Pulling your turkey from the oven is actually NOT the last step before carving and serving. Resting your turkey is. At ThermoWorks® we recommend a 30-minute rest. The fact is that the muscle fibers and internal temperatures are still changing during the rest. Resting your turkey is a critical part of preparing your turkey to be succulent, moist, and delicious. You won’t want to skip this part in finishing your Thanksgiving masterpiece.
• For more information on cooking your Thanksgiving turkey, check out the other posts in our series, Turkey: 5 Things You Need to Know.
Why Rest? 2 Reasons:
1. Carryover Cooking
The higher temperatures that exist on the outside of the turkey will continue moving toward the lower temperature center area of the meat even after you take your turkey out of the oven. For about 30 minutes after being pulled from the heat source, the heat from the outer portion of the meat will increase the turkey’s internal temperature.
The best chefs understand this principle and plan accordingly by removing large cuts of meat, like turkeys, 5-15°F (3-8°C) before their target temperature to allow the muscle fibers time to rest.
This rise in temperature after food has been removed from its heat source is known as Carryover Cooking. The exact amount of carryover cooking your turkey experiences will depend on how big it is and how hot your oven is.
☼ Temperature Equilibration
During the rest, heat transfer toward the center of the turkey will slow, and eventually stop. The internal temperature will reach its maximum, and the entire turkey will begin to cool. We call this evening of temperatures during a rest “equilibration.”
2. Redistribution of Expelled Juices
Another reason to rest your turkey is so it has a chance to reabsorb its juices. While exposed to the intense heat of an oven, smoker or fryer, turkey meat’s protein fibers shorten, shrink, and contract, expelling out the water they’ve retained. During the rest, these protein fibers have a chance to relax and reabsorb some of the juices that are lost. A turkey carved and served without resting will spill more of its juices onto the cutting board and not be as moist.
How to Track Carryover Cooking During the Rest
- Once you have verified that your turkey has reached its pull temperature of 157°F (69°C), remove the turkey from the oven.
- Leave the Pro Series® high temp cooking probe in place, and the ChefAlarm will record the maximum temperature reached by the internal meat of the turkey during the rest.
- Set your ChefAlarm’s timer for 30 minutes, and allow your turkey to rest at room temperature.
- Check the ChefAlarm’s Max temperature reading to see what your turkey’s final resting temperature was. Even if your turkey didn’t reach 165°F (74°C), it only needs to be held for 25.6 seconds at 160°F (71°C) to reach the same level of food safety (a 7-log reduction in pathogens as defined by the USDA).
*See the USDA’s Poultry Pasteurization Table for more information on turkey pull temperatures and holding times.
☼ To Tent or Not to Tent?
Should the turkey be covered or uncovered during the rest? The reason why most people often cover their turkey with aluminum foil while it rests is to help it retain its heat. The problem is that condensation collects beneath the foil and the turkey skin can become soggy.
If you want your turkey skin to stay crispy, keep the turkey uncovered during the rest. If you need to hold the turkey for longer than half an hour before serving, keep it warm in an oven set to 150°F (66°C). Leave your ChefAlarm probe in place and track the Max temp as carryover cooking will still occur.
➤ The intensity of carryover cooking seen in your turkey depends on 2 things:
- Size of the Turkey. The larger the turkey, the more carryover cooking you can expect. We found that a 10 lb. bird cooked at 325°F (163°C) experiences very little temperature increase while resting, while a 23 lb. bird rose almost 10°F (5°C) at its thermal center.
- Cooking Temperature. The higher the cooking temperature, the greater the internal temperature increase during the rest. A turkey smoked at 250°F (121°C) may only see a 2°F (1°C) temperature increase, depending upon its size, while a spatchcocked turkey oven-roasted at 425°F (218°C) may see a 15°F (8°C) rise in temperature. A 20 lb. turkey cooked at 325°F (163°C) should see about an 8°F (4°C) increase at its thermal center.
Once the 30-minute rest is done, it’s finally time to carve and serve your Thanksgiving turkey!
The texture, juiciness, and food safety of your turkey are a direct result of careful temperature control throughout the entire process, from thawing to resting. Follow our thermal tips from start to finish, and this year’s Thanksgiving turkey just may be your best ever.
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