Butterball turkeys don’t come with a pop up timer as the company finds them unreliable when it comes to determining doneness.
It is usually around Thanksgiving that the question do butterball turkeys have pop up timers becomes front and center. And, I get it, these timers make cooking so much easier. But, as someone who has been cooking turkeys for fancy restaurants, trust me when I tell you that it is a good thing that your turkey doesn’t have one.
Here is an in-depth look at why your Butterball turkey doesn’t come with a pop up timer and what method to rely instead to check for doneness!
No, the butterball turkey that you buy at the store doesn’t have a pop up timer.
Now, you may be wondering why Butterball Turkey – one of the most famous brands out there don’t use pop up timers.
Why doesn’t my turkey have a pop up timer?
Well, the short answer is that pop up timers are notoriously inaccurate and unreliable.
See, the pop up timer is made up of an outer casing, a spring, a soft metal, and a stick that pops out.
The soft metal melts at 165 degrees F – the now liquid metal causes the spring to pop up, releasing the stick. That is when people are supposed to know that the turkey is done.
There are a couple of problems here. First of all, that soft metal melts at around 165 F. Therefore, it is not uncommon for it to only start melting once the temperature is well past this point.
So, when the stick eventually pops out, you have an overcooked turkey on your hands.
Conversely, it is just as likely for the pop up timers to pop up too soon. When this happens, your meat will be stuck with underdone turkey and can even risk food poisoning!
The other issue is that the whole turkey isn’t done at the same time. As you are aware, turkey is made up of both light meat and dark meat. Each section is done at a different point.
So, if you wait to take the bird out of the oven or smoker at 165 F, then you will have already overcooked several parts of it.
In short, this is why Butterball turkeys do not contain pop up timers and haven’t done so for the 60 years that that they have been in operation!
There aren’t actual statistics regarding how reliable or unreliable pop up timers are. However, there are many culinary experts – me included – who is going to tell you that you simply can’t trust a pop up timer.
You must be asking yourself – if pop up timers are so inaccurate, why do so many companies continue to include them with their raw or frozen turkey?
Well, Thanksgiving is likely to blame for this phenomenon. See, this is the one time of the year that everyone, novice and new cooks alike, are expected to turn out turkeys.
Since they don’t really know what they are doing, they use the pop up turkey timer as a guide instead. It is easy to use and, many turkeys are already equipped with pop up timers, meaning that people don’t have to go out and buy their own.
OK, so if you can’t use a pop up timer with Butterball turkeys, what can you use instead?
The only tool that will give you an accurate reading and let you know precisely when your turkey is done is a meat thermometer, sometimes referred to as a turkey thermometer although it can be used with any cut of meat.
You simply insert the meat thermometer into the meat and get a reading almost instantly. This lets you know if the turkey is done or if it needs to remain in the oven or smoker for a little longer.
The thing to keep in mind is that there is more than one type of meat thermometer. You have the old school ones with an analog display. Then you have the instant read digital options. Some meat thermometers can be left in the turkey while others can only be used once the turkey has been removed from the heat source.
The first thing I would recommend is to get a good quality thermometer. A regular meat thermometer will do the trick but if you get a really good one, you will be able to take your cooking up to the next level.
The thing is that a thermometer isn’t just for turkeys – it can and should be used with any kind of meat. In fact, you should be using it every time that you prepare meat. It doesn’t matter if you are frying chicken or searing a steak, a thermometer will let you know that your meat is done better than time or appearance.
My personal recommendation to you is to buy a thermometer that can be kept inside the turkey. Even better if it has the display outside of the oven or syncs up to an app. This way, not only can you keep track of the turkey as it is cooking, but you don’t have to keep opening the oven door or the smoker lid during the cooking process.
As a pop up timer is clearly out of the question, here is what you can do to ensure that Butterball turkeys – or any turkeys really – are always cooked properly:
If you are opting for Butterball turkeys, much of the hard work has already been done for you. This is because Butterball turkeys come pre-brined.
In case you are using another brand, though, make sure to buy a quality turkey. And, make sure to brine it ahead of time.
I would advise against wet brining as it takes too much time, space, and effort. Instead, dry brine the meat. Simply rub kosher salt over the entire raw turkey and under the skin.
Then, place in the refrigerator, uncovered for around 24 hours or until the skin is dry to the touch. This ensures that the turkey will maintain as much moisture as possible and be nice and juicy.
I like to do this about an hour before I roast or smoke the turkey. This gives the turkey time to warm up a little. In turn, the meat cooks at a more even rate.
Make sure that you don’t keep the turkey out for longer than an hour or so to prevent foodborne illnesses.
If your thermometer is the kind that can be kept in the oven or smoker while cooking, then insert it before placing it in the cooking chamber.
Make sure that the metal prong is inserted properly – deep in the meat but at least an inch away from the bone.
See, the bone is the fastest cooking part of the turkey. So, if the thermometer is too close to the bone, you will end up with a false reading.
Unless you can set an alarm on your thermometer to warn you when the turkey is close to being done, make sure to keep an eye on the dial as the turkey cooks.
And, when the turkey is close to being done, make sure to check on the thermometer more often.
Keep in mind that turkey meat is rather dry to begin with. So, if you leave it in for even a few minutes past needed, it is likely to dry out.
As I mentioned briefly, there is no one set doneness for turkey. This is because the breast meat is more delicate than the thigh meat. Therefore, the breast meat is done at 170 degrees F, while the thigh meat is done at 180 degrees F.
However, you need to take out the turkey well before this. See, turkey continues to cook even after it is taken out of the oven or smoker.
It can go up by as much as 10 degrees during this time. This is why it is important to take the turkey out of the heat ahead of time.
I like to take the turkey when the breast meat reaches 150 degrees F and the thigh section registers at 165 degrees F.
Take the turkey out and let it rest before cutting into the meat.
Shady Brook Farms, Honeysuckle White, and Jennie-O are some of the brands to have pop up timers.
If the turkey button doesn’t pop, then you will need to use a meat thermometer to verify whether the turkey is done or not.
This is the answer to do butterball turkeys have pop up timers – no they don’t but this actually works in your favor as these timers are unreliable.
Just use the tips I have mentioned here to guarantee a delicious turkey each and every time!