Last Updated on: 20th October 2022, 12:33 am
Cooking turkey is the best way to show your cooking skills to guests, and it is worth the effort because it can have a delicious taste and a mouth watering appearance if cooked properly.
But you can’t probe every piece of turkey if you are cooking multiple pieces at once.
Moreover , the thermometer can have a faulty reading if it’s not calibrated properly.
So most chefs and pitmasters have the same question about how to tell if the turkey breast is done or not without using a thermometer.
In this article we are going to explain it in detail.
Checking if the turkey breast is done without a thermometer
Turkey breast is the prime cut of turkey meat and it has a mouth watering flavor. But it also has the same risks like other poultry meats if it is undercooked or overcooked .
So, you will have to make sure that you have made the correct decision before eating it.
checking the doneness of turkey breast is similar to some extent to checking the doneness of turkey.
You can comfortably tell if the turkey breast is done or not by examining its meat juices. You will have to poke your fork into it and let the meat juices run.
If the meat juices are clear, then the turkey is done, while pink meat juices mean it is undercooked. Let’s have a deep dive on checking the doneness of turkey breast.
By looking at the appearance
If you want to know whether a turkey breast has been smoked completely or not , then you should probably start by examining its color first.
It has been traditionally used for centuries, even before the invention of temperature. A finely smoked turkey breast will have a unique appearance.
The color of the turkey breast should have darkened a little bit to assume that the turkey breast has been exposed to smoke for enough time .
You should not worry about the other factors at this point because we are going to examine all of them one by one .
Furthermore, if you are smoking the turkey breast, then you should also consider checking the smoke ring to see if it is smoked completely or not.
If it has a smoke ring, then it is done smoking. But if doesn’t have one, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t cooked yet.
The reason is that turkey breast has a lean meat and can be cooked perfectly without the development of smoke ring.
A smoke ring usually develops on the red meat because it contains a higher hemoglobin count. A smoke ring is developed after the breakdown of hemoglobin.
By means of meat juices
After you have examined the color of the turkey breast , both interiorly and exteriorly , you should probably have a good idea of whether the turkey breast is done or not.
But you should follow the process to confirm your decision .
After examining the color of the meat , you should examine the color of the fluid present in the turkey breast .
These fluids are usually known as meat juices, because they enhance the flavor of turkey breast when smoked properly.
To examine the meat juices, you should consider poking the turkey breast with toothpicks or any other pointy object.
A small amount of the meat juices will seep out of the turkey breast at the point where you have poked the toothpick.
You should consider examining the color of the meat juices carefully regardless of their amount.
If the color of meat juices is clear, then it means that the turkey breast is done . If it is red or pink, it means that the turkey breast is not done yet.
The pinkish color is due to the blood present in the juices.
Check the interior color
Now that you have looked at the appearance of the turkey breast and have a good idea if the turkey breast has been smoked or not, we are going to move into the deeper portion of the turkey breast to make sure that the turkey breast chunks have been cooked properly.
For examining the interior color , you should take a fork and knife and cut out a piece of smoked turkey breast .
The color of the turkey breast indicates if the meat has been cooked properly or not but you should not completely rely on color but rather take it into account along with other factors..
An undercooked turkey breast chunk will have a light pink color on the inside. It turns into a white or opaque color when cooked properly.
The color change is mostly due to the breakdown of meat proteins at higher temperatures.
One thing that you should keep in mind is that the interior and exterior of the turkey breast should be examined separately.
A turkey breast chop can be smoked properly but can be undercooked due to the presence of lower temperatures. While it can be cooked properly, it should require more time for smoke deposition.
size of a turkey breast
The size of the turkey breast is also a good indicator of whether the turkey breast has been smoked or not.
When a turkey breast chunk is uncooked, it will have a larger size due to the presence of moisture inside it which is evaporated during smoking.
So when you are checking whether the turkey breast has been done yet or not , then you should probably see if it has decreased in size or not.
If the turkey breast has decreased in size, then it means that it has been exposed to heat for enough time to evaporate its moisture.
Finally, after you have examined the colors and meat juices of the turkey, you should consider checking its texture to make the final decision about whether it’s done yet or not.
If the turkey breast is done, then it will be firm on the outside.
The raw turkey breast will be soft and tender on the outside. A test called the finger test is used to check the doneness of turkey breast by its texture.
The “finger test” means comparing the firmness of your fingers with the turkey breast to decide if it’s done or not.
A raw turkey breast will be as soft as the palm area of your hand below the thumb, when your hand is relaxed.
If you touch your thumb with the middle finger, then you will feel a little bit of firmness. It will be the same as the medium rare cooked turkey.
If you touch your thumb with your ring finger, then it will feel like the turkey breast, which is medium cooked.
A done turkey breast will have the texture of touching your thumb with your pinkie finger. So you can imagine that the turkey breast becomes harder as it cooks.
Bone wiggle test
The bone wiggle test is one of the most effective methods to tell if the turkey is done or not. It can easily tell us if the interior of the breast is tender enough to be considered as done.
It is not as complicated as it sounds and can be done in a few seconds.
To carry out the bone wiggle test, you just have to locate a bone that should preferably be present in a joint.
You just have to take hold of it and move it around to decide if the breast is done or not, depending on the tenderness.
If the bone moves around the joint without any resistance, then it means the breast is done .
You should consider taking in other features of the brisket before making the final decision about if you should take it out or keep cooking for some time.
If the bone is pulled off the joint, it means that the breast is overcooked. Although the bone is pulled off easily, the meat can be rubbery.
You should consider using it in relation to the other features of breast to decide if it’s overcooked or not.
The last and most common result can be that the breast will show a bit of resistance and will not move easily.
It means that the turkey breast is undercooked and not done yet. So you should consider placing it in the smoker or oven for a while.
Get the feel of turkey breast
I know it might look philosophical, but you have to get the feel of turkey breast before making the final decision about whether it’s done yet or not.
After we have examined its exterior for smoke deposition and interior for tenderness, now we have to examine it as a whole.
Feel of the turkey breast refers to touching the turkey breast to determine whether it is done or not based on your intuition.
Make sure to wear heat-safe gloves before doing so. You should consider checking it’s heat to estimate the temperature.
There are various methods for estimating the temperature of the turkey breast, but you should choose one that you are most comfortable with.
As you are not using a thermometer, you will have to estimate the temperature by touching.
Using the back of your hands to test the temperature
The FDA advises that the turkey breast should be cooked at least 165°F to kill the bacteria present within it .
In this case , due to the absence of the thermometer, we have to estimate the temperature by placing the turkey breast chunk on the back of your hand.
First of all, you will have to cut a small piece of turkey breast with a knife and take it off . You should consider wearing gloves to avoid any injuries.
After cutting the piece, you will have to put the chunk on the back of your hand.
If the turkey breast has been heated up to 165°F and cooked properly, then the piece of turkey breast will feel like a hot cup of coffee on the back of your hand .
You should be extremely careful about doing this because if the turkey breast is too hot, it can burn your hand.
Testing temperature by a using a metal object
If you are not able to decide the temperature of the turkey breast by the above method, then you can try checking the temperature by this method.
It is much safer than the above one because you don’t have to place the meat in direct contact with your body.
To test the temperature by this method, you will have to take a pointy metal object like a skewer or a knife and insert it into the middle of the turkey breast chunk.
Let it stay there for a while until it reaches equilibrium, i.e. the same temperature as the turkey.
After that, pull the skewer off the turkey breast and place it on your lips . This way, you can tell if the internal temperature of the turkey breast is higher or not.
If the skewer feels hot, then it means that the internal temperature of the turkey breast is higher than your body temperature.
On the basis of temperature, you can decide further if it’s hot enough to kill the bacteria or not.
But if it’s too cold, then you should avoid putting it on your lips because it can be contaminated by bacteria.
Finally, you should pick up the turkey breast in your hands and shake it gently. If it shakes easily and feels like jello, then you can assume that it is done .
By following the complete process described above, you can decide whether the turkey breast is done or not without a thermometer.
Why should you buy a thermometer?
After discussing the consequences of eating overcooked and undercooked turkey, it will not be difficult for you to understand why you need a thermometer.
A thermometer can tell you accurately when to take off or wrap your turkey to avoid over and undercooking.
When buying a thermometer, you should consider spending some bucks to buy a good one because the thermometer will be of no use if it is giving a faulty reading.
Even if you can’t buy a new one, it will still be better than guessing the temperature.
The internal temperature should be around 165 ºF to be considered cooked
The Final Verdict
You can tell if the turkey breast is done or not by the color of the meat juices and the bone wiggle test.
You should consider making a decision on the basis of all the features and make sure to evaluate it completely before eating.
If you are not able to decide, then you can simply place it in the oven for a while to kill the pathogens to make it safe for eating.
if you are interested in digging deeper into checking doneness of turkey ,then don’t forget read our article on How to know when ground turkey is done and also dont forget to check out telling the doneness of turkey burger. .
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