what does undercooked turkey look like

What does undercooked turkey look like? It is true that Thanksgiving would not be the same without some deliciously cooked turkey on the table.

Turkey is a staple on special occasions. And many people choose to roast their own turkey, which is both a fun and challenging activity.

But, it all turns into a big disappointment if your turkey is underdone.  So, how to tell if turkey is undercooked, and what to do about it?

Fully cooked turkey has a light brown color, so if it looks mildly pink and tastes relatively flavorless, it is probably undercooked. 

The Fun of Eating Perfectly Cooked Turkey

fun of eating perfectly cooked turkey

Consuming something that is dangerously undercooked is never a good idea. 

Not only does it not taste good, but eating undercooked meat can have serious health consequences. 

The same holds for undercooked turkey

While eating undercooked turkey is not a good idea, sometimes it can be tricky to cook it to perfection.

In fact, getting the cooking just perfect can be a challenge.

This holds true if it is not a routine activity for you. Although it is poultry, the turkey is rather large. 

Therefore, it is a more challenging endeavor to get it just right when compared to something like chicken.

Tip: Turkey should be removed from the refrigerator 30 minutes before it is to be cooked, as it minimizes shrinkage when in the oven.

Using Different Methods to Check an Undercooked Turkey

different methods to check turkey

A properly cooked turkey is one that is moist, tender, and definitely not dry. But, preparing a turkey for a holiday meal is a significant undertaking.

Getting the timing just right while cooking a turkey demands patience no matter what technique you use or what cut you choose.

Thankfully, you can experiment with different methods to ensure the doneness of the turkey. 

Paying attention to how it looks is important, but ultimately, the internal temperature will make a difference.

Here are a few ways to tell whether the turkey is perfectly cooked or not. 

Using a Thermometer

It is always a good idea to use a meat thermometer to determine when the turkey is cooked through.

The turkey’s thigh is the optimal location for the thermometer. And it should be inserted just above or below the thigh bone. 

It is important to keep it away from any bony areas, since this could skew the temperature measurement and lead to false conclusions.

When a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 180F, the food is fully cooked and safe to consume.

Tip: Remember that the turkey breast is usually fully cooked when the internal temperature reaches as high as 170F. 

Using a Fork

use the fork

If you do not have a thermometer, you can still tell if your turkey is cooked by inserting a fork into the muscle in the middle of its thigh. 

The turkey is done when the fluids are clear and not red in color.

Check the doneness of the turkey in several spots to ensure it is cooked and suitable to consume.

Remember, uneven cooking in the oven might affect the doneness of the bird.

Although this method will serve as a guide, a meat thermometer is still the most accurate tool for determining when a turkey is done cooking.  

Judging by the Cooking Time

When you do not have a thermometer, it is possible to check your turkey for doneness based on the time needed for cooking.

The time it takes to roast a turkey is totally reliant on its size and weight, and whether or not it is stuffed.

You may find a number of online cook-time calculators to help you figure this out.

  • The cooking time for a 8-12 lbs turkey is around three hours without stuffing.
  • The cooking time for a small stuffed turkey is around three and a half hours.
  • Unstuffed turkeys weighing 20–24 pounds may need to cook for up to five hours. 

What Does Undercooked Turkey Look Like?

what does an undercooked turkey look like

Knowing the visual cues for undercooked turkey will help you gauge doneness even at a glance.

Here is a bit more about what you should keep in mind. 

Check for the Color

In reality, it is not that difficult to detect an undercooked turkey. When the turkey is done cooking, the meat will be a consistent shade of light brown.

On the other hand, an undercooked turkey will have a primarily pink tint throughout the flesh.

The turkey’s fluids should start dripping if you pierce its thigh. You can tell whether it is undercooked by looking at the color of the fluids, which will be pink or red if it is still raw.

If this is the case, you should increase the amount of time you boil the turkey.

Keep in mind that juices in your turkey should run clear when it is ready. 

An Important Consideration

Even if the internal temperature of your turkey is perfect, the meat may still be somewhat pink at the joints on rare occasions.

As it happens, this sort of thing occasionally occurs near the joints, so do not worry about it. 

However, the turkey is definitely undercooked if there are large areas of pink meat throughout the bird. 

Identifying Undercooked Turkey Bacon

identifying the undercooked turkey bacon

Turkey bacon is a common alternative to regular bacon made from pork.

 Like pork bacon, turkey bacon has a very pale pink appearance when it is raw.

And just like any other type of bacon, you really do not want to serve your turkey bacon raw. 

But, what does undercooked turkey breast look like? Well, if it is pink and still fatty, it is a sign that it has not been cooked long enough.

To ensure that your turkey bacon is cooked to perfection, check that it has reached a deep brown color and is also crisp. 

Identifying Undercooked Ground Turkey

Given its processed nature, ground turkey does indeed cook much more quickly than a whole turkey.

That said, you will want to avoid burning it by being cautious while cooking. Ground turkey cooked to perfection is typically a light brown color.

But, it is sometimes tinged with gray or even white.

On the contrary, ground turkey that has not been fully cooked will appear pink.

Accordingly, ground turkey with large, random pink spots is most certainly still raw. 

Identifying Undercooked Turkey by Taste

identifying by a taste

It is possible to determine the doneness of turkey by tasting it.

But, before you do that, keep in mind that turkey that has not been fully cooked poses a significant health risk.

It can cause a wide range of illnesses, including food poisoning.

So ideally, if you want to ensure your turkey is done through, use a thermometer.

But, if you still decide to give it a try, be prepared to notice a rather disagreeable flavor. 

Also, turkey that has not finished cooking tends to be tough and chewy. Undercooked turkey typically lacks flavor and has an unpleasant texture.

Tip: Using a meat thermometer if your turkey is missing that "just-cooked" flavor will certainly help, and do not eat it if the center is still raw. 

The Perils of Eating Undercooked Turkey

perils of eating undercooked turkey

The golden rule for eating turkey is that it must always be thoroughly cooked.

Eating raw or undercooked turkey poses a risk of exposing yourself to dangerous bacteria that thrive in uncooked poultry.

Possible adverse health effects from contact with these microorganisms depend on the presence of different types of bacteria. 

You may develop salmonella infection in certain cases, which leads to many unpleasant symptoms, such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Cramping 

How to Salvage Your Undercooked Turkey?

Thankfully, not all is lost when you notice that your turkey is still undercooked.

In many cases, you can make it better simply by recooking it.

Here are the steps to follow:

how salvage undercooked turkey
  • Preheat your oven to 375F.
  • Now, remove the turkey’s breasts and legs.
  • Place all undercooked parts on a baking sheet.
  • Transfer to a roasting pan and cover with chicken broth.
  • Leave in the oven for 15 minutes.
  • Stop and check the internal temperature.
  • Keep cooking until it reaches 165F.

Be sure to use a fork to check if the juices seem clear after recooking or not.

Tip: To ensure the turkey cooks perfectly, be sure to preheat your oven for no less than 20 minutes before cooking the turkey. 


What does undercooked turkey look like? Cooking your turkey to perfection can become a bit tricky if you do not prepare it often.

But, thankfully, it is easy to tell whether the turkey is done or not, and you can do it simply by looking at it.

If you can still spot pink patches on your cooked turkey, know that it needs some more time in the oven.

Similarly, using a thermometer will help confirm if you have to cook the turkey for a few more minutes.