Got an undercooked turkey? Don’t worry. It’s fixable!
No one would argue on whether turkeys are delicious or not. Because they’re finger-licking good beyond doubt. That’s why I don’t even wait for a holiday to cook a turkey.
One common question I’ve heard from fellow turkey lovers is can you recook undercooked turkey or not. That’s what I’m going to enlighten you about today.
The answer isn’t so simple. You can recook an undercooked turkey, but only if you do it the right way.
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Sometimes it becomes insanely difficult to determine whether a turkey is properly cooked or not. Result? Undercooked turkey.
No more chitchats. Let’s see how to fix the situation we got ourselves into. Ready?
What Happens If Turkey Is Undercooked
Let’s get serious for a moment. The danger of eating an undercooked turkey is real. The first thing to come to mind when thinking about an undercooked turkey is salmonella.
Other bacteria like E.coli or campylobacter are also possible, but experts didn’t agree on this subject.
But salmonella is real. Every year, 1 million people get infected with this virus through food. It can cause fever, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, and other side effects. So, you cannot eat an undercooked turkey.
Enough scary stats. Let me teach you how you can know if your turkey is undercooked.
How Can You Tell If Your Turkey Is Undercooked
Never determine your turkey’s doneness by its color. Color can be deceiving when cooking turkey.
The proper way to find out if a turkey is undercooked is by checking out the internal meat temperature.
But, which part? I mean, not all the parts are thick enough. You can check the breast, and the turkey can still be undercooked near the legs. The thickest part of a turkey is its thighs.
Why is that information important? It’s important because if the thighs are cooked, the rest of the turkey being undercooked is highly unlikely.
So, use your meat thermometer. If the temperature is showing under 180 degrees F, you’ve got yourself an undercooked turkey.
Use a good-quality thermometer because it’s a crucial part of your turkey cooking. If the thermometer provides you with wrong readings, your turkey will be either undercooked or get overcooked.
ThermoPro is the best one in this field. I constantly use this thermometer for all of my barbecues.
It’s precise with its readings and easy to use too. And I’m sure the other users will agree with me too.
How Can You Recook Undercooked Turkey- Fix Your Undercooked Turkey
You’ve identified your undercooked turkey. Now, what do you do? Do you put the whole turkey in the oven again? How do you recook undercooked turkey?
No, you don’t put the whole turkey into the oven again. Remember that once you’ve removed the turkey from the oven before it’s properly cooked, it’ll take a long time to reach that temperature again.
All your sides will be cold by then. This is a scenario where you cook the turkey just in time.
But let’s assume you have enough time before the guests arrive. You still shouldn’t put your whole turkey back in the oven.
Because you can end up overcooking some part of your turkey while getting the undercooked parts done, think of it as this way, the thighs are undercooked, but the legs and breast parts are done cooking.
When you put the turkey back in the oven, because the meat already lost some temperature, it’ll take a lot of time to reach that temperature again.
In the meantime, the perfectly cooked parts can become overcooked or, worse, get burnt.
I suggest you follow the steps I’ve instructed below to get your undercooked turkey recooked perfectly.
- First, cut the turkey into small pieces. One whole turkey will take a lot of time to get cooked. To save time and ensure proper cooking, cut the pieces.
- Next, separate the undercooked parts of the turkey. If the breast and the areas around are already cooked, keep them intact. This way, they’ll stay warm till you take care of the undercooked parts.
- Set your oven to 375 degrees. Place the undercooked meat on a sheet and put them in the oven.
- Keep checking the turkey pieces every 15 minutes. Always use a thermometer to ensure if the turkey is done properly.
- You can use aluminum foil to keep the turkey covered inside the oven. This way, the moisture will stay intact.
Another question I often come through is, can you half cook turkey and finish later? What they mean is if they can cook the turkey half today and then complete it tomorrow.
I wouldn’t recommend it. When you don’t complete cooking your turkey, it gets more exposed to the bacteria. And storing it in the refrigerator is literally encouraging them to infect the turkey.
S, if you wish to store your turkey, make sure you cook it all the way. This way, you remove any danger of exposing yourself to harmful bacteria.
A Few More Tips For Your Undercooked Turkey
Whether you’ve undercooked your turkey or trying to prevent it, keep these things in mind.
- When you are recooking your turkey in the oven, keep them covered to save moisture. If you don’t cover the meat, it’ll lose its juiciness and result in dry meat.
- If some parts of the turkey are properly cooked, don’t recook them. Instead, use aluminum foil to wrap them. It’ll help you keep them warm while you take care of the undercook parts.
- Make sure the recipe you’re following matches your turkey. Sometimes we mismatch the amount of time, temperature, and ingredients. For example, when the recipe states measurements for a 10-pound turkey and your turkey weighs 7 pounds, the measurements will differ.
- Don’t forget to take care of the other things like drinks and side dishes while taking care of your turkey. In case the turkey doesn’t turn out good, you’ll need a backup plan for your guests.
- Start cooking your turkey with enough time on your hand. This way, you’ll have time to fix your turkey in case something goes wrong.
- If your last turkey dinner was a disaster, you should plan better this time. Planning is everything. Manage your time with more efficiency and accelerate your multitasking abilities.
How Can You Tell If Turkey Is Cooked Properly
As I’ve mentioned earlier, the best way to determine if a turkey is done cooking is using a meat thermometer.
Always put the thermometer in the thigh to check the internal temperature. The temperature should be 165 degrees F.
If you see the temperature is 165 F, the meat is done. Keep the turkey inside the oven for another 15 minutes and check if the temperature reached 180 degrees F or not.
It should reach 180 degrees by then. If it didn’t, your turkey is still undercooked.
Make sure your thermometer is working properly.
If your thermometer isn’t working, you can check the meat juice to make sure it’s properly cooked.
Cut the turkey around the thigh and check for the juice color. If it’s clear, the turkey is done cooking. If it’s not, it needs more time.
Another question I’ve heard from people struggling with their turkey is Can you re cook pink turkey? The answer is the same, yes you can.
But it’s not always compulsory. Pink doesn’t always mean that your turkey is undercooked. Sometimes it’s okay to have a turkey with a pinkish color.
That’s why, always look out for the temperature, not the color.
What Should You Do If Your Turkey Is Overcooked
Let’s think about a scenario where you overcooked your turkey. That doesn’t have to be the end of the world. You can fix an overcooked turkey too.
Let me tell you a few ways you can salvage a turkey you overcooked.
- It can’t be overcooked all the way
That’s right. As I’ve told you earlier, not all parts of a turkey come with even thickness. So, if you overcooked the thinner parts, chances are, the legs and thighs are perfectly cooked.
If you’ve overcooked the rest way too much, save the parts that are okay.
- Gravy is your friend
Gravy can cover for your mistakes. Use a good amount of gravy on the overcooked slices of turkey.
You’ll see the difference in taste yourself. However, if you’ve dried your bird too much, gravy won’t be enough.
- Side Dishes
Make your side dishes highlighted more than the turkey itself. Even though turkey is supposed to be the center of attention, excellent side dishes can draw attention away.
Make sure you don’t focus only on your turkey. If the bird betrays, there needs to be something to offer to the guests.
- Chicken Stock
Overcooking your turkey means drying it out. And once you remove the turkey from the oven, chances are, the dryness will increase.
So, slice your turkey and dip the slices in chicken stock using an oven-friendly dish. Place it inside the oven and turn the oven on for 10 minutes at 250 degrees F.
This reduces dryness and prevents the turkey from becoming dryer.
How Do You Cook a Turkey- Covered or Uncovered?
The answer to this question is- both. For the first few hours, the turkey needs to stay covered. It helps retain the moisture inside. In the last one hour or two, you need to cook the turkey uncovered.
How much time you need to cook a turkey depends on its size. For instance, a 10-pound turkey will need about 5 to 6 hours to cook. In this case, cook the turkey covered for the first 4 hours.
Then, cook it uncovered for about one or two hours. Baste the turkey every thirty minutes. However, it depends on your recipe and cooking method.
Turkey Emergency Kit
As funny as it sounds, I would suggest you keep the following things ready if anything goes wrong. After all, it’s a huge responsibility to execute a perfect turkey dinner.
- A good-quality meat thermometer to keep the internal temperature in check
- Aluminum foil is a must-have element for your turkey; check if you’re well equipped with aluminum foil
- Vegetable or chicken stock in case you make your turkey drier than it should
- Extra gravy mixes for an accidental dry turkey
- Can undercooked turkey make you sick?
Yes, they can. The most common bacteria people get infected with through undercooked poultry is salmonella.
There are chances of getting infected with other bacteria too. Salmonella can cause symptoms like fever, diarrhea, vomiting, etc.
- Can I put Turkey back in the oven if undercooked?
Yes, you can. But I recommend slicing the turkey into pieces before putting it back in the oven. This way, you save time and cook only the undercooked parts of your turkey.
- Can you recook undercooked turkey the next day?
It’s wise not to do it. When you undercook a turkey and store it in the refrigerator, it becomes more attractive to bacteria. It’s better to finish cooking the turkey and then store it for the next day.
- How long after eating undercooked turkey will I feel sick?
If you do get infected with salmonella, it will take from 12 to 17 hours to feel sick. It’s not that you will surely get sick
with the illness. But it’s a probability. The sickness usually lasts between four to seven days.
- At what temperature do I cook a turkey?
If we’re talking about preheating, you need 450 degrees F. Decrease the temperature to 350 degrees F when actually cooking the turkey.
Check the thighs with a meat thermometer if it reached 165 degrees F. Your turkey is ready if it did.
- Can Turkey be eaten medium-rare?
Eating a medium-rare turkey isn’t safe. You should always go for medium-well to make sure the salmonella is removed from your meat.
- How long should a turkey rest after cooking?
The turkey should rest 15 minutes after cooking. In these 15 minutes, the turkey’s internal temperature will rise from 165 degrees to 180 degrees.
So, there you have it. Everything you wanted to know about an undercooked turkey. It’s very common to go through these questions, especially if it’s your first turkey.
I remember when I undercooked my turkey for the first time. I was like, ‘hey, can I recook my undercooked turkey? How to fix undercooked turkey?’
Many people tried to help me in their own way. I added a few of my tricks and subtracted some of what I had collected. The result is this guideline I created for all of you.