How Long to Cook a Turkey
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How Long to Cook a Turkey Per Pound

Avoid overcooked turkey this holiday with these handy timetables
How Long to Cook a Turkey
Bochkarev Photography/Shutterstock

While no holiday meal is complete without scrumptious side dishes and an entire table full of festive pies, the real star of Thanksgiving is the turkey. The only thing about turkeys is that, well, most people don’t make them all that often. This big bird can be quite intimidating to cook correctly, and one of the biggest Thanksgiving dinner questions is: How long do I cook the turkey?

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Of course, how long you need to cook your turkey for will depend on how many people you're cooking for and how big of a turkey you buy. It will also depend on which method you use for cooking your turkey. But to keep things simple, let's assume you're going to be classic and roast your bird in the oven.

Though turkey recipes will vary, the general advice is to set your oven to 325 degrees. If cooking it at this temperature, here are the times the USDA recommends for unstuffed turkey:

  • 4-8 pounds (breast): 1½ to 3¼ hours

  • 8 to 12 pounds: 2¾ to 3 hours

  • 12 to 14 pounds: 3 to 3¾ hours

  • 14 to 18 pounds: 3¾ to 4¼ hours

  • 18 to 20 pounds: 4¼ to 4½ hours

  • 20 to 24 pounds: 4½ to 5 hours

It's not generally recommended you stuff your turkey, but if you choose to, the time for roasting is increased:

  • 6 to 8 pounds (breast): 2½ to 3½ hours

  • 8 to 12 pounds: 3 to 3½ hours

  • 12 to 14 pounds: 3½ to 4 hours

  • 14 to 18 pounds: 4 to 4¼ hours

  • 18 to 20 pounds: ¼ to 4¾ hours

  • 20 to 24 pounds: 4¾ to 5¼

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These timelines are just a general recommendation. While your grandma may have cooked by look and taste, the only way to ensure your turkey is cooked all the way through is to take the temperature at the thickest part of the breast and thigh; it’s done when your meat thermometer reads 165 degrees. Don’t rely on those little plastic pop-up timers or the time table alone. Doing so would be one of the biggest turkey cooking mistakes.