Iva Carter
Published by Iva Carter
Last Updated On: June 29, 2023

As a professional chef, I have trained many cooks in the art of turkey preparation, and I have seen some panic over the turkey button not popping up.

As an expert in the cooking field, I know much about how pop-up timers work, the issues you may face with them, and the top way to ensure your turkey is cooked thoroughly.

Here’s everything you need to know about it.

Quick Summary

  • A faulty timer or tight plastic casing can prevent the rod from popping up.
  • Pop-up timers work by melting a soft metal thermister that releases a spring and pops up a plastic button.
  • The best way to know when your turkey is done is by using a meat thermometer.

Understanding How Turkey’s Pop-up Timer Works

A cooked turkey with the turkey button not popping

A turkey timer, or pop-up thermometer, is an ingenious invention designed to indicate when the turkey is heated to a safe internal temperature.

A turkey thermometer typically consists of a plastic or metal casing that contains a spring-loaded indicator stick.

The indicator stick is usually attached to a heat-resistant plastic or metal tab and inserted into the turkey breast meat before cooking.

As the turkey cooks in the oven, the heat makes it so the metal melts or the plastic softens, forcing the indicator to stick up. This signals that the turkey is done.

The specific temperature at which the timer springs up may vary depending on the brand and type of timer, but it's typically set to between 165°F and 180°F. 

165°F is the recommended safe internal temperature for cooked turkey, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) [1].

This temperature ensures that any harmful bacteria in the turkey, such as salmonella or campylobacter, are killed in the cooking process, reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses and making guests sick.

4 Reasons Why Timer Is Not Popping

A pop-up timer on a delicious turkey

While using a plastic pop-up timer may seem like a fool-proof way to ensure that your turkey is prepared correctly, many factors can affect the timer's accuracy, leading to an undercooked turkey.

There are several reasons why a turkey timer may not pop up even when the bird is fully ready.

Some of the common causes include:

  1. Positioning: If the turkey button is not inserted correctly into the thickest part of the turkey breast meat, it may not accurately measure the internal temperature of the meat. It's essential to insert the timer into the thickest part of the meat without touching any bones for an accurate reading. Furthermore, if the bird is stuffed, the temperature of the stuffing may prevent the button from activating.
  2. Cooking Time: If you cook the turkey too quickly, the timer may not have enough time to reach the popping temperature. It's essential to follow the recommended cooking time and temperature guidelines for the size of your bird to ensure that it's cooked thoroughly.
  3. Timer Malfunction: Like any other kitchen gadget, turkey timers can sometimes malfunction. The springy coil in the button may be faulty, the plastic casing may be too tight, or the metal or plastic may not melt or soften properly, causing the timer not to pop up even when the meat has finished cooking.
  4. Overcooked Turkey: On the other hand, if you cook the turkey for too long, the timer may pop up and fall back down due to prolonged exposure to heat. This can result in a turkey that is overcooked and dry, even though the timer hasn't popped up.

"USDA recommends using a food thermometer even if the turkey has a pop-up temperature indicator to ensure it has reached 165 F"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture

Buying a Pop-up Timer

A woman in the kitchen using her phone to buy a pop-up timer online

When you purchase pop-up timers for your turkey, it is crucial to choose an accurate one. Look for pop-up thermometers made of durable materials and have a reliable spring mechanism that can accurately gauge the turkey's temperature.

Only purchase a turkey thermometer from reputable brands and read reviews from other customers to ensure you get a quality product. Avoid cheap brands that are less likely to work correctly, increasing the risk of poorly prepared turkey.

Some pop-up timers are designed to be inserted into the turkey before cooking, while others can be put in after the turkey is partially done.

Buy pop-up timers that are easy to insert and have clear instructions.

Additionally, check the temperature at which the timer is set to pop up, as some timers may have different settings. Purchase a timer that pops up at around 165°F to ensure your turkey is heated to a safe internal temperature.

4 Best Ways to Take the Temperature of a Turkey

Taking the temperature of a turkey using meat thermometer

While pop-up timers can be convenient, the most reliable and accurate way to determine if a turkey is fully cooked is by using a decent meat thermometer.

Here's the correct way to take the temperature of a turkey when you use a meat thermometer:

  1. Place the temperature probe into the thickest part of the bird’s breast, inner wing, and thigh, avoiding any bone. Ensure the thermometer is inserted deep enough to reach the center of the meat.
  2. Wait for a few seconds until the reading on the thermometer stabilizes. Repeat this procedure in the dark meat - the innermost part of the thigh and wing, again ensuring you do not contact the bone in either location.
  3. If the temperature reads 165°F or higher in all three places, the turkey meat is fully done and safe to eat [2]. If the temp is below 165°F, put the bird back in the oven and recheck the temperature in a different spot to ensure accuracy. Some people think that dark meat tastes better when heated to 175°F or higher, but it is safe at 165°F.
  4. Once the turkey reaches the recommended temperature, remove it from the oven or smoker and let it rest for at least 20 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in a more moist and flavorful turkey.

Related Articles:


What Does It Look Like When the Turkey Button Springs?

When the turkey button or pop-up timer springs, it looks like a small rod pops up through a small hole in the turkey's surface. It may also be accompanied by a slight sound or click.

How Do You Reset a Turkey Pop-up Timer?

You can reset a turkey pop-up timer by heating the base of the timer in hot water while pushing the plastic stick back into the timer. Once the timer has cooled off and the melted metal hardened, the spring stick should be reset.

Should You Rely on a Turkey Temperature Button?

The turkey button or pop-up timer in the breast indicates if a turkey is done, but I don’t recommend you cook with one since many factors can lead to the turkey button not popping. A reliable meat thermometer is the most accurate way to determine the internal temperature of a turkey.

We have tried and tested the industry’s top brands for the best meat thermometers you can use for grilling and smoking, all of them powered by Bluetooth technology.

These products are reliable, dishwasher-safe, and made from sturdy and durable materials.


  1. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/poultry/turkey-basics-safe-cooking
  2. https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2021/11/17/keep-your-thanksgiving-full-turkey-and-free-foodborne-illness
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