How To Cook A Turkey

From prepping and basting to roasting and carving, get all the tips you need to cook your bird.

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Roast turkey uncovered for 20 minutes per pound.
  • Cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees measured at the thigh.
  • Let rest 20 minutes before carving.

How to Roast Your Turkey

Cooking a turkey is actually really easy, it just takes some time. Just follow these steps to prepare the turkey for roasting in the oven:

  • Remove the packet of giblets from the cavity of the bird and save them for gravy or stuffing.  Next, rinse the bird inside and out and pat dry with paper towels.
  • If you are stuffing the bird, stuff it loosely, allowing about 1/2 to 3/4 cup stuffing per pound of turkey.
  • Tie drumsticks together with string, and brush the skin with melted butter or oil.
  • Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. The thermometer should point towards the body, and should not touch the bone.
  • Place the bird on a rack in a roasting pan, and into a preheated 350 degree F (175 degrees C) oven. To determine how long to cook a turkey, use this chart to estimate the time required for baking.
 Weight of Bird  Roasting Time (Unstuffed)  Roasting Time (Stuffed)
10 to 18 pounds  3 to 3-1/2 hours  3-3/4 to 4-1/2 hours 
18 to 22 pounds  3-1/2 to 4 hours  4-1/2 to 5 hours 
22 to 24 pounds  4 to 4-1/2 hours  5 to 5-1/2 hours 
24 to 29 pounds   4-1/2 to 5 hours 5-1/2 to 6-1/4 hours 
  • Bake until the skin is a light golden color, and then cover loosely with a foil tent. During the last 45 minutes of baking, remove the foil tent to brown the skin. Basting is not necessary, but helps promote even browning.
  • The turkey is done when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F (75 degrees C) at the thigh.
    Video: How to Prep and Roast Turkey

Other Cooking Methods

Roasting a turkey is the easiest cooking method: the oven remains a constant temperature, and it’s easy to baste the turkey and check the internal temperature periodically. But for the adventurous, grilling or deep-frying a turkey provides a different experience and frees up your oven for other dishes.

Deep-Fried Turkey
Grilled and Smoked Turkey

Almost Done

The only reliable test for doneness is the temperature of the meat, not the color of the skin. The turkey is done when the meat reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F (75 degrees C) at the thigh. If your turkey has been stuffed, it is important to check the temperature of the stuffing. The stuffing should be 165 degrees F as well.

When the turkey is done, remove from the oven, and transfer to a platter or another roasting pan. Cover the turkey with aluminum foil, and allow to stand for 20 minutes before carving. Keep the turkey in a draft-free area so it doesn’t cool off too much while it rests. This rest will allow the meat to relax and the juices to redistribute throughout the turkey. If you carve it straight out of the oven, much of the juice will run out onto your cutting board, and your meat will be dry.

Turkey Carve

Finishing Touches

While the turkey is resting, pour the juices from the roasting pan into a glass measuring cup or a small saucepan. Let the juices stand about 10 minutes so the fat will float on top where it can be easily removed. Pour some water or poultry stock into the roasting pan, and return to the oven, or bring to a simmer on the stove. Scrape up the browned bits from the pan, and use this liquid along with the reserved juices to make a gravy.
Video: How to Make Turkey Gravy

Pro tip: warm your serving platter in the oven about five minutes before you put the sliced turkey on it. You’ve gone to too much work to serve cold turkey!

After resting, transfer the turkey to a cutting board, and use a sharp knife to carve the meat. Need help carving? See the links below for our step-by-step article and a video showing you how.
Video: How To Carve a Turkey

Have more questions? Get the answers to the most commonly asked Thanksgiving Cooking Questions.

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