Using a meat thermometer is the surefire way to cook chicken and turkey* to perfection. Place your thermometer into the thickest part on a whole bird the thigh is the best place, but avoid touching bone or gristle. Off the heat, the temperature will rise and finish the cooking, so remove birds from the heat 5 to 10 degrees below the final temperatures.
CHICKEN AND TURKEY
Breast (170°F), Thigh (180°F), Stuffing (165°F)
The key to ultra juicy chicken and turkey is to let it rest before serving. Cover with foil and set aside 5 to 10 minutes for breasts and thighs and up to 30 minutes for large turkeys. Resting allows the juices to redistribute, giving succulence to every bite.
Instant-read thermometers are fast and leave a smaller puncture. Oven-proof thermometers can stay in the meat while it cooks. Use an oven-proof thermometer only for larger cuts.
A special problem with poultry: light meat is "done" at a lower temperature than dark meat. One way to compensate is to rotate your bird during cooking. Start on one side (leg up). After 20 minutes, flip it to the other leg's side. After another 20 minutes, flip again and roast breast up until done.
Fearing salmonella, many people tend to overcook poultry and dry it out. Yet at 160 degrees, the meat is still mouthwateringly juicy and tender, but hot enough to kill salmonella bacteria.
If you can't find your thermometer, you can tell that poultry is done when the juices run clear, without any hint of pink. For whole birds, tip until the juices run from the cavity. For pieces, make a small cut and peek inside.
To check doneness for slow-cooked braises and stews, insert a two-pronged fork into the meat. If it grips your fork, return it to the heat. If it slides off easily, it's time to eat.
Small thin strips and cutlets cook so quickly, it doesn't make sense to use a thermometer. Rapidly sear them over very high heat for incredibly juicy and flavorful meals.
* This guide applies to whole and cut-up chicken and turkey. For safe cooking temperatures using ground meat, please refer to a recipe.