How Long to Cook a Turkey
How long does it take to cook a turkey? It's one of the most frequently asked Thanksgiving cooking questions we get at Allrecipes, so let's get right to the answer!
How long you cook your turkey can vary, depending on the temperature of the oven and whether or not your turkey recipe calls for a stuffed or unstuffed bird. We recommend roasting turkey at 350 degrees F for 13 minutes per pound for an unstuffed turkey. We've done the math for you -- check out the chart below to determine both turkey cook times and estimated servings (with leftovers!).
How Long to Cook a Turkey
Follow this chart for turkey cooking times based on the size of your bird. All cook times are based on placing a whole unstuffed turkey on a rack in a roasting pan and into a preheated 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) oven.
|Turkey Weight||Servings||Cooking Time|
10 to 12 lb
6 to 8
2 1/4 to 2 3/4 hours
12 to 14 lb
8 to 10
2 3/4 to 3 hours
15 to 18 lb
10 to 12
3 1/4 to 4 hours
18 to 20 lb
12 to 14
4 to 4 1/4 hours
20 to 22 lb
14 to 16
4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours
23 to 24 lb
16 to 20
5 to 5 1/4 hours
- Turkey is done at an internal temperature of 165 degrees F
- Allow the turkey to rest for at least 30 minutes before carving and serving
- Using an an oven thermometer and a meat thermometer to get accurate temperature readings is recommended
How Much Turkey to Buy
The general rule is 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of turkey per person, depending on how much you love leftovers! If you're not going to make turkey soup or sandwiches, 1 pound per person is all you will need. If you look forward to leftovers almost as much as the main event, definitely go for 1 1/2 pounds per person. See our Turkey Buying Guide for more tips.
How to Thaw Turkey
Keep in mind a whole turkey can take several days to thaw and the above cooking times are for a completely defrosted bird. In general, after placing the turkey in the refrigerator you need 24 hours of thawing time for every 5 pounds of turkey, but if it's Thanksgiving morning and your turkey is still frozen solid -- don't worry, you have options! Our Turkey Thawing Guide walks you through three different methods for thawing turkey safely.
How Long to Cook a Stuffed Turkey
A stuffed turkey takes longer to cook than an unstuffed turkey. Roast a stuffed turkey for 15 minutes per pound at 350 degrees F. It is important to check the temperature of the stuffing; it should be 165 degrees F (75 degrees C) when you insert the thermometer into the center of the stuffing.
Related: How to Stuff a Turkey
Pictured: Chef John's Roast Turkey and Gravy
How to Cook a Turkey In Five Easy Steps
Remove the packet of giblets from the cavity of the bird and save them for gravy or stuffing. Next, use paper towels to pat dry the bird inside and out.
- Truss & Brush
Tie drumsticks together with string, and brush the skin with melted butter or oil. See how to truss a turkey.
Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan, and into a preheated 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) oven and follow the cooking times above based on the weight of your bird.
- Tent & Baste
Roast until the skin is a light golden color, then cover the breast loosely with a foil tent to prevent further browning. During the last 45 minutes of roasting, remove the foil tent to brown the skin. Basting is not necessary, but does help promote even browning.
- Rest, Then Carve
When the turkey is done, remove from the oven and allow to rest for 30 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, and makes for easier carving. See how to carve a turkey.
Get more tips and expert advice in our How to Cook a Turkey guide.
How to Know When Turkey Is Done
The only true test for doneness is the temperature of the meat, not the color of the skin. Turkey is done when the thigh meat reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F (75 degrees C). To get an accurate reading, be sure that your thermometer is not touching the bone. See our guide that shows you how to check the temperature of a turkey the right way.
To prevent your turkey from drying out, factor in carry-over cooking while the turkey is resting: The internal temperature of the turkey will continue to rise 5 to 10 degrees once it is out of the oven. You can remove the turkey from the oven when the thigh meat registers 155 degrees F (68 degrees C) and let carry-over cooking do the rest. While the turkey is resting, check the temperature again after 10 minutes to ensure the turkey has reached 165 degrees F.
Make Gravy While the Turkey Rests
Use the 20 to 30 minutes while your turkey is resting to make a delicious gravy. Refer to our step-by-step guide to see how to make turkey gravy from drippings.
How to Carve Turkey
For some of us, carving the turkey is the most intimidating part. If you've remained patient and let the turkey rest before carving, you're already halfway there! Resting the turkey lets the juices redistribute, ensuring that your turkey isn't dry but also avoiding a big juicy mess on your cutting board, making it harder to carve.
See our step-by-step video and guide on how to carve turkey for all you need to know to get the turkey on the table!