How to Cook a Turkey: How Long Should You Cook Turkey?

Staff Writer
Follow these tips to avoid overcooking your turkey
How to Cook a Turkey

Cook a juicy and moist turkey this Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is quickly approaching and cooks across the country are finalizing their menus and organizing for the big feast. While trying to split your time between entertaining guests and cooking about a dozen dishes, sometimes it’s hard to not get caught up in the Turkey Day chaos. But it’s important to not overlook one of the most important parts of the day — the turkey. Cooking the turkey to the right temperature is crucial to achieving moist and succulent meat. We’ve rounded up a few helpful and easy-to-follow charts to ensure you cook the best turkey.

Click here to see Thanksgiving Stuffing Reinvented in 8 New Ways (Slideshow)

If you are roasting your turkey, cook it until it reaches a light golden color. Then loosely cover it with a foil tent. During the last 45 minutes of roasting, remove the foil tent and brown the skin. Basting frequently throughout will also promote even browning. These temperatures are based on a 350-degree oven.

Turkey Weight

Roasting Time (Unstuffed)

Roasting Time (Stuffed)   

4 to 6 pounds

1½ to 2 ½ hours

2 ½  to 3 hours

6 to 8 pounds

2 ½ to 3 hours

3 to 3 ½ hours

8 to 12 pounds

3 to 4 hours

3½ to 4½ hours

12 to 16 pounds

4 to 5 hours

4½ to 5½ hours

16 to 20 pounds

5 to 5½ hours

5 ½ to 6 hours

20 to 24 pounds

5½ to 6 hours

6 to 6½ hours

Frying a turkey takes a fraction of the time it takes to roast one. Remember to always fry outside in an open area. Also, smaller birds work better for frying and you shouldn’t stuff your turkey if frying. And always take caution when cooking with hot oil. These temperatures are based on 350-degree oil.

Turkey Weight    

Frying Time

4 to 6 pounds

12 to 18 minutes

6 to 8 pounds

18 to 24 minutes

8 to 12 pounds

24 to 36 minutes

12 to 16 pounds

36 to 56 minutes

16 to 20 pounds   

56 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes

20 to 24 pounds 

1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 24 minutes

Although your turkey may be golden brown, remember that the only true test to tell if a turkey is done is by taking the internal temperature. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, making sure that the internal temperature reads 165 degrees.  To get an accurate reading, make sure that the thermometer is calibrated correctly and is not touching bone. If your turkey is stuffed, the temperature of the stuffing should read 165 degrees. When the turkey is done, let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving to redistribute the juices and make carving easier.

Emily Jacobs is the Recipe editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyRecipes.

For more turkey talk, head over to The Daily Meal's Guide to Thanksgiving

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