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How Long to Cook a Turkey? (Chart & Guide)

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If you want to enjoy the ultimate taste of turkey, make sure that you cook it perfectly. And perfect cooking means neither undercooked nor overcooked but cooked for exactly how long it needs to be delicious. This is the reason how long to cook a turkey is a frequently asked question. Because with the assurance of taste, you also have to serve the food on time. And if you have decided to prepare Thanksgiving turkey, then timing is the most crucial factor.

How long to cook a turkey depends on many factors. It is stuffed or unstuffed, its weight, properly thawed or not, etc., are the main points to consider. Also, the roasting pan and the cooktop make a difference in timing. So you should know the ideal temperature for roasting turkey. The perfect temperature for cooking a turkey is 325°F. And the time calculation is based on per pound, which is 13 min/lb. The best way is to use a cooking thermometer to measure the temperature for perfect cooking.

There are several recipes for the preparation of Turkey. Also, there are plenty of appliances that you can use to cook the bird. And all these things make a difference in your cooking time. We all want to serve well-cooked juicy slices of turkey. And overcooking may dry it out and reduce the taste. At the same time, there shouldn’t be any hint of pink juice. Because this means your turkey needs to be cooked for more time.

In this article, we have discussed how long to cook a turkey in different conditions. The post also includes guidelines and essential tips for cooking turkey. So read it out and get ready to delight your family and guests with a crispy, juicy turkey.

Guidelines For The Preparation Of Turkey

Turkey is excellent in taste and rich in protein. The roasted turkey has become a traditional Christmas and Thanksgiving dish. But you can prepare and eat turkey any day of the year. But to enjoy the taste of turkey to the fullest, its preparation has to be perfect. Here is how to prepare a turkey and how long to cook it.

1. Thaw Your Frozen Turkey

Thaw Your Frozen Turkey

This is an essential step in cooking a turkey. Because your cooking time depends on how you thaw the bird, it is best to thaw your turkey in the fridge. And the time needed for thawing varies from one day to one week, depending on the bird’s weight. Below is the chart you can follow to decide how long to thaw your turkey.

4–12 pounds: 1 to 3 days

12–16 pounds: 3 to 4 days

16–20 pounds: 4 to 5 days

20–24 pounds: 5 to 6 days

If you forget to thaw the bird on time, then you can cook a frozen turkey too. But remember that cooking a frozen turkey takes fifty percent more time. Also, you need to preheat the oven for cooking frozen turkey. So, thawing is always recommended for safe and healthy cooking.

2. Select The Temperature 

Turkey is cooked at an internal temperature of 165°F that kills all the bacteria. So you need to wait for the temperature to reach this point. And the temperature continues to rise when you switch off the oven, and the bird is on rest. During the resting time, the temperature reaches up to 180°F. So you can select a temperature of 150°F so that it attains 165°F while resting. This ensures the juicy meat of your turkey.

3. Check The Temperature

It is very important to check the temperature while cooking your turkey. In earlier days, people used to confirm the completion of cooking from the color of the bird’s skin. Some pierce forks into the meat to check the juice. If the juice is pinkish, you need to cook the meat for more time. But this method is unreliable, and you may be misled because organic birds remain pink even after being well-cooked. So, it is safe to use a cooking thermometer to check the temperature.

We recommend you check the temperature by inserting the thermometer into the bird’s thigh. Because it is the thickest part of its body that takes the longest time to be cooked. You can either use an instant-read thermometer or a remote thermometer. If you use the instant-read one, it will give you immediate reading. So keep checking the temperature after completion of half cooking time. The remote thermometer is connected to a digital display on your counter. So you need to insert it at the start of cooking.

How Long To Cook Turkey?

The calculation of time is the most important part of cooking turkey. It defines how long you have to keep the bird in the oven for roasting. The general rule is to calculate the cooking time at the rate of 13min/pound for an unstuffed turkey. And for the stuffed turkey, it is 15min/pound. Sometimes the bird’s skin becomes dark before the internal temperature reaches 165°F. In this case, you can wrap the turkey with a buttered aluminum foil. It will save the outer layer of the bird from extra heat and burning. You can refer to the below charts to figure out the cooking time for your turkey.

Cooking Time Chart For Unstuffed Turkey

How long to cook your turkey depends on the oven’s temperature and whether you have thawed the bird or not. In general, you need to roast a turkey at the rate of 13 minutes per pound at 350 degrees F.

WeightCooking Time
8 to 12 pounds2¾ to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds3 to 3¾ hours
14 to 18 pounds3¾ to 4¼ hours
18 to 20 pounds4¼ to 4½ hours
20 to 24 pounds4½ to 5 hours

Cooking Time Chart For Stuffed Turkey

It takes longer for a stuffed turkey to get cooked than an unstuffed turkey. You need to roast a stuffed turkey at the rate of 15 minutes per pound. And the temperature should be selected at 350 degrees F. In a stuffed turkey, you need to check the temperature of the stuffing. But we recommend avoiding roasting stuffed turkeys. Instead, you can bake the stuffing alongside the bird so that it can easily reach the ideal temperature.

WeightCook Time
8 to 12 pounds3 to 3½ hours
12 to 14 pounds3½ to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds4 to 4¼ hours
18 to 20 pounds4¼ to 4¾ hours
20 to 24 pounds4¾ to 5¼ hours

How To Know That Your Turkey Is Perfectly Cooked?

We all expect our roasted turkey to be delicious, which is juicy from the inside and crispy from the outside. And to attain this perfection, The main factor is temperature. You need to take out the bird from the oven when its internal temperature reaches the correct point. So you should start checking the temperature once the half cooking time is completed. And keep checking it every 10 minutes.

The perfect place to check the temperature is the joint of the thigh and breast. Insert the thermometer in the meaty thigh. If it reads below 160 degrees Fahrenheit, close the oven door and continue cooking. Consider the below points when you check the temperature for perfect cooking.

  1. If you want accurate results from temperature checking, you must use an instant-read digital thermometer.
  2. To check the temperature, carefully take the pan with turkey out of the oven and place it on the counter or stovetop. Close the oven door to prevent the escape of heat.
  3. You should hold the thermometer straight above the bird and insert it at the joint of the thigh and breast. It is the thickest part of the body and gets cooked at the end. But make sure that the thermometer doesn’t come in contact with the bone. Otherwise, it will display false reading.
  4. Keep the thermometer inserted until the numbers stop increasing. If the final temperature reads between 160 and 165 degrees F, Your turkey is fully cooked.

Important Tips For Cooking A Turkey

Important Tips For Cooking A Turkey
  • Don’t forget to thaw your turkey in advance. Because it takes a long time and you won’t get time to defrost it on the day of cooking.
  • It is important to preheat your oven to start a perfect roasting.
  • Follow your recipe properly, especially regarding seasoning, butter layering, and stuffing.
  • If there is no cooking thermometer at your home, then buying one would be a good investment. It will help you with perfect cooking.
  • A final blast on high heat gives the turkey a nice and crispy skin.
  • Always calculate the weight of the turkey, including the stuffing you will use.

Conclusion:

So this is the answer to how long to cook a turkey. We have described in detail how to define your turkey cooking time under different conditions. Also, the article has covered important tips for cooking turkey. And how to do the right preparation before you start cooking your turkey. Most importantly, this post describes how to know that your turkey is cooked properly. Because it is very important to avoid overcooking or undercooking. I hope you will love this article and get help from it when you cook a turkey in the future.

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