Iva Carter
Published by Iva Carter
Last Updated On: September 15, 2023

I still remember the first time I cooked turkey for Thanksgiving. I proudly brought home the turkey I had spent half an hour selecting, only to be completely thrown by a plastic contraption around its legs. This resulted in a lot of googling and phone calls to my friends to find out what to do with it.

I’ve been cooking turkey for the last decade, so now I know exactly what to do with the plastic thing in a turkey.

Here’s what my friend chef advised and what I learned over the last ten years of turkey cooking.

Quick Summary

  • Plastic parts in turkey are hock locks, which tie the legs together, and a pop-up timer, which checks the internal temperature and ensures the turkey is fully cooked.
  • Plastic parts are oven safe, but if you plan to fry the turkey, you should remove them.
  • Use clean scissors to remove the plastic items from the turkey.

What’s the Plastic Thing in a Turkey?

a table with species and a plastic thing in Turkey

The plastic thing in a turkey is called a hock lock. This plastic leg holder holds the turkey legs together, and its purpose is to ensure the turkey stays in form. It also stops the turkey from flailing during the wrapping.

The plastic leg holder attached to the hocks (legs) blocks the entrance to the turkey cavity [1]. A hock lock is usually made of thick plastic but can also be made of metal.

Some turkeys have another piece of plastic in them, which is called a pop-up indicator. As the name says, this pops up when the turkey is cooked.

A pop-up temperature indicator is fairly reliable, but you should also use a meat thermometer on different parts of the bird during the cooking process to prevent ending up with unevenly cooked meat.

Should You Remove the Plastic Thing from Turkey

whole turkey in the oven

Yes, you should remove the plastic thing from the turkey.

Here’s why:

  • It can prevent even cooking - If the turkey’s legs are tied together, the heat can’t circulate around the inner surface, so you end up with unevenly cooked turkey meat. For example, turkey breast meat is usually overcooked because you have to wait for the turkey’s legs to get to a safe temperature.
  • You don’t know if the neck and giblets have been removed - A hock lock makes it difficult to check if these parts have already been removed.
  • You can’t stuff the turkey - If the bird’s legs are tied, it’s difficult to reach inside and stuff the turkey.
  • You’re deep-frying turkey - It’s unsafe if you plan to deep-fry a whole turkey. Plastic pieces will melt in hot oil.
  • Unreliable pop-up indicator - If you’re cooking turkey in the oven, you can use the pop-up timer. But, if you plan to smoke or fry it, it likely won’t show the correct temperature.
  • Plastic-wrapped giblets - If the giblets are wrapped in plastic, they’ll melt, and you’ll have an inedible turkey. Melted plastic release dangerous chemicals [2].

There are also advantages to keeping the legs tied. It means the turkey is pre-trussed, and the legs won’t fall over or off during the cooking. The result is a nice-looking bird and a better presentation on the table.

Also, most hock locks are plastic and made of heat-resistant nylon. A plastic hock lock is heat resistant up to 500 degrees. This means you don’t have to remove the hock lock and can safely roast the turkey without worrying about plastic.

But, if you’ll be deep-frying the turkey or if the lock is made of metal, you should remove the hock lock.

"A hock lock secures the hind legs—or hock—of a chicken or turkey. It can be made of heat-resistant nylon or metal, and it's perfectly safe to leave it in the bird while it roasts.”
- U.S. Department of Agriculture

Also Read: Buffalo Turkey Meatballs Recipe

How to Remove Plastic Things from a Turkey

removing plastic things in Turkey

You remove the plastic things from a turkey by cutting with sturdy scissors or kitchen shears. Hock locks are made of hard plastic, so you need to apply some pressure. Cut the plastic clip in several places until it falls off.

Note: Make sure to clean the scissors and shears before you remove the hock lock, as they’ll come into contact with raw poultry.

It’s easier to remove the pop-up timer than the hock lock. If the turkey is thawed, you can just pull it out.

Or, if you can’t pull it out, use a sharp knife to clear around the edges. Cut pieces near the holes where the bird’s legs are placed so that you can slide out the legs more easily.

In case you’re roasting the turkey and don’t want to get rid of the plastic parts, you can easily remove them after cooking by pulling them out.

Related Articles:


Is There Plastic in Turkey?

Yes, there’s plastic in turkey. There’s a plastic leg holder called a hock lock around turkey legs. Neck and giblets can be wrapped in plastic, and a turkey can have a plastic pop-up indicator that checks the temperature.

Do You Remove Mesh from a Turkey?

No, you don’t remove the mesh from a turkey. The mesh holds the turkey together during the roasting, and you remove it after the bird is roasted.

Can I Leave the Neck in the Turkey?

No, you can’t leave the neck in the turkey, especially if it’s wrapped in plastic. The plastic melts and releases harmful chemicals, and you can’t eat the turkey.

Should You Remove the Plastic Holder from Your Turkey?

The plastic piece you see on the turkey is called a hock lock and holds the turkey legs together. It’s usually made of heat-resistant nylon, so you can leave it on during the roasting.

However, you should remove the hock lock because it can make the turkey cook unevenly.

If you want to buy a quality turkey with the least amount of plastic for the safest and most delicious cooking results, ButcherBox is a good place to start.

The animals are allowed to roam free, which results in juicy meat. Moreover, they are shipped frozen in eco-friendly packaging. To learn more about this meat delivery company, check out our review of ButcherBox.


  1. https://archive.nytimes.com/dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/2
  2. https://www.sentryair.com/plastic-fumes.htm
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