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Can Turkey Be Pink? Is It Safe?

Can Turkey Be Pink? Is It Safe?

Tasked with cooking this year’s turkey, you cooked it just until it had a temperature of 165°F, so you wouldn’t end up with a dry, tough turkey.

You let it rest for 10-15 minutes, then transport it to the dinner table so you can carve it in front of your guests.

However, once you removed the breast, you noticed a tinge of pink meat. Wishing that the floor would open and swallow you, you start to panic, wondering if the turkey is safe to feed to your guests. 

Pink chicken is nothing new. Usually, pink turkey is associated with underdone meat. However, times have changed, so it’s time to reevaluate whether turkey can be a little pink.

Can Turkey Be Pink? 

Believe it or not, the color of a turkey is not an indicator of doneness. According to the USDA, cooked turkey can have a pink tint, even if it’s fully cooked. 

Therefore, as long as the turkey has a temperature of 165°F, it is cooked. 

Again, the color and the bird juices are not indicators of doneness. An infrared thermometer or a probe thermometer is the best and safest way to test the turkey for doneness.

When cooking a whole turkey, measure the thickest part of the thigh and breast to test it for doneness.

In contrast, if you are cooking turkey breasts or legs, point the infrared thermometer or place the probe thermometer stick into the thickest part of the turkey breast or leg.

Once both areas register as 165°F, you can safely and confidently consume the turkey.

Why Is My Turkey Still Pink After Cooking?

It’s only natural to wonder why your turkey is still pink when it is fully cooked. Pink turkey can happen if you smoke or grill the turkey.

Turkey can also be pink due to a chemical reaction; the addition of nitrates or nitrates, or the bird you cooked may be young. 

Smoked turkeys will always have a pink color. It is unavoidable. 

Grilled turkey is also known to have a pink color. 

The outer edges of smoked or grilled turkey can have a ring of pink meat just below the surface. Additionally, a smoked turkey may have a pink tinge running throughout the meat.  

The protein myoglobin is responsible for smoked or grilled turkey’s pink color. The heat causes the pinkish myoglobin to turn brown.

However, with the low and slow indirect heat generated by the smoker, smoked turkey is pinker throughout. 

Even if you purchase a smoked turkey from the grocery store, you can expect to end up with a pink turkey.

Commercial smoked turkey receives their pink tinge from natural smoke generated by the smoker and liquid smoke flavor injected into the bird. 

Chemical reactions are also responsible for pink turkeys. As the 

As the turkey is roasting in the oven, gases may develop. These gases interact with the myoglobin, creating a pink color. 

This is why the drumstick and thigh meat surrounding the joint may have a pink color even though it is completely cooked.

Young turkeys are notorious for having pink meat. Young turkeys have hollow bones making it easier for hemoglobin to seep into the turkey’s meat. 

This is the reason the turkey develops a pink color the closer you get to the bone. 

In addition to this, young birds also have thin skin and significantly less fat. Therefore, it is much easier for gases to infiltrate the meat when the myoglobin is exposed to the gases. 

This reaction also plays a role in the turkey developing a pink color. 

Nitrates or nitrates are synonymous with cured meats such as ham, hot dogs, and bacon.

However, nitrates or nitrates naturally occur in water as well as in vegetables like celery, beetroot, and spinach. 

If a turkey is exposed to enough nitrates or nitrates during the cooking process, it may have a pink color. 

What Happens if I Eat Undercooked Turkey?

Eating undercooked turkey is asking for trouble. You may be exposed to bacteria and end up with food poisoning. 

Most people view food poisoning as a mild illness. However, consuming raw or undercooked turkey could expose you to salmonella or campylobacter. 

There are even some salmonella strains that have even become resistant to bacteria. Symptoms of food poisoning can include nausea, fever, fatigue, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea.

Symptoms of food poisoning will present themselves within 24-48 hours after the raw or undercooked turkey is ingested. 

Therefore, you should never eat underdone turkey.

If you do eat or serve raw or undercooked turkey, your holiday may be ruined, and you may never be allowed to cook thanksgiving dinner again. 

Can I Recook Undercooked Turkey?

If a turkey does a temperature below 165°F, it is undercooked. You do not have to throw away the entire bird; you can return it to the heat. 

However, the secret is not to return the whole bird to the oven. Placing the entire bird back into the oven will add more time to the cooking time.

In addition to this, by the time the bird finishes cooking, the side dishes will be cold as ice. 

Furthermore, by the time the undercooked parts of the turkey develop a temperature of 165°F, the cooked parts of the turkey will be overcooked, tough, and dry. 

To fix an undercooked turkey, set your oven to 375°F and let it preheat if necessary. Next, cut the legs and breasts off of the bird. Leave the turkey pieces whole, do not slice them. 

Place the turkey onto a baking sheet and place them into the oven. Bake the turkey, checking the turkey’s temperature every 15 minutes until it comes up to 165°F.

Remove the turkey pieces from the oven and let them rest for 10-25 minutes before carving them and placing them onto a serving platter. 

Final Thoughts

So you cooked a pink turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. It’s nothing to worry about, as a fully cooked chicken can have a pink color.

Nevertheless, as long as the turkey has a temperature of 165°F, it is safe to eat.

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