How Long To Cook Turkey: The Ultimate Guide

  • 4 min read
  • Oct 14, 2023
Pin by Nicole Starnes on family dinners Thanksgiving cooking, Turkey
Pin by Nicole Starnes on family dinners Thanksgiving cooking, Turkey from

Greeting to Ihsanpedia Friends

Hello, Ihsanpedia Friends! Today, we are going to delve into the art of cooking the perfect turkey. Whether you are a seasoned chef or a beginner in the kitchen, knowing how long to cook turkey is essential for a delicious and safe meal. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the ideal cooking times, tips for a juicy turkey, and answer some commonly asked questions. So let’s get started!


When it comes to cooking turkey, timing is everything. Undercooking can lead to potential health risks, while overcooking can result in a dry and tasteless bird. The key is to find the perfect balance to ensure a moist and flavorful turkey that will impress your guests.

Before we dive into the specifics, it’s important to understand that the cooking time for a turkey depends on several factors, including the weight of the bird, cooking method, and desired doneness. The following guidelines will give you a general idea, but always rely on a reliable meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature reaches the safe minimum.

Now, let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of different cooking times to help you determine how long to cook your turkey.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Different Cooking Times

1. Shorter Cooking Time:


  • Less time spent in the kitchen, allowing you to focus on other dishes
  • Potentially juicier meat if cooked properly


  • Higher risk of undercooking, leading to potential health hazards
  • Requires careful monitoring to prevent drying out the turkey

2. Longer Cooking Time:


  • Lower risk of undercooking, ensuring food safety
  • Easier to achieve desired doneness without drying out the meat


  • More time-consuming
  • Potential for overcooking, resulting in dry turkey

Cooking Time Table

Turkey Weight Unstuffed Cooking Time Stuffed Cooking Time
8-12 lbs 2.75-3 hours 3-3.5 hours
12-14 lbs 3-3.75 hours 3.5-4 hours
14-18 lbs 3.75-4.25 hours 4-4.25 hours
18-20 lbs 4.25-4.5 hours 4.25-4.75 hours
20-24 lbs 4.5-5 hours 4.75-5.5 hours

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I know when my turkey is done?

It is crucial to check the internal temperature of the turkey using a meat thermometer. The thickest part of the thigh should reach a minimum temperature of 165°F (74°C) for safe consumption.

2. Should I stuff the turkey?

Stuffing the turkey adds flavor but also increases the cooking time. Make sure to stuff loosely and check the internal temperature of both the turkey and stuffing to ensure they reach safe temperatures.

3. Can I cook a partially frozen turkey?

It is recommended to thaw the turkey completely before cooking to ensure even cooking. Cooking a partially frozen turkey can result in uneven cooking and potential food safety risks.

4. How can I prevent my turkey from drying out?

Basting the turkey with butter or oil throughout the cooking process can help keep it moist. Additionally, tenting the turkey with foil during the first few hours of cooking can prevent excessive moisture loss.

5. Can I use a cooking bag?

Cooking bags can help retain moisture and reduce cooking time. However, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use a meat thermometer to ensure the turkey is fully cooked.

6. Should I let the turkey rest before carving?

Allowing the turkey to rest for 20-30 minutes after cooking will help the juices redistribute, resulting in a more flavorful and tender bird.

7. How should I store leftover turkey?

Leftover turkey should be stored in airtight containers or freezer bags and refrigerated within two hours of cooking. It can be safely stored in the refrigerator for up to four days or frozen for longer storage.


Cooking the perfect turkey is a skill that can be mastered with practice and the right knowledge. By understanding the advantages and disadvantages of different cooking times, using a reliable meat thermometer, and following these guidelines, you can confidently cook a delicious turkey that will impress your guests. Remember to always prioritize food safety and enjoy the process of creating a memorable holiday meal. Happy cooking!


Q: How long should I cook a 15-pound turkey?

A: An unstuffed 15-pound turkey typically requires around 3.75-4.25 hours of cooking time. If stuffed, it may take 4-4.25 hours. However, it’s important to rely on a meat thermometer for accurate results.

Q: Can I cook a turkey overnight?

A: It is not recommended to cook a turkey overnight as it requires regular monitoring to ensure it reaches the safe minimum internal temperature. It’s best to plan your cooking time during the day.

Q: What is the best temperature to cook a turkey?

A: The oven temperature for cooking a turkey should be set at 325°F (163°C). This allows for even cooking and reduces the risk of drying out the meat.

Q: Can I stuff the turkey the night before?

A: It is not recommended to stuff the turkey the night before as this can increase the risk of bacterial growth. Stuff the turkey just before cooking for food safety reasons.

Q: Can I brine the turkey?

A: Brining the turkey can enhance flavor and juiciness. If you choose to brine, make sure to follow a reliable recipe and adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Q: Can I use a slow cooker to cook a turkey?

A: While it is possible to cook a turkey in a slow cooker, it is not recommended for food safety reasons. Slow cookers may not reach the necessary temperatures to kill bacteria, increasing the risk of foodborne illnesses.

Q: Can I cook a frozen turkey?

A: It is possible to cook a frozen turkey, but it will require a longer cooking time. It is recommended to thaw the turkey completely for even cooking.

Q: How do I carve a turkey?

A: To carve a turkey, start by removing the legs and wings, followed by slicing the breast meat. There are many tutorials available online that can guide you through the process.

Q: Can I use a convection oven?

A: Yes, a convection oven can be used to cook a turkey. However, the cooking time may be reduced, so it’s important to monitor the internal temperature to prevent overcooking.

Q: What should I do if my turkey is not cooking evenly?

A: If your turkey is not cooking evenly, you can rotate the pan halfway through the cooking time or use a foil shield to protect certain areas from excessive browning.

Q: Can I use a brining bag instead of a traditional brine bucket?

A: Yes, a brining bag can be used as an alternative to a brine bucket. Make sure the bag is food-grade and large enough to accommodate the turkey and brine mixture.

Q: Can I cook a turkey on a grill?

A: Yes, grilling a turkey is possible and can add a smoky flavor. However, it requires careful monitoring and indirect heat to ensure even cooking.

Q: Can I stuff the turkey with fruits or vegetables?

A: Stuffing the turkey with fruits or vegetables can add flavor and moisture. However, make sure to remove them before carving and serving to avoid potential food

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