For the Thanksgiving table, the turkey is a home cook’s crowning glory. Sure, the mashed potatoes and gravy keep your guests coming back for seconds, but turkey is the main event — and you don’t want your holiday dinner to be a sideshow.
There’s a lot that goes into getting your bird right — spices, basting, brining — but how long to cook a turkey is probably the most important thing you need to know. There are a lot of variables that go into perfecting your bird, so we put together this quick guide on how long to cook a turkey for a memorable Thanksgiving.
How long to cook a stuffed turkey per pound
If you haven’t bought your turkey yet, it’s a good idea to know how long it takes to cook a bird based on how much it weighs — that will determine how much time you spend in the kitchen and when you can use the oven for side dishes.
A general rule of thumb for cooking an unstuffed turkey is to roast it at 325°F (163°C) for approximately 15 minutes per pound. The following lists typical turkey weights and cooking times that you might come across at the grocery store or butcher.
- 8-12 pounds: 3-3.5 hours at 325°F (163°C)
- 12-14 pounds: 3.75-4 hours at 325°F (163°C)
- 14-18 pounds: 4-4.25 hours at 325°F (163°C)
- 18-20 pounds: 4.25-4.75 hours at 325°F (163°C)
- 20-24 pounds: 4.75-5.25 hours at 325°F (163°C)
How long to cook an unstuffed turkey per pound
Thanksgiving tradition dictates that we fill the turkey cavity with stuffing. Not everyone likes to cook stuffing that way, but if you choose to stuff your turkey, a stuffed turkey takes a little longer to cook than an unstuffed turkey. The safe internal temperatures are as follows:
- 8-12 pounds: 2.5-3 hours at 325°F (163°C)
- 12-14 pounds: 3-3.75 hours at 325°F (163°C)
- 14-18 pounds: 3.75-4.25 hours at 325°F (163°C)
- 18-20 pounds: 4.25-4.5 hours at 325°F (163°C)
- 20-24 pounds: 4.5-5 hours at 325°F (163°C)
It should be noted that stuffing should be cooked to a minimum temperature of 165°F (74°C) to ensure it’s safe to eat. It’s recommended to insert a meat thermometer into the center of the stuffing to check the turkey’s internal temperature.
Checking the internal temperature of cooked turkey
If you asked your grandmother how she knows how to tell if a turkey is done cooking, she’d probably tell you that when the “juices run clear” the turkey is done.
But there’s been a lot of innovation in the kitchen since your grandma started cooking — now you just need a meat thermometer to tell you when your turkey is done. One of the fastest meat thermometers out there, the Typhur InstaProbe takes just 0.5 seconds to give you a highly accurate result. The OLED screen also ensures that it’s easily readable, even with any steam that flies out of the oven!
Note: Learn where to put the thermometer in turkey.
Here’s how to use the Typhur InstaPorobe to check the internal temperature of cooked turkey:
Step 1. Locate the thickest part of the turkey, which is usually the thigh or the breast. This is where you will insert the InstaProbe thermometer.
Step 2. Insert the probe of the InstaProbe thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey. Make sure the probe is inserted deep enough to reach the center of the meat, but avoid touching the bone as this can affect the accuracy of the reading.
Step 3. Wait for the thermometer to register the temperature. This will take less than 1 second. The temperature reading will be displayed on the digital screen of the thermometer. When it reaches the desired temperature, you can pull the bird out of the oven and let it rest.
If you want a leave-in thermometer to track turkey temperature on time, use the Typhur Sync wireless meat thermometer.
Tips for cooking a turkey
Cooking a great turkey goes beyond how long it stays in the oven. Here are a few tips on how to ensure a juicy and flavorful turkey.
- Thaw the turkey properly. If you’re using a frozen turkey, make sure to thaw it in the refrigerator for several days before cooking it. A good rule of thumb is to allow one day of thawing time for every four pounds of turkey.
- Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C). This is the recommended temperature for cooking a turkey, as it ensures that the meat cooks evenly and thoroughly without drying out.
- Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. Cook the breast meat to 157°F/69°C for moist, juicy turkey. Since dark meat, like a thigh, needs higher temperatures for the collagen to melt, our recommendation for tender dark meat is 175-180°F/79-82°C.
- Let the turkey rest before carving. Once the turkey is cooked, let it rest for at least 15-20 minutes before carving it. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, making it juicier and more flavorful.
FAQs about turkey cooking time and temperature
How long will a 5kg turkey take to cook?
The cooking time for a 5kg turkey can vary depending on the cooking method and temperature used. As a general rule of thumb, it’s recommended to cook a turkey for approximately 40-45 minutes per kilogram at a temperature of 325°F (163°C).
Therefore, a 5kg turkey would take around 3-3.5 hours to cook at 325°F (163°C). However, it’s important to use a meat thermometer to check that the internal temperature of the thickest part of the turkey (usually the thigh) has reached 165°F (74°C) before serving to ensure it is fully cooked and safe to eat.
Is it better to cook turkey at high or low temp?
When cooking a turkey, it’s generally recommended to start cooking it at a high temperature to get the skin crispy and then lower the temperature to ensure the meat cooks evenly and remains juicy.
Starting the turkey at a high temperature (around 220-230°C or 425-450°F) for the first 30 minutes to an hour can help to brown and crisp the skin. After this initial high-heat cooking period, you can lower the oven temperature to around 325-350°F (160-180°C) and continue cooking until the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 165°F (74°C).
Cooking a turkey at a low temperature throughout can also be effective, but it can take longer to cook and may result in less crispy skin. Ultimately, the best temperature to cook a turkey depends on personal preference and the cooking method you choose.
To sum up
Hopefully, our guide here helps you the next time you’re prepping for a Thanksgiving or a special occasion. We recommend bookmarking this or saving the guidelines from this article for later use and highly recommend considering a meat thermometer for maximum consistency when you’re tackling roasted meats.
It takes planning, patience, and care – but a turkey (or any good roast) is almost always worth the wait. Don’t forget to let your meat rest after taking it out of the oven!