How Long Does It Take to Cook a Turkey?

Preparing a Thanksgiving feast can be a marathon of several days. The centerpiece of many Thanksgiving celebrations is the enormous, glistening turkey. 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.

Use our Test Kitchen's turkey-cooking guide to master the holiday staple.

To determine how long a turkey (without stuffing) should be cooked in an oven set to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, consult the following chart.

4-6 lb breast Time Range: 1:30 - 2:15 165°F 6-8 lb breast between 2 and 3 hours and 15 minutes 165°F 8-12 lbs Time: 2.45-3.0 hours 170-175°F 12-14 lbs 3.15–3.45 hours 170-175°F 14-18 lbs Time Required: Between 3:45 and 4:15 170-175°F 18-20 lbs A time range of 4 hours, 15 minutes, to 4 hours, 30 minutes 170-175°F 20-24 lbs Between 4:30 and 5 hours 170-175°F

Get the Graph Here!

The Proper Way to Take a Turkey's Temp

Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey (the thighs) to determine if it is done cooking. A whole turkey should reach 170–175 degrees Fahrenheit, while turkey breast should reach 165 degrees.

Avoid touching any bone when taking the temperature; doing so can result in an inaccurately high reading and potentially unsafe undercooked meat. The thermometer's probe should be washed in hot, soapy water if the meat isn't cooked to the proper internal temperature, and repeated checks should be performed.

Thermometer for meat on the shopping list The Thermapen Mk4 is the best thermometer on the market, according to our Test Kitchen. The vibrant ThermoPop is also a fan favorite. Don't put your faith in that pop-up timer that came with your turkey. When they do pop, it's often too late to prevent the bird from becoming dry and overcooked. And this turkey hack from Ina Garten will help you avoid a dry bird.

To Buy a Turkey of What Size?

It's a common question among first-time Thanksgiving hosts: how much turkey should I buy for each guest? One turkey pound per diner is required. If you're hosting 12 people and can't find a turkey that weighs exactly 12 pounds, 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 prepare delicious dishes from the leftover turkey.

Turkey Cooking Temperature

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 to go the day before the party.

Calculating Turkey Cooking Time by Weight

For an unstuffed turkey, you should plan on 15 to 20 minutes of cooking time per pound. It's best to stick to this method and bake one of these crowd-pleasing stuffing recipes in a separate dish, as roasting a stuffed turkey is no longer considered food-safe (not to mention, it dries out the turkey meat).

How to Prepare a Turkey

Excellent; now you know when to start roasting However, there are a few other time-consuming tasks to consider before finalizing your Thanksgiving strategy.

  1. Defrost It takes about three to five days to thaw a frozen turkey. If you're planning on cooking a frozen turkey for Thanksgiving, give it time to thaw in the fridge.
  2. Let the oven heat up. Allow your oven to heat up for at least 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. Doing so before opening the oven door ensures that heat is distributed uniformly throughout the oven. To ensure an even roast, turning the turkey over once an hour is recommended.
  3. Rest Finally, give the turkey at least 30 minutes to rest before carving. The meat's natural juices, which had been bubbling to the surface due to the high heat of the oven, are reabsorbed during the resting process. Tender, juicy meat results from this absorption. The tenderness of the turkey is lost if it is carved as soon as it is cooked.

Want to perfect your gravy? Learn to make gravy from the juices left in the pan.

The skin on my turkey never seems to get brown and crispy.

The secret to a perfectly roasted turkey is in the preparation. And this special component is already in your kitchen cupboards. 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.

Rather, and this is due to temperature alone Opening the oven door to baste causes heat loss, which causes the bird's skin to cool. The total time it takes to cook a turkey rises with each basting. More cooking time results in dry, tough meat.

Try These Fantastic Accompaniments with Your Turkey

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Date of First Publication: November 21, 2022

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