How to Insert a Meat Thermometer Into Turkey

How to Calibrate a Dial Type Thermometer
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Have you ever served your family a wonderful large roast dinner only to find out that the meat isn’t cooked all the way through when you’re ready to carve? Hungry dinner-goers watch sadly as you carry the meat joint back into the kitchen to return it once more to the oven.

Maybe even worse is if you’ve ever misjudged your timing the other way round whereby the meat is ruined, and you watch your family try to chew through the dry, overcooked meat. Either way, it’s high time that you invested in a new gadget in your kitchen in the form of a meat thermometer.

Using a dependable meat thermometer while cooking helps ensure that you serve perfectly cooked meat every time. If you already have one, congratulations! That is half the battle in the process of cooking a delicious, juicy turkey. If you don’t have an instant-read digital meat thermometer don’t despair, you can find some great ones here and be cookin’ in no time! Now, you may be wondering how to insert a meat thermometer into a turkey?


meat thermometer in turkey thigh picture

The best place to insert a thermometer into a turkey, where the thigh meets the body (Note, I cut the skin to show you the inside of the turkey so you know where to place the thermometer, don’t do this, you’ll lose moisture)

Types of Meat Thermometers and How to Use Them

Finding where the turkey thigh joint meets the body

Finding where the turkey thigh joint meets the body

Feeling the joint where the thigh meets the body of the turkey

You can feel where the thigh meets the body before cooking

Demonstrating the proper place to take a turkey's temperature, where the thigh joint meets the body

Demonstrating where your thermometer will go later when cooking

Please note the pictures to the left. It is better to explain where to put the thermometer in a turkey before it is cooked. I cut the skin of the turkey to illustrate just exactly where you want to place your thermometer. This was just for demonstration, do not cut the skin before you cook your turkey.

A thermometer is an indispensable tool when cooking a turkey. A turkey is difficult to cook because of its size and the different characteristics of each part such as the breast and the leg and thigh pieces. Depending on what type of thermometer you buy, you will insert the probe of the device into your meat either while it is cold (oven-safe) or while it is being cooked to see how done it is (instant-read).

Oven-safe Meat Thermometer

Oven-safe thermometers are designed to be inserted into your meat before the cooking process begins. As the name suggests, they are safe to use in your oven and can also be used on the stove-top.

Read our reviews of oven-safe meat thermometers here.

How to Use:

When you’re done preparing your meat for cooking, insert the probe end of the thermometer into your meat at least two inches deep. Always make sure that you position the thermometer into the thickest part of your meat joint.

Then, place your meat into the oven and keep an eye on the temperature gauge. When it reaches the desired temperature, take your meat out to rest for a few minutes before serving.

Instant-read Meat Thermometer

These thermometers work slightly differently as they will read the temperature of your meat in about 10 to 30 seconds depending on the thermometer. When you think your meat is just about ready, then you can use these thermometers to check their doneness before serving.

If the reading isn’t high enough, then you can carry on cooking for a bit longer before checking again.

How to Use:

Insert the probe of the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. For thinner cuts, such as steaks, insert the thermometer in through the side of the meat.

Some people find it easier to go slightly further than halfway through and then pull the thermometer slowly back to where you think the middle point will be. Essentially, what you’re doing is trying to find the coolest spot in your meat and making sure that it is at an acceptable level.

Instant-read Meat Thermometer

How to Insert Meat Thermometer into Turkey

Poultry is one of the meats that you have to be most careful with when it comes to food safety. If you are cooking the bird whole, then it is hard to know which part you should measure the temperature from.

Some people will take readings from a few different spots. Unfortunately, each new hole you poke will release the turkey’s juices and dry out its meat. Luckily, there is a better way.

The correct place to stick your thermometer in is the thigh, on the inside closest to the breast. Dark meat cooks slightly slower than white meat, so you would want to measure the thickest part of the thigh, which is located on the inside, closest to the breast. Dig the probe deep but be careful not to touch bone.

If the temperature reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit, then you can be assured that your whole bird is cooked!

Minimum Recommended Temperatures

  • Poultry – 165 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Beef – 145 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Ground beef – 160 degrees  Fahrenheit
  • Pork – 145 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Fish – 145 degrees Fahrenheit

Other Uses for Your Meat Thermometer

If you purchase an instant-read meat thermometer, then you can also use it to measure the temperature of liquids, such as checking whether a bath or bottle of milk is the perfect temperature for your baby. When baking and activating yeast in warm water, you can also check that the water you are using is the ideal temperature for the yeast.

Other foods can also be checked. If you’re reheating food in your microwave, food often comes out looking piping hot, only for you to sit down and find that your mashed potato is cold and soggy in the middle. Using a thermometer can check this in seconds.


Trust us when we say that after owning a meat thermometer for just a few weeks, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it! Simple to use and far more trustworthy than any poke test, you can enjoy perfectly cooked meat every time with the help of a meat thermometer in your kitchen.

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