How long should you cook your turkey? It’s the question that plagues most cooks — especially on Thanksgiving day. This handy guide to turkey cooking times will help you plan your day (and make it easier to organize the rest of the sides and desserts that also need oven time).
TURKEY COOKING TIMES
TURKEY OVEN TEMPERATURE
Most turkey recipes have you start with a quick blast of high heat (450˚) then drop the temperature to a gentler 325˚ after 30 minutes. This helps the bird cook through without drying out.
TURKEY TIME PER POUND
At the above temperatures, the rule of thumb recommendation for turkey cooking times is 12–15 minutes per pound, including that initial 30 minutes of high-heat cooking, so here’s how that plays out for different turkey sizes (you’ll notice that the ranges get larger as the bird gets bigger, which makes sense. The colder the bird is going in, the longer it’ll take to cook, and this effect will be greater with a larger bird):
8-pound turkey: 1 1/2 to 2 hours
10-pound turkey: 2 to 2 1/2 hours
12-pound turkey: 2 1/4 to 3 hours
14-pound turkey: 2 3/4 to 3 1/2 hours
16-pound turkey: 3 1/4 to 4 hours
18-pound turkey: 3 3/4 to 4 1/2 hours
20-pound turkey: 4 1/4 to 5 hours
22-pound turkey: 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours
While we include cooking times for larger birds, we don’t actually recommend buying them in such massive portions, as larger birds are more difficult to cook evenly. If you have a big group coming, you’ll be better off buying two 12-pound birds, rather than a 22-pounder.
WHEN IS TURKEY DONE?
Check turkey doneness by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh (but not all the way to the bone). It should read 165˚. You can also measure the breast meat (again, without touching the bone), which should read 160˚.
HOW LONG SHOULD TURKEY REST?
Loosely cover with foil and let the turkey sit for 30 minutes to an hour before serving. This allows it to cool and causes the muscle fibers to relax, redistributing those precious juices back into the meat.
After that, all there is left to do is enjoy!
Do you have any turkey cooking time tips or advice? Let us know!