How Long To Cook A Turkey: A Pound-By-Pound Guide

Whether your turkey weighs in at a slim 10 pounds or a hefty 20, we've got the timing all figured out.

When it comes to preparing the perfect Thanksgiving turkey, one size doesn't fit all. And while recipes and "package directions" usually offer some general guidance, they don't always cover all the important factors.

But fear not—you've found the perfect guide for roasting your best turkey, no matter the size. Just check out our handy charts below, and pay special attention the following tips to guarantee your Thanksgiving feast is a delicious success.

Carved Turkey Presentation
Alison Miksch

Fast Turkey Tips

Before we get started on the specifics of turkey roasting times, these handy Q&As may help you understand the numbers below.

What size turkey should I buy?

That depends on how many people you're feeding. On average, look to buy one to one and half pounds per Thanksgiving guest. For 10 people, you'll want a turkey between 10 and 15 pounds.

How long to cook a turkey per pound?

More on this below, but the standard rule of turkey roasting time says 13 minutes per pound for unstuffed birds and 15 minutes per pound for the stuffed ones.

At what temperature should I cook the turkey?

Techniques for cooking a turkey vary. Some cooks swear by starting the bird off at 450°F to get a crispy skin. We like a steady temperature the whole time, and 325°F is the ideal turkey roasting temperature in our books.

How will I know when a turkey is done?

Grab your meat thermometer, and stick the probe in the thickest part of the turkey thigh. When it reads 165°F, your bird is cooked.

How long should a turkey rest before carving?

Resting the turkey before carving is essential to prevent all that delicious moisture from escaping, so make sure you let the turkey rest at least 15 minutes once it's out of the oven.

To Baste or Not to Baste?

That is indeed the question, right? While basting your turkey may seem as close to Thanksgiving gospel as a Norman Rockwell painting, it isn't as necessary or as helpful as you may think.

Read more about our take on basting, but the gist is this: The more you open that oven door to baste your bird, the longer it's going to take to roast evenly. And if you have a long line of Thanksgiving side dishes waiting to bake up golden brown and bubbly, that's precious time you don't want to waste. So keep that oven door closed as much as possible.

To Stuff or Not to Stuff?

There are a lot of food safety debates when it comes to filling your turkey with stuffing (we all know it's dressing, right?), so we won't get into that right at this moment. But we'd be remiss to not point out that baking a stuffed-to-the-brim bird takes longer than baking an unstuffed bird.

Stuff or don't stuff—that's totally up to you. Just know it does take a bit longer to bake. Don't worry: The handy charts below cover that, too!

How Big Is Too Big?

If you haven't already bought your turkey, we advise that you buy a turkey that's between 12 and 15 pounds—anything larger could result in uneven cooking. If you must buy a 24-pound turkey, we'll still provide a time range, but we recommend buying two smaller birds instead.

The Right Temp to Cook a Turkey

If you'd like to keep things simple, set your oven temperature to 325°F for a for a slow, steady roast. Preheat your oven to 325°F, and use the timetable below.

You can also find more information on FoodSafety.gov. If you're more adventurous, there's more than one way to roast a turkey. But if you already have enough on your plate (and it's Thanksgiving, so you surely do!), stick to a trusty 325°F.

How to Tell When a Turkey Is Done

When it comes to the cooking time for your bird, focus on the temperature of the meat rather than the actual time. The times listed below are a guideline to help you plan the approximate time required to cook your Thanksgiving turkey to the right temperature, but we highly recommend using a meat thermometer to determine doneness. Remove the turkey from the oven when a thermometer inserted in the thickest portion of the thigh registers 165°F.

Thanksgiving Turkey Cooking Time By Pound
Southern Living

8 – 12 lb Turkey Cooking Time:

2 hours 45 minutes - 3 hours (unstuffed)

3 hours - 3 hours 30 minutes (stuffed)

12 – 14 lb Turkey Cooking Time:

3 hours - 3 hours and 45 minutes (unstuffed)

3 hours 30 minutes - 4 hours (stuffed)

14 – 18 lb Turkey Cooking Time:

3 hours 45 minutes - 4 hours 15 minutes (unstuffed)

4 hours - 4 hours 15 minutes (stuffed)

18 – 20 lb Turkey Cooking Time:

4 hours 15 minutes - 4 hours 30 minutes (unstuffed)

4 hours 15 minutes - 4 hours 45 minutes (stuffed)

20 – 24 lb Turkey Cooking Time:

4 hours 30 minutes - 5 hours (unstuffed)

4 hours 45 minutes - 5 hours 15 minutes (stuffed)

Turkey Size Unstuffed Cooking Time Stuffed Cooking Time
8 - 12 pounds 2 hours, 45 minutes - 3 hours 3 hours - 3 hours, 30 minutes
12 - 14 pounds 3 hours - 3 hours, 45 minutes 3 hours, 30 minutes - 4 hours
14 - 18 pounds 3 hours, 45 minutes - 4 hours, 15 minutes 4 hours - 4 hours, 15 minutes
18 - 20 pounds 4 hours, 15 minutes - 4 hours, 30 minutes 4 hours, 15 minutes - 4 hours, 45 minutes
20 - 24 pounds 4 hours, 30 minutes - 5 hours 4 hours, 45 minutes - 5 hours, 15 minutes
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