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How Long Will Turkey Stay Warm After Cooking?

By Lan Lam Published

Every year we field the same question from readers: Won’t my turkey get cold if I let it rest the standard 30 minutes before serving? The answer: not in the least.

Letting turkey rest is essential to allow its juices to redistribute so that the meat is juicier when you carve it. But we decided to track how long it actually takes for the centers of the breast and thighs to cool to 130 degrees, the lowest temperature at which we consider meat still optimally warm to carve and eat.

We roasted two typical-size holiday birds: a 14-pounder and an 18-pounder, both cooked to 160 degrees in the breast and about 175 degrees in the thighs. Per our usual practice, we did not tent the birds with foil (to avoid making the skin soggy).

Checking the temperature of breast meat on a turkey so it reads 160 degrees F
Checking the temperature of thigh meat on a turkey so it reads 175 degrees F

30-Minute Rest

In our 78-degree test kitchen, the smaller turkey was still holding steady at 158 degrees in the breast, while the larger turkey breast was 162 degrees. At the same time, the thighs in the smaller bird reached 167 degrees, while the thighs in the larger bird reached 169 degrees.

60-Minute Rest

After a full hour out of the oven, both birds were still plenty hot. The smaller turkey’s breast was 142 degrees and its thighs were 150 degrees. Meanwhile, the breast in the larger bird was 155 degrees and its thighs were 148 degrees.

How long does it take for a turkey to reach a temperature below 130 degrees?

It took nearly 1½ hours for the smaller bird’s temperature to drop below 130 degrees and for the thighs in the bigger bird to do the same (its breast took close to 2 hours to drop below 130 degrees).

So if you’re running behind schedule preparing the rest of your holiday meal, don’t worry about the bird cooling down too fast. Its large size and rounded shape help it retain heat, and you can be confident that it will stay warm enough to eat well beyond the standard 30-minute rest.

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Recipe Herbed Roast Turkey

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Recipe Roasted Brined Turkey

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.