How Long Does It Take to Cook a Turkey?

Preparing a Thanksgiving feast can be a marathon of several days. That enormous, shiny turkey is usually the focal point of all the preparations. To help you organize the perfect Thanksgiving, we've included details like how long the turkey needs to roast for, where to find it, and what size turkey you should get.

Check out our Test Kitchen's guide to successfully roasting a turkey.

Refer to this chart to determine how long a turkey (unstuffed) should be cooked in an oven preheated to 325 degrees Fahrenheit for various sizes:

4-6 lb breast Time Range: 1:30 - 2:15 165°F 6-8 lb breast Approximately 2.15-3.15 hours 165°F 8-12 lbs Time Range: 2.45-3.0 Hours 170-175°F 12-14 lbs Time: Between 3 and 3:45 170-175°F 14-18 lbs Duration: approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes to four hours and fifteen minutes 170-175°F 18-20 lbs Four hours and fifteen minutes to four hours and thirty 170-175°F 20-24 lbs 4.30-5.00 hours 170-175°F

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Instructions for Taking a Turkey's Temp

Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey (the thighs) to determine if it is done cooking. To ensure a juicy turkey, cook it to 170–175 degrees for the whole bird and 165 degrees for the breast.

Avoid touching any bone when taking the temperature; doing so can result in an inaccurately high reading and potentially unsafe undercooked meat. If the turkey isn't cooked through the first time, wash the thermometer's probe in hot, soapy water and try again.

Purchasing a meat thermometer For its precision and clear readout, the Thermapen Mk4 thermometer comes highly recommended from our experimental kitchen. The bright ThermoPop is another fan-favorite. Don't put your faith in that pop-up timer that came with your turkey. They frequently fail to pop until the bird is overcooked and dry. And if you use this trick from Ina Garten, you won't have to worry about a dry turkey.

How Big of a Turkey Do I Need?

It's a common question among first-time Thanksgiving hosts: how much turkey should I buy for each guest? Turkey of one pound per person is required. When you can't find a turkey that weighs exactly 12 pounds to feed 12 people, round up. It's preferable to have an abundance of the holiday's signature dish rather than a shortage of it.

Round up to one and a quarter pounds of turkey per person if you're serving a large group or if you want to have plenty of leftovers for the rest of the week. Then you can make some of our favorite dishes with leftover turkey.

How Hot Should I Cook a Turkey?

Our test kitchen suggests maintaining an oven temperature of 325 degrees throughout the duration of roasting a turkey. This is the sweet spot for cooking a turkey; it's cool enough that the bird won't dry out too quickly but warm enough to finish cooking quickly. Make sure your oven is ready for the big day by testing it ahead of time.

Cooking Time for a Turkey Based on Its Weight

When cooking a whole, unstuffed turkey, the rule of thumb is 15 to 20 minutes per pound. Now that roasting a stuffed turkey isn't recommended for food safety reasons (and because it dries out the turkey meat), try one of these crowd-pleasing stuffing recipes instead.

Advice on Preparing a Turkey

Excellent; now you know when to start roasting But before you finalize your Thanksgiving strategy, remember to account for these additional time-consuming steps.

  1. Defrost A turkey will need three to five days to thaw. If you're planning on cooking a frozen turkey for Thanksgiving, give it time to thaw in the fridge.
  2. Start Heating the Oven Allow your oven to reach its optimal temperature, which should take 15–20 minutes. It's best to let your oven come up to temperature, then wait 5 to 10 minutes before putting the turkey inside due to the fact that many home ovens heat unevenly. Before opening the oven door, the heat has a chance to circulate evenly. If you want an evenly cooked turkey, turn it at least once an hour.
  3. Rest Finally, give the turkey at least 30 minutes of rest time before carving. By letting the meat rest, the juices that were bubbling to the surface while cooking can be reabsorb into the meat. Tender, juicy meat results from this absorption. The tenderness of the turkey is lost if it is carved as soon as it is cooked.

Do you wish to perfect your gravy? Master the art of making gravy from leftover cooking juices.

How do I achieve a golden, crispy turkey skin?

The secret to a perfectly roasted turkey is in the preparation. In addition, you probably already have this hidden ingredient on hand. Take the turkey out of its packaging and remove the giblets the day before Thanksgiving. Then, rub the turkey down with kosher salt. Put the turkey back in the fridge until the big day when you'll be roasting it. This method not only adds flavor to the meat, but also helps the skin become crispier after baking.

Not at all, and it has everything to do with heat. Opening the oven door to baste causes heat loss, which causes the bird's skin to cool. If you baste your turkey multiple times during cooking, it will take longer to finish cooking. And meat that has been baked for too long becomes tough and dry.

Try These Fantastic Accompaniments with Your Turkey

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The Date of First Publication Was November 21, 2022

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