Do I Take the Plastic Thing off the Turkey – Avoid Kitchen Disasters

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When you’re cooking a turkey for the first time, you’ll notice that there are many things you have to do to ensure it is fit for the oven. Apart from rinsing the turkey and removing the innards, you may also be wondering, “Do I take the plastic thing off the turkey?” That’s a good question!

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Today, we’re dishing out all the details on how you can keep your turkey dinner from going south by following a few rules when it comes to removing the plastic from your turkey. Ready to learn more? Let’s jump in. 

Do I Take The Plastic Thing Off The Turkey – Avoid Kitchen Disasters

Table of Contents

Hock Locks on Turkey

So what is the plastic thing holding turkey legs together, anyway? 

This plastic “thing” is often referred to as a “hock lock”. Upon opening your turkey, you’ll usually find one of these contraptions on the turkey’s legs. They are often made of thick plastic, but occasionally, they are made of metal. 

Their purpose? It may not be what you think! Many people assume the hock lock is there to replace the need for trussing the turkey. However, this isn’t completely true. Actually, the plastic piece is designed to help make the packaging of the turkey much easier. The hock locks prevent the bird from flailing as it is wrapped. 

So should you remove the hock lock? Read on to find out!

Do I Remove the Hock Lock?

Yes, it is a good idea to remove the hock lock from a turkey before cooking it. But the reasons why we recommend you remove it might not be what you think.

Despite the hock lock being made of plastic, it is actually usually heat resistant up to 500 degrees F. This means that you can safely cook the turkey with the hock lock still attached and not have to worry about it melting. This is, of course, assuming you use traditional methods of turkey roasting. 

Before we delve into our personal reservations about why you shouldn’t leave the hock lock on before cooking your turkey, we want to note that there are times when doing so could be dangerous. Though hock locks are usually heat-safe up to 500 degrees F, we wouldn’t recommend keeping the hock lock on for a fried turkey. By submerging this plastic piece in hot oil, you run the chance of it melting which could lead to disaster. Instead, remove the hock lock in the manner that we detail below in order to prevent melted plastic from being a star ingredient in your next turkey dinner.

Do I Take the Plastic Thing off the Turkey Legs?

As we’ve already mentioned, it can be wise to remove the hock lock from your turkey’s legs. But the reasons behind this may not be what you think. 

Remember that hock locks are generally safe in the oven up to 500 degrees F. So, why are we recommending you remove it? The reason is two-fold. 

First and foremost, there are usually items inside the turkey that need to be removed before cooking. Taking the hock lock off of the turkey will allow you to reach in and remove these items. Most often, the items found inside the turkey are paper or plastic packages of giblets and gravy. The giblets generally contain the heart, liver, and gizzards. The gravy packets contain, well, gravy!  

Some turkeys may differ as to what they provide. Some may even come with nothing inside. Still, it is important that you check whether or not your turkey has anything hidden in the cavity, as cooking your turkey with the items still intact can ultimately ruin your special dinner.

The second reason we may answer yes to, “Do I have to take the plastic thing on the turkey legs off before cooking?” is that neglecting to do so can cause your turkey to cook unevenly. Though it is commonplace to tie turkey legs together before cooking, it may not actually be a required practice. In fact, many cooking experts are now recommending you leave the turkey legs untrussed.

The reason behind this is simple. By trussing your turkey’s legs, you are inhibiting the airflow when cooking which can lead to unevenly cooked turkey. This can easily evolve into the breast meat of the bird being cooked, while the thigh meat struggles to come to temperature. Thus, it can be far better to remove the hock locks and leave the bird untrussed to ensure even cooking all the way around the turkey.

How to Remove Hock Lock

Now that you know the answer to, “Do you remove the plastic leg holder from turkey?” you may be wondering exactly how to remove the hock lock. That part is–relatively–easy. 

To remove the plastic clip around your turkey’s legs, take a sturdy pair of scissors and clip the pieces. You may cut the pieces near the holes where the turkey’s legs are placed as this will allow the chicken’s legs to slide out more easily. You may also simply cut the hock lock in several places until it falls off. Some even recommend you push the plastic holder back into the turkey’s cavity in order to get it to “release”. Varying methods will depend on the type of hock lock in place. Still, a sturdy pair of scissors should be able to handle the job in most instances. 

Do You Take the Pin Out of the Turkey?

Now, let’s turn our attention to another part of the turkey, and that’s the turkey’s pin. Oftentimes, a turkey will come with a plastic piece in the turkey breast often referred to as the turkey’s “pin” or the “pop up” timer. 

Like the hock lock, the turkey’s pin is also heat-safe, and in fact, is specifically designed to be used in the oven. The purpose of the pin is to let you know when the turkey is done cooking. The pin will essentially pop up, hence the name, to let you know cooking times are complete.

But should you use this pop-up timer to let you know when your turkey is done cooking? Probably not.

Although the pop-up timer can give you a general idea of when the turkey might be done, it is possible that once the timer pops up your turkey is dry, overdone, and may be burning in some places. The result is turkey that may go well on a turkey sandwich, but may not be best served as the main entrée for a holiday dinner.

Also, as may be the case with a trussed turkey, you may have a turkey breast that is cooked and thighs that are undercooked. The best way to gauge the doneness of a turkey is to use a meat thermometer. Once the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees F, you know that the turkey is fully cooked and can be removed from the oven to rest. 

How Do You Take the Plastic Thing Out of the Turkey?

If you are frying your turkey or simply don’t want the pop-up pin to be in there, try pulling the push pin out. It isn’t necessary to keep the pin there if you don’t need it. 

When frying your turkey, you may or may not find the push pin to be helpful anyway. It’s up to you whether or not you choose to use your pop-up timer, but we still recommend using other more viable ways of determining your turkey’s doneness. Using a meat thermometer instead will result in more tender, juicier, and safer meat. 

Remove Plastic From Turkey? Most Times It’s Up to You…

In most situations, whether or not you leave the hock lock and push-pin timer in place on a turkey is completely up to you. We recommend you remove the plastic holder on the turkey to take out the gravy packets and innards before cooking the meat. On the other hand, if you remove the innards but still choose to leave the hock lock on, you may safely do so up to 500 degrees F. 

Remember to always remove the hock lock before frying. 

Happy cooking! 

FAQs

Do you leave turkey legs tied?

No, you don’t have to leave the turkey legs tied. We recommend you untie them to remove the innards, and also, to ensure even cooking.

What is the red plastic thing in my turkey?

The red plastic in the breast of your turkey is a pop-up timer. It lets you know when the turkey is done cooking.

Do you untie turkey legs before cooking?

You can untie turkey legs before cooking as this will ensure even cooking.

Whats the red pin in the turkey?

The red pin in the turkey is the pop-up timer.

Do you cook the plastic thing in the turkey?

It is advised that you remove the hock lock before cooking. However, you can keep it in place if you wish. Always remove the innards from the cavity of the turkey, though. 

What is the plastic thing in a turkey?

You may be referring to the pop-up timer. This can be kept in place but we recommend using a meat thermometer to know for sure if your turkey is fully cooked. 

By Anna

Hey, I’m Anna; writer, editor and amateur cook extraordinaire! Food has been my life and my passion for the most of my life – it’s crazy to think I didn’t pursue a career in cooking. I’m obsessed! However, keeping cooking as an obsessive hobby has worked for me – my passion grows as the years pass by – maybe I wouldn’t say the same if it was also my day job! I hope you find cooking inspiration, entertainment and “stop and think interesting tid-bits” throughout my writing – and I’d love to hear from you if you’ve got anything you want to share. Food feeds the soul – so get eating!

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