What’s the point of those little pop up timers that you find in some whole turkeys and chickens? And do Butterball turkeys have pop up timers? If so, why? This guide will tell you everything you want to know about this phenomenon.
Do Butterball Turkeys Have Pop Up Timers?
No. The folks at Butterball aren’t fans of pop up timers, which are supposed to alert you when the turkey is done but seldom do the job properly. Reliance on pop up timers can result in turkey that’s over- or undercooked. Use a well-calibrated meat thermometer to test for doneness instead.
About Pop Up Timers
If you’ve ever purchased a whole turkey or chicken from the supermarket, you may have seen a pop up timer, even if you didn’t know what it was. Not all brands use them, as we’re here to discuss, but they’re not uncommon either.
The pop up timer is the small cylindrical gadget that’s inserted into a portion of the turkey (often the breast). It consists of a plastic indicator mechanism that’s encased in another sheath of plastic.
The indicator stick is equipped with a spring, as well as a supply of soft metal in the tip. While the turkey is cooking, the metal warms up and eventually melts, at which point the stick is released from the metal. That’s when the spring causes the stick to pop up.
You can reuse the pop up timer even after the mechanism has been triggered once. By dipping the tip in hot water, you can melt the metal again, which allows you to push the button down again. When it cools, the button will stay in place, so you can use it again.
These timers are meant to alert you when the turkey is finished cooking. However, the metal doesn’t usually melt until at least the 180-degree mark. As you may already know, that’s far higher than the recommended serving temperature for turkey breast.
About Butterball Turkeys
Butterball is the largest producer of turkey products in the US. In addition to whole turkeys, they sell products like turkey bacon, ground turkey, sausages, meatballs, deli meats, and even stuffing.
The company is American Humane Certified, so if you’re concerned about the mishandling of animals that are raised for slaughter, you can lay your fears to rest when purchasing a Butterball product. No steroids or hormones are used in their products.
Most of the whole Butterball turkeys you’ll find are pre-brined. This means the package contains a solution of water and salt to help preserve the meat. If you buy one of these turkeys, don’t plan on putting it in a brine solution yourself, or it will be too salty.
One of our favorite aspects of Butterball turkeys is the convenient packaging. There are handy pull tabs on the wrapper that make it easy to unwrap the bird. If you’ve ever grappled with a turkey that was difficult to open, you’re bound to appreciate this feature.
Do Pop Up Timers Work?
While we appreciate the reasoning behind the pop up timer, we never rely on them when roasting whole poultry.
As we pointed out, the mechanism usually won’t release until the turkey breast has cooked to 180 degrees. That’s a good temperature for turkey legs and thigh meat, but it’s too much for the white meat of the breast.
If you wait until the pop up timer tells you the turkey is done, you’ll be dealing with dry, chalky breast meat. That’s a lousy way to finish up when you’ve spent such a long time waiting for the turkey to cook.
On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes the pop up timer will tell you the turkey is ready before it actually is. That can be even more disastrous, as consuming undercooked poultry puts you at risk of contracting salmonella poisoning.
Finally, know that on rare occasions, the little button won’t pop up at all. This could be due to a flaw in the design, but most people assume that when the timer hasn’t popped up, the turkey is undercooked. As you can imagine, this situation is very confusing.
How To Tell When a Turkey is Done
Instead of relying on the pop up timer, use an instant-read meat thermometer to test the turkey for doneness. The breast meat is done when it hits the 165-degree mark, while the legs and thighs should cook to 185.
Note that you can take the turkey out of the oven or smoker when the breast meat has cooked to 160 degrees. Whole turkeys are so big that the temperature will continue to rise a few degrees while the bird is resting.
Similarly, remove the turkey from the heat when the thighs have cooked to 180, then set them aside to rest. The total resting period should last for 20 to 40 minutes.
Do Butterball Turkeys Have Pop Up Timers Included?
Butterball doesn’t include pop up timers with its turkey products. The company believes, as we do, that they’re not a reliable indicator of doneness. If you want your turkey to have a pop up timer inside, select a brand like Jennie-O instead.
Do I Need To Remove the Timer if I’m Not Using It?
There’s no harm in leaving the timer in the turkey while it’s cooking, even if you don’t plan on paying any attention to it. Just wait until the bird is done, then take the timer out while you’re carving the meat.
You can try to remove the timer before you cook the turkey if you prefer. However, it will be easier to take it out once the meat is cooked. Don’t forget to wash your hands both before and after handling raw poultry.
How Long Does It Take To Cook a Turkey?
The length of your cook will depend on the size of the turkey and the temperature of the oven or smoker.
For smoked turkey, we usually select a target temperature of 275 degrees. The bird should cook at a rate of 20 to 25 minutes per pound at this temp. So if you’ve purchased a 12-pound turkey for the smoker, it should take 4 to 5 hours to reach the target temperature.
325 degrees is a better temperature for roasting. If you go this route, plan on cooking the turkey for 15 minutes per pound. That way, you can shave 1 to 1-1/2 hours off the cooking time for a 12-pound bird.
When the turkey is stuffed, add 5 minutes per pound to the cooking time. We don’t recommend stuffing smoked turkeys, as the wood smoke contributes an odd flavor to the stuffing.
Roasted turkeys can be stuffed beforehand, but you need to make sure the stuffing is heated to 165 degrees. It’s come into contact with raw poultry, so it needs to follow the same safety guidelines.
When the bird is done but the stuffing is still not hot enough, remove the stuffing and put it in a buttered casserole dish. Put the dish in the oven and continue to heat the stuffing until it heats to 165.
Butterball turkeys might not have the pop up timers included, but that’s not a bad thing. They’re not the most reliable tools anyway, and often result in overcooked turkey.
No matter what brand you buy, use an instant-read thermometer to gauge whether your turkey has finished cooking. This will yield more impressive results overall.
Hi there! I’m Darren Wayland, your BBQHost. My love of great barbecue inspired me to curate this site as a resource for all my like-minded fellow pitmasters out there. When I’m not researching and learning all I can about the latest tips and techniques, you can find me at the grill—that is, if you can spot me at all through the clouds of sweet-smelling smoke. And since you asked, yes, that probably is barbecue sauce on my face. Welcome to the party!