Family and friends are waiting eagerly for the holiday turkey, but when you take it out of the oven – disaster! The bird is pink or undercooked. Take heart – you can save the day. There are several ways to salvage the turkey and your special dinner without forcing your hungry guests to wait another hour or two for dinner.
Pink Doesn’t Mean Raw
If you slice into the turkey and the meat is pink, it doesn't necessarily mean that the bird is undercooked. There are several reasons why the meat may be pink. The turkey's meat may remain pink due to naturally occurring nitrates and nitrites in the bird's water and environment. It is harmless.
Oven gases can result in a fully cooked turkey having pink or reddish flesh. Young turkeys or those with little fat in the skin are more likely to have pink flesh.
A smoked turkey, whether commercially prepared, smoked at home or cooked on the grill, is likely to have pink flesh, again due to the natural smoke and added smoke flavoring. Again, this is a harmless result of the smoking or grilling process and doesn't mean that you have an undercooked turkey.
To ensure that your turkey is cooked through, check it with a meat thermometer. The breast and thigh should register 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fix an Undercooked Turkey Breast
If the turkey breast is nearly done, but still too raw to eat, turn up the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice enough of the breast for the meal. Place the undercooked slices in a roasting pan. Cover with chicken broth, then with heavy foil. You also can use a large casserole dish. Pop the sliced turkey back in the oven until it reaches 165 degrees. You can also use this method to finish undercooked beef roast and other meats.
After removing the cooked turkey slices from the oven, turn it back down to 325 degrees. Baste the remainder of the undercooked turkey with juices in the pan or extra butter to moisten it. Cover it with foil and put it back in the oven to finish cooking.
Cook the Dark Meat
The turkey breast is at 165 degrees, but then, when you start to carve the bird, you find the dark meat on the bottom of the turkey is not cooked. Go ahead and remove the fully cooked breast meat. Set it aside and cover it so it stays hot and moist.
Put a pot of broth on the stove. Use chicken bouillon or the drippings from the pan mixed with water. Bring it to a boil while you cut the dark meat into smaller pieces: thighs, drumsticks and wings. Put the turkey parts in the boiling broth and cook until done.
Alternately, remove the breast and then pour some broth over the uncooked turkey. Cover the pan with heavy foil and put it back in the oven to finish roasting. Monitor the turkey to ensure that you don't overcook it.
Speed Up the Cooking
Whether your company arrived early, plans changed at the last minute or the bird is just not cooking fast enough, you can speed up the cooking process. First, take the turkey out of the oven. Turn the oven up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Take the stuffing out of the turkey and put it in a casserole dish to finish baking. Cover the turkey with heavy foil and put it back in the oven. Cook the turkey for an additional 2 to 3 minutes per pound. Check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer to make sure it reaches 165 degrees.
If plans changed and you're short on time, cut the turkey in half. Remove and separate the thighs, drumsticks and wings. Put the halved turkey cut-side down in one or two large pans and arrange the cut parts around the edges. Add a little broth to the pan and cover with foil. Roast at 325 degrees until the turkey is done, in approximately one-half the usual cooking time. Uncover the turkey, rub butter over the skin and let it brown for the last 15 to 20 minutes.
Finish the Stuffing
Sometimes it's not the turkey; it's the stuffing. Take the stuffing out of the turkey and put it in a casserole dish. Be careful ‒ it's hot! Turn the oven up to 350 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit if necessary to speed up the cooking. Add a little butter or broth on top of the stuffing to keep it moist. Cover and bake until it reaches 165 degrees.