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I have heard mixed advice on how long you should let a turkey rest after cooking.

Last year my wife and I watched a Thanksgiving cooking show with Gordon Ramsey and he said you should let the turkey rest for as long as you cooked it. If you cook it 3 hours, it should rest for 3 hours. That seems like an awful long time to me.

Everything else I've read looks like 30 minutes to an hour is fine. Any suggestions?

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Maybe Gordon Ramsey just likes cold turkey? –  Jefromi Nov 18 '11 at 22:35
I think you may be mis-remembering. All the Gordon Ramsey recipes I can find suggest ~45 minutes resting. –  Megan Walker Nov 20 '11 at 14:41
I thought so too, but I re-watched it again to make sure. Just seemed odd to me. –  Shawn Steward Nov 21 '11 at 17:48
I just watched the Gordon Ramsey Christmas show myself and came confirm the setting/cooking time. He definitely stated that he took the advice from another top chef to let it set for the same amount of time that it cooked...and that's why I am here!! It seems a bit too long, especially for a stuffed bird.. –  user8493 Dec 28 '11 at 17:02
The Gordon Ramsey Christmas show does say to let the turkey rest, as long as it cooks and it is not stuffed (just an onion in the cavity). –  rguenther Dec 28 '11 at 23:01

9 Answers 9

up vote 8 down vote accepted

The purpose- as with any cooked meat- is to let the meat firm up so it doesn't release juices when you cut into it.

In the case of a turkey it also helps to let it cool enough to not burn you when you are carving and eating it.

Both of these goals will be met in 30 minutes to an hour.

I don't know why that chef would recommend 3 hours. At that length of time the turkey would start to approach room temperature and would be less appealing to eat as well as start the clock on the danger zone.

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Start the clock on the danger zone? The bacteria would be partying and stuffing themselves on turkey by that time. –  thursdaysgeek Nov 19 '11 at 1:03
Not quite. It would take about an hour to get the meat down below 140f. Two hours between 40-140f should not compromise food safety, provided the turkey was properly cooked of course. –  Sean Hart Nov 21 '11 at 19:34
@Sean The USDA recommends that food should spend no more than 2 hours in the 40-140ºF 'danger zone'. If you need to cook your turkey for a further hour and then follow Ramsey's advice you may very well compromise food safety. –  Chris Steinbach Dec 18 '12 at 14:18
The USDA also calls 140f the danger zone, when in reality temperatures as low as 130f will still pasteurize. And as I said, sitting for three hours could potentially be OK. I never made the same claim for four. –  Sean Hart Dec 18 '12 at 16:58
The USDA--and thus the health codes based on its research--is properly very conservative. Bacteria can be killed with sufficient time at 130, this is true. But its much easier to stick a thermometer in the food item, and say categorically "yes, this is in the safe zone" or "no its in the danger zone" than to monitor the time/temperature curve and document it correctly, although it can be done. Safety in all domains usually involves a... well... safety zone... erring on the side of caution! –  SAJ14SAJ Dec 19 '12 at 1:16

I heard GR say 3 hours this year too, so you're not misremembering. I recently started letting it rest for 45 minutes to an hour, and it's worked out great. My reason for choosing that amount of time is: that's how long veggies need to roast in the oven.

Once upon a time I used to rest it for 30 min, meaning I needed to at least start roasting the veg while the turkey was still in the oven, and the whole thing was insanely stressful. Now I prep the veggies but put them dry on baking sheets. An hour before I want to eat, or when the turkey is clearly cooked if that happens sooner than I expected, I pull out the bird and get it out of the roasting pan and onto a tray to rest with foil over it. I put the fat and juices from the roasting pan into a measuring cup to settle, and get the fat spooned over the potatoes and in they go. Get the stuffing out of the bird, squash (cut in 8ths or 16ths and buttered) into the oven and the cranberry sauce on the stove, that typically takes 15 minutes, so it's time for parsnips and onions to go into the oven again with some of the turkey fat. Then make gravy in the roasting pan using the not-the-fat part of the settled juices and cook the Brussels sprouts on the stovetop. More room, less panicking, and as long as you understand you will not have a single pause during the final hour, much easier than it used to be.

We have had no consequences of resting it for up to an hour, and I don't see any purpose in resting it longer.

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I have carved within 20 minutes and within 3 hours. I strongly believe that the longer standing time has created the most outstanding and moist, delicious turkey ever. I have cooked 20-25 lb Turkey's stuffed and unstuffed every Xmas and thanksgiving and have never had a negative result from resting either way. Don't be afraid to try something new. Make sure your turkey is always properly covered with foil when resting and more importantly clean as you go and make sure the raw handling is properly followed by a thorough cleaning with disinfectant wipes or hot soapy wipe ups. Some folks like well done meats and some like moist juicy meats at the optimum temperature. Either way, enjoy your turkey and company and make the day fun and not a chore:)

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It's to let the juices get absorbed into the meat. The meat doesn't have to be piping hot, as the gravy will be.

It's common knowledge to let the turkey rest for around at least 2 hours. It will completely enhance the taste.

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Yes, good answer +1 for this. I'll add a separate answer on why we rest meat. –  spiceyokooko Dec 18 '12 at 17:33
Resting two hours is NOT common knowledge--I have never heard this. –  SAJ14SAJ Dec 18 '12 at 23:56
Also, resting does not allow the juices be 'absorbed by the meat', in the Modernist Cuisine labs they discovered that it allows proteins that have dissolved during cooking to thicken the natural juices as they cool, so liquid escapes more slowly when the meat is sliced. Source: –  Stefano Dec 19 '12 at 10:25

Turkey is actually unsafe to eat once left out for at least 2 hours. Once this time has passed, any leftovers should be refrigerated. God knows what the chef is talking about 3 hours for. 30 minutes to an hour will do it.

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I have been cooking my entire life and owned restaurants in the past, and I have never let a turkey rest over one hour.

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I followed Gordon Ramsay's recipe and let the turkey sit for 3hrs numerous times and I've never been sick. He went to culinary school, I'm positive he knows better than us home cooks.

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Just because the dog hasn't bitten you yet doesn't mean it won't, and going to culinary school does not prevent someone from giving bad advice from time to time. –  SAJ14SAJ Dec 26 '13 at 16:08

It all depends on how you wrap it for resting. I did exactly what GR suggested. I smoked it for 3.5 hours and got the internal temp to 165. Pulled and placed in an aluminum pan, covered with aluminum foil, wrapped all of that in towels and placed all of that in an ice chest. 3.5 hours later I had the best turkey I have ever eaten and it was still steamy hot. It was even better than fried turkey.

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We went to a cooking school last night, and both chefs recommended letting the turkey rest for 3 hours.

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