Thanksgiving Turkey - White vs. Dark Meat Temps


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I did a test run on a 13lb turkey last weekend to see how it would come out. Was at 250 degrees, brined, seasoned, and butter under the skin. Using multiple temp probes (1 in each breast and one in a thigh) I noted the white and dark both merged at 165 degrees after 6.5 hours and I pulled and rested it.

The dark still looked a bit undercooked - possibly probe too close to a bone. My goal would be to get 165 at the breast and 180 on the legs/thighs. If I get the probe in the right location next time - and still get both meats looking like they will hit 165 at the same time, what can I do to keep cooking to get the dark up to a higher temp without drying out the breast?

I imagine foil over the breasts at some point could be an answer. But when? I'm guessing that around 140 degrees might be the time to loosely put some foil over the breasts to slow them down and let the dark keep going uncovered.

Has anyone been down this path, or know of a resource that has advice/tips/ideas?

Thanks in advance for any and all comments.


We usually spatchcock our bird and cook it at around 350°. Usually by time the breast (which is thicker) makes it to 165°, the leg quarters are around 175°, so it seems to work out well. The other big benefit of spatchcocking is the turkey cooks in about half the time.

Either way just remember, with poultry it doesn't matter what it looks like; as long as it's temping at a minimum of 165° F, it's safe to eat. With modern poultry you cannot go by bone color or even the color of the juices. We had a chicken two weeks ago that had pink juices but was temping at 170°+. It has to do with the PH, breed of modern poultry, and how quickly they are raised giving them softer bones when processed.
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I'm with Tent! Spatchcocking is the way to go. Once you cook your birds this way, you won't go back. Besides getting everything done at the same time & quicker, the high temp lets you get crispy skin too. I like to brine my birds. Always juicy!!

Good luck and post some pics if you get time.


New member
Thermoworks has a very detailed article that addresses this question, among many others. Icing the breasts, a preheated baking stone and not trussing the legs seemed to work for them. Of course, they were cooking in a regular oven, but I think these techniques would apply in a pellet grill as well. Here's the link:

The Perfect Turkey Cooking Temperature | ThermoWork
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