How Long to Let Turkey Rest (Before You Can Carve It)

Wondering how long to rest the turkey after cooking it?

You don’t want to spend all this time, defrosting, brining and cooking to ruin it at the last step!

So make sure you see exactly how long you need to wait before you can carve your turkey!

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How Long Should I Rest Turkey Meat at the Minimum?

You should allow 45 minutes for a whole turkey to rest with the larger birds requiring up to 60 minutes.

Allow at least 15-30 minutes for smaller and individual cuts of turkey.

The general rule for resting turkey is governed by some factors.

Which we will explore below.

But the following baselines should be followed as the minimum resting period.

how-long-does-a-turkey-need-to-rest-before-carving

Calculating an Average Resting Time Based on Weight

A calculation based on the pounds of turkey meat is also good to follow.

Rest for 10 minutes per pound of cooked turkey.

Let’s say you have a 10- to 14-pound bird.

10 pounds of turkey as the min weight at 10 minutes per pound.

10 x 10 = 100 minutes.

Other Factors Can Effect the Time You Rest a Turkey

So apart from the weight of the cooked turkey…

What are the other factors to consider when working out the resting time?

And how might they affect the weight and the rate of cooling?

Cooking a Whole Turkey or Pieces of Meat?

The Whole Turkey

A whole larger turkey can reach up to 30 pounds!

Very large in mass and with bone density.

This will affect the rate at which the turkey cools during resting.

The bones act as heat insulators.

So resting a whole turkey will be longer than individual cuts.

As the residual heat lasts longer.

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Cuts of Turkey

This covers the specific cuts of turkey.

Like the thigh meat or the drumsticks and wings.

Or the boneless breast fillets.

These will (obviously) weigh less than a whole turkey.

So with a lower mass and density, these cuts do not need such a long resting time.

Cooling at a longer rate can also risk food poisoning.

Due to a ‘danger zone temperature.

But more of that later!

What Was the Cooking Process & Temperature?

How you cooked your turkey meat will impact your resting time.

Low and slow-smoked turkey will lose temperature quickly.

Compared to high and direct heat.

Because of the low ambient temperature when smoking is… lower!

And the high temp when grilling is…

You guessed it.

Higher!

how-long-do-you-let-a-turkey-sit-before-carving

Resting the Different Types of Turkey Meat

Below are some facts about turkey meat and why resting is key for a successful cook.

Turkey Meat – The Facts

There are two different types of meat in a turkey.

White from the breast meat and dark from the thigh or legs.

The white meat has a lighter taste and is dense texture.

The darker meat has a gamey taste as it is closer to the bones.

Resting Dark Meat

Dark meat also has a higher fat and connective tissue content.

Which retains more moisture and bastes the meat.

Resting White Meat

The dense proteins in the white meat are likely to dry out quickly.

As protein moisture evaporates quicker compared to fat.

So consider resting the breasts for longer than say, the thighs.

What Resting Does for Meat

Reintroduce Moisture Back Into the Muscle Cells

What is behind the juicy meats in a restaurant or BBQ?

Why is my turkey always dry?

Think of the proteins as sponges of moisture.

When you squeeze the sponge (applying heat) you will lose the moisture.

So you want to let the dry sponge sit in the liquid again. (rest)

Didn’t allow plenty of time for the evaporated cooking juices to be reabsorbed?

You will end up with dry cuts of meat.

Don’t eat a dry sponge!

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Carryover Cooking When Resting Turkey Meat

During the resting process, the turkey’s internal temperature will rise by about 10°F.

This is known as carryover cooking.

Remove from your hot oven or grill before your required perfect temperature.

Food Safety – Resting Turkey

Pay attention!

The food safety aspect when resting turkey is important.

As the nasty bacteria in poultry can seriously make you sick.

how-long-should-a-turkey-rest-before-you-carve-it

The ‘Danger Zone’ – Check for Food Safety!

It is important to note the safe temperature range when resting a turkey

Dangerous bacteria will multiply in temperatures below 140°F.

So monitoring this is very important.

As well as adjusting the length of resting based on the reading.

Remember the points above?

The rate at which smaller cuts or birds will lose temp required planning.

How to Acutely Monitor the Internal Temperature

A calibrated meat thermometer is the only way you can be sure of the temperatures.

These should be used for every part of the cooking stages.

Had a frozen turkey? – Check that the meat has fully defrosted.

While cooking the turkey? – Use to monitor the internal temperature of each meat.

Resting the turkey? – Use it to make sure it doesn’t fall below 140°F.

The Safe Internal Temperatures for Turkey Meat Before Resting

I have highlighted below the safe temps the turkey meat needs to be.

Before you start the resting process.

Remember that you can remove 10°F lower for the carryover cooking.

The dark meat’s internal temperature should read 180°F.

The white meat’s internal temperature should read 160°F.

how-long-to-let-turkey-sit-before-carving

The Best Methods to Turkey Meat – Finishing Off

Below are the easy and best methods suited to resting turkey.

I have included whether or not they are specific to the cuts you are cooking.

Or a whole bird.

Remember you need to keep monitoring the internal temps.

As well as estimating based on the calculations above.

how-long-to-rest-a-turkey-before-carving

Resting & Wrapping With Tin Foil at Room Temp

For the smaller-sized turkeys and individual cuts.

Place on a wire rack or clean chopping board.

Wrap the cuts completely in aluminum foil and cover the bird as best you can.

The Oven Method

A preheated oven will definitely keep your cuts or whole turkey warm.

But be very careful not to keep it in for an extended time.

Avoid medium-high heat and stick to its lowest setting.

The ‘Faux Cambro’ Cooler Method

This last recommendation is for larger turkeys with a longer resting time.

You can also keep the turkey warm if it was cooked too early.

Step 1 – Prepare the Cooler

– Wash an insulated cooler thoroughly.

– Fill with hot tap water & close the lid.

– Wait 30 minutes.

– Dump out the water.

Step 2 – Prepare the Turkey

– Insert the temperature probes into the thickest part of the thigh and breasts.

– Wrap the entire turkey in a double layer of aluminum foil.

– Isolate the bottom, top, and sides of the cooler with towels.

– Cover the wrapped turkey with more towels.

Step 3 – Insert Turkey & Keep Warm

– Place the turkey in the cooler.

– Cover again with a top layer of towels.

– Monitor the internal temperatures to make sure it doesn’t drop below the danger zone.

Smoke On!

Charlie

Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with the boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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