Turkey cooking times: Charts & tips to help you roast the perfect bird

Old-fashioned turkey roasting tips and times

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How long do you need to cook your turkey? While making a roasted turkey for Thanksgiving is about as vintage American as it gets, our turkey cooking times and tips offered here are based on the most up-to-date standards.

If you want to skip the how-to tips, just scroll down or use these links to skip directly to modern-day turkey cooking tables:

COOKING CHARTS FOR UNSTUFFED TURKEYS

Turkey icon (1)Butterball method: Unstuffed turkey cooking times (Regular oven)

Turkey icon (1)USDA method: Unstuffed turkey cooking times (Regular oven)

Turkey icon (1)Butterball method: Unstuffed turkey cooking times (Convection oven)

COOKING CHARTS FOR STUFFED TURKEYS

Turkey icon (2)Butterball method: Stuffed turkey cooking times (Regular oven)

Turkey icon (2)USDA method: Stuffed turkey cooking times (Regular oven)

Turkey icon (2)Butterball method: Stuffed turkey cooking times (Convection oven)

Carved roasted turkey
Picture by fahrwasser/Deposit Photos

Old-fashioned turkey roasting tips & times

From turkey cooking times to all the various steps involved in prepping the bird, it turns out advice for roasting a Thanksgiving turkey has changed quite a bit over the years, especially from a food safety standpoint.

So while roasted turkey for Thanksgiving as a concept is about as vintage American as it gets, our turkey cooking advice today is offered according to the most up-to-date standards.

For starters, while your grandmother may have thawed her turkey on the countertop, we now know that this is a risky approach — you need to keep your turkey in the refrigerator while thawing to avoid the risk of food poisoning. (It will take about one day to defrost every 4 to 5 pounds.)

If you’re in more of a hurry, you can use cold water to help take off the chill. How? Leave the original plastic packaging intact, and submerge it in a pot or large container so it’s totally covered. Change the water every 30 minutes, and expect that it will take about half an hour per pound. 

What else? It’s no longer recommended that you rinse your bird — just pat it dry instead. (Rinsing apparently provides no benefits, and splashes turkey germs around your kitchen.)

MORE: What did people have for Thanksgiving dinner years ago? Take a look back at some traditional holiday menus

Beautiful brown roast turkey ready to carve
Picture by fahrwasser/Deposit Photos

How to cook a turkey

Roasting your turkey with the breast-side up is the recommended practice these days. When the turkey has been cooked about two-thirds of the way, use a piece of aluminum foil to shield the breast so it doesn’t overcook.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, the turkey itself can be considered fully cooked when a meat thermometer reads 165F in the innermost part of the thigh (the thigh is where the body is attached to the drumstick), the thickest part of the breast, and the innermost part of the wing. Be sure the thermometer doesn’t hit bone, which can register a much higher temperature. 

Let the roast stand for 15-20 minutes before you carve it. When you’re ready to eat, here are some tips for how to carve a turkey, step-by-step and with illustrations.

Measuring temperature of whole roasted turkey
Picture by belchonock/Deposit Photos

A few notes about stuffed turkeys

While stuffed turkeys are another thing that used to be the norm, these days, more and more people are cooking the stuffing separately — both for the sake of efficiency and because of food safety concerns.

Stuffed turkeys take longer to cook, and special care needs to be taken to be sure that the stuffing — which has all the turkey juices running through it — is thoroughly cooked, reaching a temperature of 165 F.

Raw stuffed turkey before roasting
Raw stuffed turkey picture by rojoimages/Deposit Photos

As a bonus, here are some handy recipes for the perfect Thanksgiving feast, as timeless as they are vintage:


Thanksgiving - autumn - fall icon (011)

Butterball method: Unstuffed turkey cooking times (Regular oven)

Unstuffed turkey weight Cooking time at 325F
6 to 7 pounds 2 to 2-1/2 hours
7 to 10 pounds 2-1/2 to 3 hours
10 to 18 pounds 3 to 3-1/2 hours
18 to 22 pounds 3-1/2 to 4 hours
22 to 24 pounds 4 to 4-1/2 hours
24-30 pounds 4-1/2 to 5 hours

Thanksgiving - autumn - fall icon (010)

USDA method: Unstuffed turkey cooking times (Regular oven)

Unstuffed turkey weight Cooking time at 325F
6 to 7 pounds 2 to 2-1/2 hours
7 to 10 pounds 2-1/2 to 3 hours
10 to 18 pounds 3 to 3-1/2 hours
18 to 22 pounds 3-1/2 to 4 hours
22 to 24 pounds 4 to 4-1/2 hours
24-30 pounds 4-1/2 to 5 hours

Thanksgiving - autumn - fall icon (026)

Butterball method: Unstuffed turkey cooking times (Convection oven)

Unstuffed turkey weight Cooking time at 325F
6 to 7 pounds 2 to 2-1/2 hours
7 to 10 pounds 2-1/2 to 3 hours
10 to 18 pounds 3 to 3-1/2 hours
18 to 22 pounds 3-1/2 to 4 hours
22 to 24 pounds 4 to 4-1/2 hours
24-30 pounds 4-1/2 to 5 hours

Thanksgiving - autumn - fall icon (017)

Butterball method: Stuffed turkey cooking times (Regular oven)
Stuffed turkey weight Cooking time at 325F
6 to 7 pounds 2 to 2-1/2 hours
7 to 10 pounds 2-1/2 to 3 hours
10 to 18 pounds 3 to 3-1/2 hours
18 to 22 pounds 3-1/2 to 4 hours
22 to 24 pounds 4 to 4-1/2 hours
24-30 pounds 4-1/2 to 5 hours

Thanksgiving - autumn - fall icon (106)

USDA method: Stuffed turkey cooking times (Regular oven)
Stuffed turkey weight Cooking time at 325F
8 to 12 pounds 3 to 3-1/2 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3-1/2 to 4 hours
14 to 18 poounds 4 to 4-1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds 4-1/4  to 4-3/4 hours
20 to 24 pounds 4-3/4 to 5-1/4 hours

Thanksgiving - autumn - fall icon (020)

Butterball method: Stuffed turkey cooking times (Convection oven)
Stuffed turkey weight Cooking time at 325F
6 to 10 pounds 1-3/4 to 2-1/2 hours
10 to 18 pounds 2-1/2 to 3-1/4 hours
18 to 22 pounds 3-1/4 to 3-3/4 hours
22 to 24 pounds 3-3/4 to 4-1/4 hours

Want to see other suggestions? Check out these turkey roasting tips & timetables from top poultry authorities:

Foster Farms | Jennie-O | Butterball | Honeysuckle White | Jaindl | Bell & Evans | USDA


Go old school! How to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving: Two classic methods from 1911

From The Commoner (Lincoln, Nebraska) December 1, 1911

How to cook a turkey (old-fashioned method 1)

It is supposed that nearly every housewife knows how to clean the turkey, but of course, there are many newlyweds, or housewives beginning housekeeping for the first time, who will have to learn how to cook a turkey. For the cooking after the bird is dressed, there is need of considerable care, and we give a few instructions.

Vintage Thanksgiving turkey dinner postcard

After stuffing and trussing the bird, dredge flour over it and place it, breast down, in the baking pan, pouring in the pan a cupful of boiling water. Set the pan on the floor of the oven and bake for two hours, basting frequently with the water in the pan.

At the end of that time, turn the bird over on its back and rub a little melted butter over the breast, then bake for another hour on the bars of the oven, basting frequently. If the breast seems to be browning too quickly, lay a piece of buttered paper over it.

A ten-pound turkey requires three hours steady roasting. Test by running the prongs of the carving fork into the body just inside of the leg; if the juice which runs out shows no redness, as of blood, the turkey is done; if it does, cook a little longer.

Boil the gizzard for fifteen minutes in salted water; drain and chop fine. Remove the bird from the baking pan to a heated platter and set in the oven with the door open while preparing the gravy.

For the gravy, pour off some of the fat from the baking pan and thicken the remainder with a tablespoonful of flour which has been slightly browned on a tin plate; season with salt and pepper and add the chopped giblets. Let the whole boil up once and pour into a heated gravy boat. Put a paper frill on the end of the turkey’s drumsticks and a plume of celery on its breast.

Before dressing, either draw the tendons from the drumsticks yourself, or get the butcher to do it for you. The drumsticks will be nice and tender, and far more edible, if this is done.

Vintage Thanksgiving dinner postcard 1910

How to cook a turkey (old-fashioned method 2)

Wash the fowl well inside and out and take a small stale loaf of homemade bread, crumble it very fine, rub into it a quarter of a pound of the best butter. Add a pint of oysters chopped fine and seasoned well with pepper and salt.

Fill the turkey, put the legs in the slits made in drawing it, tie the wings close to the body and the skin of the neck over the bone; rub the whole over well with sweet lard, and it is then ready for the oven.

Put a little water into the baking pan to prevent burning and baste the turkey frequently while it is roasting. A large turkey will require 2-1/2 hours to cook. If preferred, chestnuts boiled and mashed can be used for stuffing and will be found delicious.

ALSO SEE: 10 Victorian Christmas side dishes from the 1800s – most of which actually sound pretty good

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