Cooking Time for Thanksgiving Turkey: A Pound by Pound Guide
Prepping and cooking your Thanksgiving turkey is no small endeavor. Anything that large is difficult to cook in the oven because the outside inevitably cooks faster than the inside. But fear not, here's a guide for how long it takes to cook a turkey to the right temperature while maintaining its succulence. With this guide, you can't go wrong. Just make sure you don't routinely pop open the oven to baste your bird as it could mess with the oven temperature—not to mention, it's just unnecessary.
Size and Stuffing Matter
If you haven't already bought your turkey, we advise that you buy a turkey between 12 and 15 pounds because anything larger than that will not cook as evenly—meaning certain portions of the bird will be overcooked while other portions are just reaching the proper temperature. If you have to get a 24-pound monster, we'll still provide a range for your turkey cook time, but know that the texture of the meat will most likely be tougher and not as juicy. Also, a stuffed turkey takes more time to cook than an unstuffed one, so time your preparations accordingly.
When it comes to the cooking time for your bird, you should be more concerned with the temperature of the meat than the actual time. The times listed below are a guideline to help you plan the approximate time required to cook your Thanksgiving headliner to the right temperature, but always use a thermometer to determine doneness. Remove the turkey from the oven when a thermometer inserted in the thickest portion of the breast registers 155°F. As the bird rests outside the oven, the temperature will continue to rise to the perfect point.
Your oven temperature for turkey should be 325°F for a for a slow, steady roast. Preheat your oven to 325°F and use the following timetable. You can also find more information on FoodSafety.gov.
8 – 12 lb Turkey Cooking Time:
2 hours, 45 minutes to 3 hours (unstuffed)
3 hours to 3 hours, 30 minutes (stuffed)
12 – 14 lb Turkey Cooking Time:
3 hours to 3 hours, 45 minutes (unstuffed)
3 hours, 30 minutes to 4 hours (stuffed)
14 – 18 lb Turkey Cooking Time:
3 hours, 45 minutes to 4 hours, 15 minutes (unstuffed)
4 hours to 4 hours, 15 minutes (stuffed)
18 – 20 lb Turkey Cooking Time:
4 hours, 15 minutes to 4 hours, 30 minutes (unstuffed)
4 hours, 15 minutes to 4 hours, 45 minutes (stuffed)
20 – 24 lb Turkey Cooking Time:
4 hours, 30 minutes to 5 hours (unstuffed)
4 hours, 45 minutes to 5 hours, 15 minutes (stuffed)