turkey on farm at sunset

How Long to Cook a Turkey?

To See Tables Explaining How Long to Cook a Turkey at Various Temperatures and Methods Scroll Down to The Tables or Choose a Cooking Method from The Box Below.

The quick answer to how long to cook a turkey is - until it is done but not over-done. You measure cooking time not so much with a clock - as with a thermometer. This is true because of the many variables associated with cooking such an odd shaped piece of meat. It has a hollow center, thick parts, thin parts, fatty parts, lean parts, bones of various shapes sizes and densities.

Choose a Cooking Temp & Method
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Important Note For All Tables

Turkeys come in different sizes and weights. Some larger birds can weigh less than smaller ones because of the density of the meat or because of injected or absorbed additives.

Add to this the temperature of the turkey when it goes into the oven, the cooking temperature, loss of oven heat caused by opening the oven door, temperature fluctuation caused by the oven thermostat, incorrect oven temperature caused by a miscalibrated thermostat, uneven oven temperatures, even altitude will effect cooking time.

And when we move to the backyard, the list includes: outdoor temperature, wind, and numerous other factors dependant on the cooking method and type of cooker.

So how long to cook a turkey doesn't have a precise answer. There is a range of times when it might be done. To help control some variables, use an oven thermometer to double check your oven's temperature. For outdoor cooking, be sure your grill thermometer is accurate. And always use a meat thermometer. We recommend that you use the type of thermometer that is inserted in the bird during the entire cooking process (a probe thermometer) plus an instant read thermometer to check the temperature of the turkey in several places (and also because of the high failure rate of probe thermometers.)


If you prefer tables in metric click here

The final temperature of the bird, after "resting" for 15 to 20 minutes, should be at least but not much more than 165 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature will continue to rise 5 to 10 degrees after the turkey is removed from the oven.

The only hard part is getting the legs done before the breast dries out. For information about overcoming this problem click here.

Do you want a guide even though you know the times are estimates?

Here is the best information we have for how long to cook a turkey. Use the charts below to get an idea of cooking times for turkey, but check the temperature up to an hour in advance to be certain you don't overcook.

A probe thermometer, designed to stay in the meat during cooking lets you keep watch on the turkey's temperature without opening the oven door. And, if you need to get it done faster you can always crank up the heat. (See more information about thermometers under the turkey cooking equipment section.)

Even if you use a good probe thermometer, we always use and recommend a good instant read thermometer to check the turkey in several places to be certain of doneness.

 

Roasted Turkey


For Information About Oven Cooking A Turkey BELOW 325 F. CLICK HERE

How long to cook a turkey - OVEN ROASTING AT 325 DEGREES F.:

This is the traditional cooking temperature. It takes a little longer than higher heat methods, but there is less chance of smoke, and the results are good. To make this method work out even better check out the tips here: TRADITIONAL TURKEY COOKING TIPS.

Weight in lbs.

8 12 14 18 20 24
Time in hours unstuffed 2.75 3 3.75 4.25 4.5 5

Time in hours if stuffed

3 3.5 4 4.25 4.75 5.25

 

How long to CONVECTION COOK a turkey - CONVECTION OVEN ROASTING 325 degrees F.:

Convection ovens can reduce your cooking time. Be sure to check the internal temperature earlier than the time listed. Convection roasting can go more quickly than expected. Again, these times are an average. The 325 degree F. temperature listed here is the true temperature of the oven. Some convection ovens try to help by lowering the oven temperature when set for convection cooking. If your oven lowers the set temperature, set it higher so that the true oven temperature is 325 F.. For more information about convection cooking a turkey click here CONVECTION OVEN COOKING TIPS.

Weight in lbs.

8 12 14 18 20 24
Time in hours unstuffed 1.25 1.75 2 3 4 4.25

Stuffed turkey will take longer and for that reason stuffing the turkey is not recommended. If you want reasons not to stuff a turkey, along with stuffing recipes click here .

How long to cook a turkey - HIGH HEAT OVEN ROASTING at 425 degrees F.:

This is the method sometimes referred to as the two hour cooking method because it cuts the cooking time quite a bit. If you want to try this method refer to additional information here THE TWO HOUR TURKEY.

Weight in lbs.

8 12 14 18 20 24
Time in minutes unstuffed 64 96 112 144 160 192

Time in minutes if stuffed

80 120 140 180 200 240

How long to cook a turkey ON A GRILL at 350 to 400 degrees F.:

Use a 14 or 15 pound bird, larger birds don't cook well on a grill. Don't stuff it. Check your turkey an hour before you think it will be done, timing on a grilled turkey is very imprecise. Here are some tips to make your grilled turkey even better: GRILLED TURKEY.

Weight in lbs.

8 12 14 18 20 24
Time in minutes unstuffed 90 135 180 210 225 270


How long to cook a turkey if DEEP FRYING:

To make your deep fried turkey even better check: DEEP FRIED TURKEY.

A deep fried turkey takes about 3 to 5 minutes per pound when cooked in 350 degree F. oil.

After deep frying at the lower range of cooking time, 3 minutes per pound, check the temperature with an instant read thermometer. If the temperature is 160 degrees F the turkey is done and can be removed to rest. The temperature will continue to rise to 165 degrees F as the bird is resting.

If the turkey has not reached 160 degrees F, return it to the oil, carefully, for more frying.


How long to cook a turkey when ROTISSERIE COOKING:

To make your rotisserie turkey even better click here: ROTISSERIE TURKEY.

A 12 to 14 pound turkey may take from 4 to 5 hours - more or less

There are so many variables. If you doing this outdoors, how cold, warm or windy is it? How hot is your fire? How far from the heat is the meat? How fast is the rotisserie turning?

Using an instant read thermometer is the most reliable way to measure when a rotisserie turkey is done.

If you cook the turkey on a rotisserie inside of a closed grill, the cooking time may be cut in half. But you will actually be "roasting" rather than rotisserie grilling.

ROAST TURKEY BREAST

Cook at 325 F. for 20 minutes per pound until the meat registers 160 F.

EXTRA LARGE TURKEY

So what do you do if you have a turkey larger than any of the timing tables? We had a visitor ask about a 36 pound turkey that she had. The answer is that a 30 pound turkey takes about 4 1/2 to 5 hours when roasted in a conventional oven at 325 F. For every 5 lbs. over the first 30 add an extra half hour. The hard part may be finding a pan or oven large enough - the good part is there may be leftovers.

When roasting a turkey this large it is important to use a digital thermometer to check the final temperature of all parts. With a turkey this large, consider cutting it up before roasting, and removing parts as they reach final temperature.

Before instant read thermometers how did they check for doneness?

Traditionally poultry was said to be "done" when fleshy part of the thigh was soft when pressed, the leg moved easily in its socket and juices ran clear when the inner thigh was pricked with a fork or knife at its thickest part.

We recall using this approach. Too many times we returned the turkey to the oven after it kept flunking the traditional test - cooking it until it completely dried out. Not surprising - because on many large breasted birds the turkey legs take longer to cook that the breast meat.

Today using an instant read thermometer not only lets you know when the turkey is done, it also keeps you from overcooking it.

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