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How to Cook a Turkey: How Long Should You Cook Turkey?

How to Cook a Turkey: How Long Should You Cook Turkey?

Follow these tips to avoid overcooking your turkey

Cook a juicy and moist turkey this Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is quickly approaching and cooks across the country are finalizing their menus and organizing for the big feast. While trying to split your time between entertaining guests and cooking about a dozen dishes, sometimes it’s hard to not get caught up in the Turkey Day chaos. But it’s important to not overlook one of the most important parts of the day — the turkey. Cooking the turkey to the right temperature is crucial to achieving moist and succulent meat. We’ve rounded up a few helpful and easy-to-follow charts to ensure you cook the best turkey.

If you are roasting your turkey, cook it until it reaches a light golden color. Then loosely cover it with a foil tent. During the last 45 minutes of roasting, remove the foil tent and brown the skin. Basting frequently throughout will also promote even browning. These temperatures are based on a 350-degree oven.

Turkey Weight

Roasting Time (Unstuffed)

Roasting Time (Stuffed)

4 to 6 pounds

1½ to 2 ½ hours

2 ½ to 3 hours

6 to 8 pounds

2 ½ to 3 hours

3 to 3 ½ hours

8 to 12 pounds

3 to 4 hours

3½ to 4½ hours

12 to 16 pounds

4 to 5 hours

4½ to 5½ hours

16 to 20 pounds

5 to 5½ hours

5 ½ to 6 hours

20 to 24 pounds

5½ to 6 hours

6 to 6½ hours

Frying a turkey takes a fraction of the time it takes to roast one. Remember to always fry outside in an open area. Also, smaller birds work better for frying and you shouldn’t stuff your turkey if frying. And always take caution when cooking with hot oil. These temperatures are based on 350-degree oil.

Turkey Weight

Frying Time

4 to 6 pounds

12 to 18 minutes

6 to 8 pounds

18 to 24 minutes

8 to 12 pounds

24 to 36 minutes

12 to 16 pounds

36 to 56 minutes

16 to 20 pounds

56 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes

20 to 24 pounds

1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 24 minutes

Although your turkey may be golden brown, remember that the only true test to tell if a turkey is done is by taking the internal temperature. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, making sure that the internal temperature reads 165 degrees. To get an accurate reading, make sure that the thermometer is calibrated correctly and is not touching bone. If your turkey is stuffed, the temperature of the stuffing should read 165 degrees. When the turkey is done, let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving to redistribute the juices and make carving easier.

Emily Jacobs is the Recipe editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyRecipes.

For more turkey talk, head over to The Daily Meal's Guide to Thanksgiving

How to Cook a 25-Pound Turkey

Roasting a 25-pound turkey might seem intimidating to even the most experienced cook, but the investment in a meat thermometer will take away both guesswork and anxiety. Knowing how to prepare and season it, as well as the appropriate turkey roasting time, will result in a perfect bird every time.

Thaw Your Pre-Cooked Turkey Breast

If your turkey breast is frozen, thaw it before you start the cooking process. If you thaw your turkey breast in the refrigerator, the USDA recommends allowing 24 hours of thawing time per every 4 to 5 pounds of meat.

If you didn't get your turkey out of the freezer in time, you can also thaw it in cold water. In that case, the USDA recommends allowing about 30 minutes of thawing time per pound of meat.

If you're in a real bind for time, you can also thaw your turkey breast in the microwave. But in that case, the USDA warns that for the sake of food safety, you must cook your turkey immediately after — don't freeze or refrigerate it again — and you'll have to consult your microwave owner's manual for details about what power level and time settings to use.

Finally, the USDA notes that you can cook a frozen turkey breast. But it'll take at least 50 percent longer to be done, so it's well worth taking the time to thaw it out first.

Cooking your Thanksgiving turkey in a Reynolds® Turkey Oven Bag is a great way to ensure your turkey will stay moist and succulent, while turning out deliciously browned. The best part: all the delicious juices stay in the Oven Bag, so you won’t even need to scrub the roasting pan with these easy steps.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Place a Turkey Oven Bag into a large roasting pan that is at least two inches deep. Sprinkle one tablespoon of flour into the bag, and shake to distribute. Then add sliced vegetables depending on the recipe. Turn down the ends of the bag several times to help hold it open while you place the turkey inside.

You&rsquoll Need…

Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey. Then rinse, and pat dry. If you like to stuff your turkey, place stuffing into cavity. Be careful not to overstuff.

Brush the turkey with oil or melted butter, and season as desired. (Not sure what to use for seasoning? Try this herb roasted turkey recipe). Place turkey in the Oven Bag, atop sliced vegetables.

Close the bag with the nylon tie that is found within the Turkey Oven Bag carton. It’s usually folded inside the cooking chart.

Make 6 half-inch slits in the top of the bag, to allow steam to escape as the turkey cooks. Tuck corners of the bag in the pan and trim or fold down the end of the bag, to make sure it doesn’t touch the oven or heating elements when it’s cooking.

Place the turkey on the lowest rack of your oven to roast. No need to baste or attend the turkey. Look at the cooking chart within the Oven Bag carton for estimated time for cooking a turkey in an oven bag. To know when the turkey is done cooking, measure the temperature through one of the cut slits in the top of the bag. Place a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey thigh.

Let turkey stand in the bag for 15 minutes after removing from the oven. Then cut the bag open with cooking shears or a paring knife.

To remove the turkey from the bag, insert serving forks in the neck and chest cavity of the turkey. Then simply lift your Oven Bag Turkey and transfer to a serving dish for dinner. Use the juices to make flavorful gravy to pair with the moist turkey.

If it's any easier, follow these steps in the helpful video below to roast a turkey in an oven bag for your next dinner.

Watch the video:

You should only rotisserie cook turkeys that weigh 12 lbs. or less.

  1. Remove the giblets and neck from a thawed fresh turkey. The turkey should be completely thawed for even, safe cooking.
  2. Drain juices and blot with paper towels.
  3. Do not stuff your turkey. Cook stuffing separately in a casserole dish in the oven.
  4. Tie the wings and legs to the body to prevent flopping. Be sure the neck skin is pulled back and caught under string or skewered back.
  5. Place one spit prong on a spit. Insert the spit from the neck to the tail. Insert the second spit prong and secure it tightly. For the most secure balance, position one prong at a right angle to the other prong.
  1. Test the balance by rotating the spit in your hands. If it’s unbalanced, re-thread it and tighten the prongs. The turkey must be balanced for even cooking.
  2. Insert the meat thermometer into the thigh, but not touching the bone.
  3. Brush the turkey with vegetable oil or spray it with cooking spray for best appearance.
  4. Place the spit on the rotisserie and grill according to the type of rotisserie being used:
  1. Cook the turkey to an internal temperature of 180° F in the thigh and 170° F in the breast as measured with a meat thermometer.

When cooking two turkeys at one time, the cook time is not doubled. Time is according to individual weight of each turkey, not combined weights.

How Long To Cook a Turkey per Pound

The best turkey cooking times for your bird, plus a handy chart!

You&rsquove prepped your Thanksgiving pies, assembled the green bean casserole and your make-ahead gravy is ready for serving. Now it&rsquos time to tackle that Thanksgiving turkey. Determining how long to cook a turkey will anchor your entire Thanksgiving Day timeline, so it&rsquos crucial to learn exactly when to put that bird in the oven, and when to take it out for the perfect Thanksgiving dinner. Quick note: The temperature of your turkey is really the best way to tell if it&rsquos done, rather than how much time it&rsquos been in the oven. So, invest in a great meat thermometer and stop stressing about undercooked poultry for good.

Turkey cooking times depend on the size of your bird and what temperature you cook your turkey. A 12-pound bird will cook more quickly than a 20-pound monster, which is just one of the reasons why we suggest buying two smaller birds (or cooking one whole turkey and one turkey breast) if you&rsquore feeding a crowd. The longer the bird stays in the oven, the more likely it is to dry out. If you cook a turkey at 325 or 350℉, it will take longer to cook than at higher temperatures. The Test Kitchen agrees that 375℉ is the best temperature to cook a turkey, because it&rsquos not too hot, not too cold, and cooks quickly enough to ensure that a juicy, flavorful bird is ready by dinnertime.

When it&rsquos finally Turkey Day, turn your oven on to 375°F and roast the bird using our chart&rsquos cooking times as a guide. When it&rsquos done, a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the turkey&rsquos thigh should register 165°F. Cover it loosely with foil and let it rest for at least 25 minutes before carving, serving, and enjoying.

Oven Bag Turkey Recipe

If you're a novice cook or want to try a new method to cook an entire turkey, our oven bag recipe is the easiest around. It will yield juicy and tender meat and crispy skin, and will avoid entirely the brining or basting steps that most turkey recipes require. By trapping the moisture and heat, oven bags cook the bird faster and make it a breeze to collect all the juices to start making the gravy while the turkey rests. A seasoned butter is placed under the skin to provide extra moisture during cooking, and those buttery drippings make a great gravy base.

Oven bags have been around for many decades, and if you ask, probably whoever was in charge of the cooking during your childhood holidays might have used an oven bag. The classic bag technique is an easy way to cook turkeys and chicken, but it's also a great tool for cooking lamb shanks and pork or beef roasts. Make sure you buy one of the nylon or polyester FDA-approved bags—that is also BPA free—before you start cooking, but most importantly, check that the bag you're using is a proper oven bag, not a brining bag or plastic bag.

Our method is very forgiving, and if by any chance, you overcook the bird, the moisture in the bag will still help you have juicy meat. Once you learn how to cook a turkey in a bag, you will never go back to another method again.

Making Turkey Burger Patties

Ground turkey is stickier than ground beef, so lay down a piece of wax paper, wet your hands and spread the meat out on the sheet. Season liberally with salt and pepper, and other herbs, spices and aromatics. Minced garlic or onion, finely diced celery or bell pepper, parsley, thyme, sage, oregano. Pre-made mixes like poultry seasoning, Italian seasoning or herbes de Provence also work well in turkey burgers. Add curry powder or chili powder if you want some kick. A splash or two of steak sauce, Worcestershire sauce or hot sauce is tasty, too.

Form patties about 4 inches in diameter and 3 inches thick. While seasoning and shaping the ground turkey, work it as minimally as possible. The more you manipulate and pack it, the gooier it gets, and the denser and chewier the turkey burgers come out. Make a wide but shallow depression in the top of the patties so they end up flat after rising during cooking.

Should You Cook Your Turkey in Parts?

Have you ever sat down for Thanksgiving dinner, assembled your plate, taken a bite, and thought, This turkey is okay, but it's just too moist and evenly cooked? Me neither. Let me make a prediction: You will never have that reaction to a traditional roast turkey.

Here's the problem with turkey: above 145°F or so, white meat begins to dry out. Dark meat, with its connective tissue, on the other hand, has to be cooked to at least 165°F. How do you cook a single bird to two different temperatures? It's difficult at best, and downright impossible at worst, even more so when you consider the variation in shape and thickness of turkey meat, especially on the breast of a large bird.

Turkey Talk

Separating the dark meat from the white is the only way to nail the 20-degree temperature differential between properly cooked thighs and breasts. As a delicious added plus, separated legs can be slow-cooked to break down their connective tissue and provide a wonderfully silky mouthfeel.

As for the reasons to tie the breast into a cylindrical roast, look no further than Kenji's post on turkey-stuffed turkey from last year:

Even cooking. Because of its symmetrical shape, the turkey heats through along its entire length at the same rate. Nobody gets stuck with a dry piece.

Better seasoning. By removing the breasts from the carcass, you expose more surface area, allowing the seasonings to reach the space between the breasts, hence reaching the center of the turkey roll. Similarly, brining is more effective (though with low temperature cooking and an even shape, brining is wholly unnecessary).

Crisper skin. While it's possible to get crisp skin on this beast by popping it back into a 500°F oven for a few minutes just before serving, an even better way to do it is to sear it in butter in a big skillet on the stovetop--an endeavor that's reasonably simple with the breast's reduced size and more convenient shape.

Easier carving. With no bones and an even shape, carving this turkey is as simple as slicing a tenderloin.

Better gravy. With the entire carcass of the bird at your disposal, it's easy to make a delicious, very turk-ey gravy. I make mine by chopping up the bones, browning them, making a stock with aromatics, enhancing with some marmite and soy sauce, then thickening. Delicious!

Your family will like you more. Unless you're a control-freak kitchen nazi (I am).

The butchery itself is actually pretty simple, as the video above will demonstrate. Just remember to use a very sharp knife and to use your hands as much as possible.

After separating the appendages and deboning the breasts, I assemble the roast by stacking the breast halves on top of each other smooth-side-out, making sure the thin end of each half is aligned with the thick end of the other half. This guarantees relatively even thickness throughout its length. I wrap the cylinder back up in the skin and truss it with a series of half-hitch knots or. If that's not your bag, you can use several simple granny knots all along the length of the roast.

The easiest way to cook the bird is to roast all of the pieces in a 300°F oven on a couple of rimmed baking sheets fitted with a rack. Pull out the breast when it reaches 145° (tent it with foil to keep it warm) and the legs/wings when they hit 165°F. After that, crank the oven back up to 500°F, and about 15 minutes before you're ready to serve, bang everything back inside to crisp up the exterior skin (or you can sear the breast piece in hot butter in a skillet). All told, roasting should take less than 2 hours for a 12 to 15 pound bird, which is significant savings over a traditional roast turkey. Carve the bird, and serve.

When you take your first bite of juicy, evenly cooked meat, I think you'll agree it's well worth the extra effort of butchery. Well, unless the Swedish Chef is on. Priorities, people.

Thanksgiving Recipes: How Long Should You Cook a Turkey?

Thanksgiving is both a time to relax with family and friends and stress about the meal that's at risk of either burning in the oven or exposing loved ones to salmonella. While cooking a turkey can seem like a daunting task that's full of mystery, figuring out how long the bird should roast is actually quite easy.

Similarly to other pieces of poultry and meat, the cooking time is dependent on a few factors, one of which is the size. The bigger the bird, the longer the chef needs to reserve oven space. But, determining just how long the star of the Thanksgiving meal needs to cook is dependent on more than just size. Cooking time also depends on the type of oven that's being used.

If you're using a regular oven it's going to take slightly longer than a convection oven, so it's best to select the cooking method ahead of time. Butterball suggested cooking the bird at 325 degrees Fahrenheit in a regular oven.

But, the cooking time isn't just dependent on the size of the bird or the oven that's being used. It's also dependent on if the chef has decided to stuff the bird before putting it in to cook. For an unstuffed bird, Butterball recommended the following cooking times:

  • 6-7 pounds: 2-2½ hours
  • 7-10 pounds: 2½-3 hours
  • 10-18 pounds: 3-3½ hours
  • 18-22 pounds: 3½-4 hours
  • 22-24 pounds: 4-4½ hours
  • 24-30 pounds: 4½-5 hours

Cook times increase slightly if the bird was stuffed before being cooked and change to:

  • 6-7 pounds: 2¼-2¾hours
  • 7-10 pounds: 2¾-3½ hours
  • 10-18 pounds: 3¾-4½ hours
  • 18-22 pounds: 4½-5hours
  • 22-24 pounds: 5-5½ hours
  • 24-30 pounds: 5½-6¼ hours

If multiple dishes are being cooked and oven space needs to be freed up or if the chef finds themselves in a time crunch, it's better to switch the oven to the "convection" setting, if possible. It should still be set to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Butterball, but it cuts down on the required cooking time. For an unstuffed turkey, Butterball recommended:

  • 6-10 pounds: 1½ -2 hours
  • 10-18 pounds: 2-2½ hours
  • 18-22 pounds: 2½-3 hours
  • 22-24 pounds: 3-3½ hours

If the turkey is stuffed and a convection oven is being used, cooking times change to:

  • 6-10 pounds: 1¾-2½ hours
  • 10-18 pounds: 2½-3¼ hours
  • 18-22 pounds: 3¼-3¾ hours
  • 22-24 pounds: 3¾-4¼ hours

Although these are recommended cooking times, the best way to know if a turkey is done roasting in the oven and ready to be served is to look at its internal temperature. When a turkey is fully cooked, the thigh will register at 180 degrees Fahrenheit on a meat thermometer and the breast or stuffing will be 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

Turkey meat that appears pink can be worrisome to some people who believe that it means the bird isn't fully cooked. However, the United States Department of Agriculture explained that as long as the meat has reached the proper temperature, it's safe to eat.