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Don't Ask Your Mom How To Microwave A Turkey, Just Read What The Experts Say

Because a lot of you have apparently been wondering.

Last weekend, the 25-pound turkey challenge went viral. If you're not in the know, the prank involves people asking their parents or friends how to microwave a 25-pound turkey, a question that will elicit laughs and lots of judgment from the askee. (Guaranteed.)

@CoplenChristian / Via Twitter: @CoplenChristian

And by the way, it's not too late to still pull the prank on your loved ones.

Well, then we started thinking: Can you actually cook a turkey in a microwave?

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We've already learned it's possible and okay to thaw turkey in a microwave. But can you actually cook it in a microwave?

The answer? A resounding YES.


According to Butterball rep Nicole Johnson, if your turkey fits the microwave AND doesn't touch the sides or top of the oven, you're fine to cook it in your favorite insta-appliance. Here's exactly what you need to do to make sure it's cooked properly:

You should also make sure your turkey doesn't exceed 14 pounds, as that's the maximum size that'll fit in a conventional microwave oven with enough clearance around the bird for heat to go around.

"Before starting, make sure the turkey is fully thawed," Johnson says.

Flickr / Memphis CVB / Via

Here's our guide on how to thaw turkey, depending on whatever timeline you're on.

Oh, and obviously, don’t put your bird in a foil pan when you microwave it.

Place the turkey in a microwave-safe dish, and microwave it at 100% power for four minutes per pound of turkey you have (so, a 12-pound turkey would need 48 minutes in the microwave).


Cook it breast side down (it'll look kind of silly) and when you're done with this first phase of microwaving, remove all the drippings that might've collected on your dish.

After this initial heating phase, microwave your turkey at 50% power for eight minutes per pound of turkey you have (so, a 12-pound turkey would need 96 minutes).


The objective of this slower, low-power cook is to ensure your turkey is evenly heated, Johnson says. And if your microwave doesn't have a rotating turntable, make sure to pause the microwave and rotate your bird every 15 minutes or so to make sure every part of it is getting adequate heat treatment.

When time's up, check that the meat is heated to 180ºF in the thigh and 170ºF in the breast. This will mean the turkey is ready to be served. 👌

James Bo Insogna / Getty Images

Since you're not crisping the meat in a conventional oven, the microwaved turkey will look pretty pale, and you might want to brush it with a browning sauce (which you can make by combining a stick of butter, a quarter teaspoon of paprika, and an eighth teaspoon of Kitchen Bouquet or Gravy Master).

As a skeptic, I HAD to fact-check this info with a USDA rep. And what do you know — USDA rep Archie Magoulas confirmed you can, indeed, safely cook a turkey in a microwave. As he said, "As long as the thickest part of the turkey reaches a temperature of 165ºF, it's ready to be eaten." 😮


The USDA actually even has an official guide to how to cook your turkey in a microwave.

The one major tip the USDA had was to let the meat rest after microwaving it, so you don't cut into a freshly cooked bird and squirt turkey juices all over your kitchen (and lose all that flavor!).

Jannhuizenga / Getty Images

Also, don't try and microwave a turkey with stuffing (it may not cook adequately) or try microwaving a turkey bigger than 14 pounds. That's the maximum sized turkey the USDA recommends cooking in a microwave oven. "It's just a matter of practicality," Magoulas tells BuzzFeed. "You need the clearance for heat penetration and circulation, and a big bird (for example, a 25-pound bird) won't fit in a microwave very well (or at all!)."

So what if you have a 25-pound turkey that you still really want to cook in a microwave? Portion your turkey into two 12.5 lb parts and follow the instructions above

You're welcome, kids.

Oh, and if you have any outstanding turkey microwaving questions, you can direct them to the Butterball Turkey Talk Line, which can be reached (at zero charge to you) by phone at 1-800-288-8372 or by text at 1-844-877-3456.

Here are their hours:

November 1st - 16th: 8 am - 8 pm (Monday - Friday)

November 17th - 18th: 8 am - 6 pm

November 19th - 20th: 7 am - 9 pm

November 21st: 7am - 10pm

November 22nd (Thanksgiving Day): 6 am - 6 pm

November 23rd - December 21st: 8 am - 6 pm (Monday - Friday)

December 22nd - 23rd: 8 am - 2 pm

December 24th (Christmas Eve): 8 am - 2 pm

You can read more about the Turkey Talk Line team and the wonderful, holiday dinner-saving work they do every year here.