How to cook a Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving Turkey how to

With social distance requirements limiting the number of people gathering together around the table for this year’s Thanksgiving meal, you may have found yourself cooking your own turkey this year.

Fear not! We have put together a guide to help you determine how long to cook your turkey to the right temperature while maintaining juicy deliciousness in every bite. Whether you’re roasting a whole turkey for the first time, or just need your yearly refresher, this guide will help you through the steps to a perfect turkey:

Thanksgiving Turkey Cheat-Sheet

  • How big of a turkey to buy? Buy 1 to 1 1/2 pounds turkey for each guest.

  • How to thaw a frozen turkey? Be sure to let your turkey completely thaw before cooking. Read our post to learn all about safely thawing your bird.

  • What temperature to cook the turkey? Preheat the oven to 450°F then drop the temperature to 350°F after putting the turkey into the oven.

  • How long to cook the turkey? 13 minutes of cooking time for each pound of turkey if roasting empty and 15 minutes per pound if stuffed. Check the temperature about ¾ of the way through that time, and then again every 10 minutes, and roast until the temperature reads 165°F (or 150°F as the case may be) when checked at the thickest part of the thigh and the thickest part of the breast.

Turkey Cooking Time

Turkey Cooking Time:

8 – 12 lb Turkey

  • 2 hours, 45 minutes to 3 hours (unstuffed)
  • 3 hours to 3 hours, 30 minutes (stuffed)

12 – 14 lb Turkey

  • 3 hours to 3 hours, 45 minutes (unstuffed)
  • 3 hours, 30 minutes to 4 hours (stuffed)

14 – 18 lb Turkey

  • 3 hours, 45 minutes to 4 hours, 15 minutes (unstuffed)
  • 4 hours to 4 hours, 15 minutes (stuffed)

18 – 20 lb Turkey

  • 4 hours, 15 minutes to 4 hours, 30 minutes (unstuffed)
  • 4 hours, 15 minutes to 4 hours, 45 minutes (stuffed)

20 – 24 lb Turkey

  • 4 hours, 30 minutes to 5 hours (unstuffed)
  • 4 hours, 45 minutes to 5 hours, 15 minutes (stuffed)

  • What temperature should the turkey be? The turkey is done when it registers a minimum of 165° in the thickest part of the thigh.

  • How long to rest the turkey? Rest the turkey for at least 15 minutes before carving.

  • How to carve the turkey? Carving a turkey is just like carving an extra-large chicken: Remove the wings first, and then the thighs — pop out the joints that keep these pieces attached to the bird and cut straight through the joint. When carving the breast meat, slice close to the rib cage with the flat of your knife right up against the rib bones. Once you have the meat off, you can separate the thighs into thighs and drumsticks, and carve the breast meat into individual slices.

  • When to make the turkey gravy? Do it while the turkey is resting. Move the turkey to a cutting board and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. This way you can use all those tasty pan drippings for gravy making. Not sure how to make gravy? Try this easy recipe made with 5 simple components.