Food & Drink

Do Pop-Up Turkey Timers Actually Work?

11/17/2011 12:25pm ET | Updated December 6, 2017

Picture this: Thanksgiving day. Everyone is anxiously gathered around the table waiting for the big bird to arrive. People are getting impatient. The sides are getting cold. But the turkey is still in the oven! You've been waiting for a damn turkey timer to pop for the past hour.

Don't let this happen to you! A pop-up turkey timer is probably one of the most unreliable kitchen gadgets of them all. And by the time it does actually pop, the turkey will be dry like sawdust. That's because commercial turkey buttons (the ones that are already inserted into the turkeys at the supermarkets) are set to pop at 180 to 185 degrees F. A turkey is actually done at 160 degrees F. (After resting the temperature rises to 165 degrees, which is when it's safe and ready to eat.) So essentially, you are unnecessarily overcooking your turkey -- and drastically, at that.

The Way Pop-Up Turkey Timers Work

The standard pop-up turkey timer actually works in an ingenious way. The red plastic indicator stick sits in a plastic casing. The stick has a spring wrapped around it. The soft metal in the tip warms as the turkey roasts and eventually melts at around 180 degrees F. Then the red stick is is released from the metal and the spring makes it pop up. Supposedly these turkey timers are made to be reused (to make it work again, dip the button into hot water to remelt the metal and reapply the red stick). But we wouldn't recommend reusing them.

A Pop-Up Turkey Timer That Works?

So even after proselytizing about the cons of turkey timers, some of you out there will probably continue to use turkey timers. We understand that it might seem easier for you to watch a button pop than take the bird's temperature. So if you must use a turkey timer, there's one pop-up turkey timer that actually works! You can purchase one here from The reason this pop-up timer is better is because it's set to pop between 160 and 165 degrees F. The result? A turkey that's actually edible!

The Best Way To Take A Turkey's Temperature

Use a thermometer. It's not that hard to jab a turkey with a thermometer and see if it's done or not. Simply insert an instant-read thermometer into the space between the thigh and the breast to get an accurate reading. We highly recommend probe-style digital thermometers, which can be inserted into your bird with a wire leading out of the oven door to a digital display that monitors the temperature.

What do you think of pop-up turkey timers?

For the ultimate guide in turkey how-to, see Turkey Doctor: Cures For All Your Bird Blunders

For the best Thanksgiving dinner, see Must-Have Kitchen Tools For Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner

Learn how to properly take a turkey's temperature in the video below.