How Long to Cook a Turkey


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Correct Turkey temperatures and cook times can make your holiday cooking a breeze and your turkey a tender juicy success! We love everything about turkey dinner, starting with the perfect classic roast turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes; and don’t forget the gravy!

Thinking about holiday meals shouldn’t stress you out! We’re going to take the confusion out of roast turkey so you can set-it-and-forget-it and you can enjoy the holidays stress-free.

A cooked turkey on a serving tray with a bed of rosemary, thyme and cranberries.

What Temperature to Cook a Turkey

Cook a turkey at 325°F. Place turkey, breast side up in a sturdy shallow pan that can hold the juices as the turkey roasts, you’ll need these juices to make gravy with!

Before cooking, the most important thing is to prepare your raw turkey properly. Make sure it is fully thawed so it cooks evenly (and safely) once it gets into the oven. Thawing from frozen is critical for a safely prepared turkey. Keep it in its original packaging while thawing so it doesn’t leak anywhere and create a food safety hazard.

A raw turkey in a roasting pan with veggies. Garnished with parsley, thyme, and rosemary.

How Long to Cook a Turkey

The general rule for cooking an unstuffed turkey is 20 minutes per pound, and a stuffed turkey of the same size will generally take about another hour. Basically, a 15-pound turkey should take a little less than 4 hours to roast. Always be sure to your turkey with a meat thermometer and make certain it reaches a safe 165°F in the center of the stuffing and in the meat.

Stuffing should always be chilled (and never warm) before stuffing a turkey and should only be stuffed right before cooking.

Turkey Cooking Times:

  • 14 to 18 pounds
    • Unstuffed: 3-3/4 to 4-1/2 hours
    • Stuffed: 4 to 4-1/2 hours
  • 18 to 22 pounds
    • Unstuffed: 3-1/2 to 4 hours
    • Stuffed: 4-1/2 to 5 hours
  • 22 to 24 pounds
    • Unstuffed: 4 to 4-1/2 hours
    • Stuffed: 5 to 5-1/2 hours
  • 24 to 30 pounds
    • Unstuffed: 4-1/2 to 5 hours
    • Stuffed: 5-1/2 to 6-1/4 hours

How Long to Cook a Turkey Breast

Oven roasted turkey breast is an easy alternative for those looking for a smaller meal!

Cover the roasting pan loosely with aluminum foil while it cooks to keep the skin on the breast brown and the meat moist. Roast for 20 minutes per pound. Insert a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the breast and remove from the oven when the temperature reaches 165°F.

Close up of a digital thermometer in a roasted turkey showing the internal temperature of 165°F.

How to Check the Temperature of a Turkey

Always put the thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh or breast, being sure to avoid any bones or piercing all the way through to the cavity. For a turkey breast, insert thermometer into the center. According to the USDA, a fully cooked turkey will register 165°F in both the meat and the stuffing.

A turkey will continue to cook a bit once it’s removed from the oven so I personally remove it from the oven at about 160-162°F as it reaches 165°F as it rests. Let it rest about 20 minutes before carving so the juices can get sealed in. If your turkey is stuffed, be sure to scoop the stuffing out and put it in a separate dish before carving.

How To Rest a Turkey Before Carving

Keep an eye on your turkey towards the end of the cook time. If the skin starts to brown too much, cover very loosely with foil for the last 1/3 of cooking time.

Once the turkey gets fully cooked internally, remove the bird from the oven and let the bird ‘rest’ before carving for about 20 minutes. Simply remove the turkey from the oven, and set it on a rack. At this point, I remove the turkey from the roasting pan and set it on a rimmed baking sheet. This allows me to use the juices to make the perfect turkey gravy.

Resting turkey (or any larger piece of meat) gives the flesh a chance to ‘seal’ up the outer flesh and keep the juices sealed in. It’s a common practice and for a good reason, it keeps the meat juicy and perfect for slicing and serving!

Our Favorite Roast Turkey Recipe

Don’t Forget To Add These Sides To Your Turkey Dinner!

Overview of a roasted turkey in a roasting pan.
Overview of a roasted turkey in a roasting pan.
Top photo - Overview of a roasted turkey in a roasting pan. Bottom photo - A cooked turkey in a roasting pan with a meat thermometer in the breast.

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Holly

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Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!

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