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).
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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.
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.