The Oven If Undercooked?

Yes, you should remove the breast and legs and cook them again in the oven separately from the rest of the uncooked turkey. 

Why Did The Bottom Of My Turkey Not Cook?

The bottom of the turkey or dark meat – wings, thighs, and drumsticks – take longer to cook. That’s why you need to measure the temperature in the thighs to see if it is 165°F (74°C).

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