Cooking time for turkey

Table of Contents

How Long to Cook a Turkey

How long does it take to cook a turkey? It’s one of the most frequently asked Thanksgiving cooking questions we get at Allrecipes, so let’s get right to the answer!

The general rule for cooking a turkey is 20 minutes per pound, but that can vary depending on whether or not your turkey recipe calls for a stuffed or unstuffed bird. Use this handy chart to determine approximately how long to cook it, whether stuffed or unstuffed. Of course, the best way to know if your turkey is cooked to a safe temperature is to use a meat thermometer. (Scroll down for tips.) Insert it properly and check it often.

Image zoom Photo by Meredith

The times on this chart are based on placing the whole turkey on a rack in a roasting pan, and into a preheated 350 degree F (175 degrees C) oven. Your recipe may call for a different temperature and overall time, and your oven may run hotter or cooler. (That’s why you NEED an oven thermometer for the best, most reliable results.) So how long to cook a 20 lb turkey? A 25 lb turkey, 10 lb, a 29 lb turkey, and all turkeys in between? Let’s take a look:

Image zoom Photo by Meredith

5 Easy Tips for Roasting Turkey

  1. Cook the turkey 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.
  2. Basting will not make turkey moister, but will promote even browning of the skin. To get tender and moist turkey meat, try brining it.
  3. The only true test for doneness is the temperature of the meat, not the color of the skin. The turkey is done when the thigh meat reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. To get an accurate reading, be sure that your thermometer is not touching the bone.
  4. If your turkey has been stuffed, it is important to check the temperature of the dressing; it should be 165 degrees F (75 degrees C).
  5. When the turkey is done, remove from the oven and allow to stand for 20-30 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, and makes for easier carving.

Pin This for Easy Reference

Image zoom

Related Recipe Collection and Advice:

  • Need to know how to cook a turkey? We’ve got you covered.
  • Bookmark these Thanksgiving Disaster-Savers, because you never know.
  • Get top-rated Thanksgiving recipes, including turkey, side dishes, and desserts.

Holiday Guide

The main event during the holidays is serving a perfectly juicy and succulent roast turkey to the ones you love. The last thing you want to do is serve an overcooked (or worse, undercooked) bird. Even if this ain’t your first gobbler, it’s good to have a cheat sheet on hand to ensure you’re on track for dinner time. Follow the chart below for a foolproof way to roast a perfect bird for your holiday feast.

How to Roast a Basic Turkey

Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large roasting pan, place thawed turkey, breast side up and tent with a piece of aluminium foil. Bake turkey using the chart below. Remove foil during last hour of cook time. Cook until meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 170°F.

Size of Turkey Unstuffed Stuffed
10-12lbs 3 – 3 ¼ hours 3 ½–3 ¾ hours
12-16bs 3 ¼ – 3 ¾ hours 3 ¾ – 4 ¼ hours
16-20lbs 3 ¾ – 4 ¼ hours 4 ¼ – 4 ¾ hours
20-24lbs 4 ¼ – 4 ¾ hours 4 ¾ – 5 ¼ hours

Top Turkey Cooking Tips

1. If using a frozen bird, ensure it is fully defrosted if before roasting.
2. Take your bird out of the fridge while the oven preheats.
Juices will run clear when the turkey is done. Look at the juices running from the meat around the thigh bone.
3. If you are using a convection oven, your bird will cook in 25 per cent less time. Take 15 minutes off each hour on the recommended times above.
4. After the turkey is removed from the oven, let it rest for minimum 30 minutes. The juices need to resettle into the meat.

Looking for some delicious inspiration? Try Our Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes

There are fewer things more daunting than staring at a gigantic, naked turkey on Christmas morning, especially if you’ve never cooked one before.

But it doesn’t have to be all Nightmare Before Christmas! We’re here so that when your guests start arriving on the big day, you aren’t flapping about your bird being raw or undercooked.

We’ve teamed up with our friends at Kelly Turkeys to put together a checklist of helpful tips, tricks, timings and advice to make sure that your centrepiece is a real showstopper.

  1. First things first, make sure your turkey is going to fit into the oven. Does it? Good.
  2. You’re going to need a roasting tin that’s big enough for the bird with room to spare, and deep enough to catch all the fat and cooking juices.
  3. Make a note of the weight of your bird, and check it again if you have scales big enough at home. Knowing the exact weight will ensure the cooking time is correct, and thus avoid an overcooked and dry bird, or a raw one.
  4. Get your timings right. And don’t forget to leave time for your turkey to rest when it comes out of the oven. Turkeys between 4-6kg should be rested for 1½ hours, and ones from 6-10kg can rest for two hours.
  5. Heat your oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4
    4-5kg – cook 2¼ to 2½ hours
    5-6kg – cook 2½ to 3 hours
    6-7kg – cook 3 hours to 3½ hours
    7-8kg – cook 3½ to 4 hours
    8-9kg – cook 4 to 4¼ hours
    9-10kg – cook 4¼ to 4½ hours
  6. Get your turkey out of the fridge 30 minutes before you cook it. You’ll get less shrinkage when it goes into a hot oven.
  7. Always preheat your oven for at least 20 minutes before cooking your turkey.
  8. Place a trivet of veggies and onions in the bottom of the tray to help make an epic gravy with all the juices.
  9. Cover the turkey loosely with foil, but remove it just under an hour before the timing is up to get the turkey nicely browned.
  10. Roast your bird for the calculated time, or until the juices run clear from the thigh if you pierce it with a knife or a skewer.
  11. Supermarket high-welfare turkey should be cooked to an internal temperature of 70ºC. If you have a dry-plucked, dry-aged, excellent quality bird, you can cook it to 65ºC, as it should be a safer product to eat.
  12. Once cooked, carefully lift the turkey out of the tray and rest on a board. Cover loosely with foil for at least an hour while you get on cooking your roast potatoes.

Watch Jamie show you his failsafe roast turkey recipe here:

And for more advice on buying, preparing and cooking your turkey, check out our ultimate guide.

Roast timer

Welcome to our roast calculator. Select your meat from the drop-down menu and type in your weight, for example turkey, 5.5 kg, then hit Calculate to find out suggested timings and temperatures. Read our additional tips below and check your meat throughout cooking for the best results.

How long to cook a turkey

For a standard turkey that’s around 6kg/13lb, the cooking time will be around 4 hours. It’s best to calculate your cooking time at 40 minutes per kg or 20 minutes per lb to get the most accurate time.

Is it ready?

The best way to check if your meat is cooked is by using a digital cooking thermometer.

For beef, lamb and venison

Rare: 52C

Medium: 60C

Well done: 75C-80C

For pork

75C-80C

For poultry (chicken, turkey, goose and duck)

75C-80C

Test for doneness

It’s particularly important that poultry is cooked through. If using a digital thermometer always double check the reading by sticking the probe in several different spots within the thigh or breast, to find the lowest reading. If returning to the oven allow 10-15 mins then test again until the correct temperature is reached.

Without a thermometer, the classic way to test is to push a spoon under the leg of the bird so that it pierces the skin (or use a skewer), and inspect the juices that collect in the spoon. The juices should be pale gold and clear; if there are traces of blood return to the oven allow 10-15 mins then test again.

Finishing touches

Tip tip: If you’re cooking a turkey it’s important to note that not all turkeys are the same. Our timings for a regular turkey are based on a standard supermarket bird. Cooking times are different for special breed turkeys.

Resting

Top tip: Watch our Senior food editor Barney Desmazery carve a roast bird

For inspiration:

Roast pork

Roast turkey

Roast goose

Turkey Cooking Time Calculator – How Long to Cook a Turkey

Do you find yourself asking around to see how long to cook your turkey for? Us too! That’s why we talked to industry experts and chefs and created this tool based on their recommendations.

Cooking Time Estimate:

Unstuffed

Stuffed

Cooking times are approximates for a 325 °F oven (163 °C)

How Long to Cook a Turkey?

The time it takes to cook a Thanksgiving turkey to perfection will vary by the cooking method. Refer to the charts below to see the turkey cooking times for baking or frying.

Note that times shown are for fully thawed poultry, see how long it will take to thaw using our thawing time calculator.

Time to Cook a Turkey in the Oven

The time to cook a turkey is usually around 20 minutes per pound for an unstuffed turkey. The actual time it takes to cook a turkey in the oven will vary slightly based on a few factors.

First, the oven temperature will impact the amount of time it will take to roast. Most recipes call for a 325 to 350 degree oven.

Second, the size of the turkey will impact how long it takes to reach the correct internal temperature. According to the USDA, turkey should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 °F.

Third, different ovens vary slightly in temperature. Gas ovens may not even have a temperature rating and may only have low, medium, and high settings.

Due to the variance in turkey size and oven temperatures it’s crucial to use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of poultry before serving.

Unsure how large your turkey will be? Try our turkey size calculator.

The following chart shows the cooking time for turkey when roasting in the oven at 325 °F.

Turkey cooking time by turkey size when roasting in a 325 degree oven.

Turkey Size Cooking Time (unstuffed) Cooking Time (stuffed)
4 – 6 lbs 1 ½ – 2 ¼ hours not applicable
6 – 8 lbs 2 ¼ – 3 ¼ hours 3 – 3 ½ hours
8 – 12 lbs 2 ¾ – 3 hours 3 – 3 ½ hours
12 – 14 lbs 3 – 3 ¾ hours 3 ½ – 4 hours
14 – 18 lbs 3 ¾ – 4 ¼ hours 4 – 4 ¼ hours
18 – 20 lbs 4 ¼ – 4 ½ hours 4 ¼ – 4 ¾ hours
20 – 24 lbs 4 ½ – 5 hours 4 ¾ – 5 ¼ hours

How Long Does it Take to Deep Fry a Turkey?

Deep frying a turkey requires less time to cook than oven roasting. The time it takes to deep fry a turkey is 3 minutes per pound plus 5 extra minutes in 350 °F cooking oil, according to renowned chef Paula Deen.

Deep fried turkey cooking time formula:

cook time = (lbs × 3) + 5

For example, let’s calculate the cooking time for a 16 pound turkey.

cook time = (16 × 3) + 5
cook time = 48 + 5
cook time = 53 minutes

The following chart shows the cook time for turkey when frying 350 °F oil.

Turkey cooking time by turkey size when deep frying in 350 degree oil.

Turkey Size Frying Time
4 – 6 lbs 17 – 23 minutes
6 – 8 lbs 23 – 29 minutes
8 – 12 lbs 29 – 41 minutes
12 – 14 lbs 41 – 47 minutes
14 – 18 lbs 47 – 59 minutes
18 – 20 lbs 59 – 65 minutes
20 – 24 lbs 65 – 77 minutes

Timing the Perfect Turkey

What If I Double It?

By Thomas Humphrey

“Three inches is such a wretched height to be,” said Alice. “It is a very good height indeed!” said the Caterpillar angrily, rearing itself upright as it spoke (it was exactly three inches high).
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Many of the things in our world are the way they are simply because of their size. Outside of Wonderland, neither Alice nor the Caterpillar could be anything but their normal, everyday sizes.

If a caterpillar were scaled up, it would collapse under its own weight; if Alice were scaled down, she’d have to spend most of her day eating to provide fuel for a body so small that it loses heat with every heartbeat.

Why does size matter?

To find out more, let’s cook a turkey.

Suppose you are responsible for cooking a Thanksgiving turkey. You have a 20-pound turkey, but your cookbook only tells you how long it takes to cook a 10-pound turkey.

How long do you cook your turkey?

Since the 20-pound turkey is twice the size of a 10-pound bird, at first the answer might seem obvious: Simply double the cooking time suggested for a 10-pound turkey. But is that really the right thing to do?

The way I see it, there are three ways to answer this question:

A) You can call and ask your grandmother.

B) You can get a new cookbook.

C) You can thumb through your physics books for the turkey equation.

I began by gathering cookbook data. Betty Crocker’s turkey roasting chart says that when you double the weight of a turkey, you don’t have to double the cooking time. You only have to increase it from 2.9 hours for the small bird to 4.5 hours for the big one. So even though the 20-pound turkey is twice the weight of the 10-pound turkey, you only have to cook it about 1.55 times as long. Why would that be?

Let’s take a more detailed look at our question. What is the “it” that we are doubling? What kind of “its” does a turkey have?

The turkey has a width, a surface area, a volume, and a weight. It has a density, a heat conductivity (how well it transfers the oven’s heat into its interior), and a heat capacity (how much heat it needs to climb one degree Celsius in temperature). A turkey has a lot of “its”. How do some of these factors change in going from a 10-pound turkey to a 20-pound turkey?

I often buy ButterBall-brand turkeys, but here let’s imagine that I have a “ButterCube” turkey—that is, my turkey is shaped like a cube. This will make it easier to see how the various factors change.

A turkey with twice the volume (represented by cubes) does not have twice the surface area or twice the width.

Take a look at the cubical turkeys above. Try to figure out how the weight, surface area, and width differ. If you count the number of small cubes in the 10-pound turkey, you will find that there are 4 x 4 x 4, or 64 cubes. The number of cubes in the 20-pound turkey is 5 x 5 x 5, or 125 cubes. That’s not exactly double, but it’s pretty close. So now we know that the 20-pound ButterCube is about twice the volume of the 10-pound ButterCube (that is, it has twice as many little cubes), and therefore it weighs about twice as much.

But when you double the size of a turkey, what happens to its width and surface area? Do they double, too?

If you look at the ButterCube turkeys above, you can see that the widths of the two turkeys are 4 and 5 blocks respectively. So the bigger turkey is about 25 percent wider than the smaller one. It did not double.

If we look at surface area, the small turkey is 6 sides x 16 blocks per side, or 96 blocks. The surface area of the big turkey is 6 sides x 25 blocks per side, or 150 blocks. That means the big turkey has about 50 percent more blocks in it than the small turkey. So that measurement didn’t double, either. More precisely, the width and all the other linear dimensions increased by a factor of 1.26 and the surface area increased by a factor of 1.59.

How do some of these “its”—weight, surface area, and thickness—influence the turkey’s cooking time?

Increase in cooking time

Well, first of all, the 20-pound turkey, because it has doubled in volume, has twice as much stuff to heat up, so we need to put twice as much heat into it. Fair enough. How does the heat get in? It is transferred across the surface of the turkey, and it must travel all the way into the center of the bird. The bigger turkey has more surface. That should speed up the transfer of heat, but the heat must travel a longer way to the center. That will slow things down. The graph below shows the cumulative effect of these three factors: weight, surface area, and distance to the center.

This graph shows the impact on cooking time as a result of changing the weight, surface area, and width of a turkey.

As you can see from the graph, the net result is that it doesn’t take twice as long to cook the twice-as-heavy turkey. The physicists agree with the home economist.

So now we know how to cook a turkey. But in this little foray into the physics of cooking, we discovered that the seemingly innocuous question, “What happens if you double it?” has turned out to be quite complex. We must be very specific about which feature of the turkey we are doubling because we don’t seem to be able to double everything at once!

The fact that we cannot double every feature of the turkey at the same time is one example of a very general behavior in nature, a behavior that leads to consequences even more important than the difference between a perfect Thanksgiving turkey and an overcooked one. When we compare similar objects, one large and one small, not all features of the object are magnified or reduced by the same ratio. This has dramatic consequences for natural behavior, including how things move in and out of biological cells.

Turkey

While it’s the traditional Christmas bird, turkey is good to eat all year round, though it’s only readily available in portions (rather than a whole bird) most of the year. Use our guide to learn how to cook a turkey to feed a crowd, including brining and carving.

Turkey has all the nutritional benefits of chicken but with a slightly lower fat content. This is good for health, but does mean that the flesh can be on the dry side. Older turkey recipes advise basting a turkey regularly to keep the meat moist, but newer recipes suggest cooking the turkey more quickly while using dry brines – leaving the turkey in salt and flavouring overnight. This method draws moisture out, then the turkey reabsorbs it, which seasons the meat and dries out the skin for a crisp finish in the oven.

Discover how to brine a turkey, a key facet of our crown & confit recipe, to keep the meat succulent and full of flavour. Also, watch and learn how to carve a turkey in our video.

Recipes, tools and guides to help you cook the perfect turkey:

  • We’ve got the perfect turkey recipe for you, whether you’re looking for a traditional turkey recipe or a more modern version.
  • Check our roast calculator to find out how long to cook your turkey.
  • Perfect your carving skills with our how to carve a turkey video.
  • Check out our foolproof guide to what turkey size to buy and thawing times.
  • Learn how to cook a turkey crown.
  • Find inspiration for what to do with turkey leftovers.

How to defrost a turkey

If you buy a frozen turkey, make sure you allow enough time for it to defrost – it won’t cook properly unless it is thoroughly defrosted at the start of cooking. If you’re defrosting in the fridge, which should be set at 4C or below, allow 8-12 hrs per kg. In a cool room, which absolutely must stay below 17.5C, allow 3-4 hrs per kg.

How to prepare a turkey

  1. Take off all the wrappings, put on a tray or plate wide and deep enough to contain any blood or juice that might seep out, cover loosely with foil and leave in the fridge or in a cool room.
  2. After the turkey is defrosted, remove any giblets, check that there are no ice crystals inside the cavity and pat dry with kitchen paper both outside and in.
  3. Before it goes in the oven, the turkey should be at room temperature, so take it out of the fridge (1 hr for a whole turkey, or 30 mins for a cut) before cooking. Keep it covered in a cool place.

If desired, certain cuts of fresh or defrosted turkey can be marinated (for a minimum of 4 hrs) before cooking to add flavour and moisture and to tenderise it a little further. Slash the skin a couple of times to help the marinade penetrate deeply and keep covered in a glass or ceramic dish in the fridge.

What to do with giblets

Cover with water and add a peeled onion, carrot, celery stick, bay leaf and a glass of red wine. Simmer for 40 mins, then strain for the perfect stock to use for deglazing your turkey roasting tin – it will help make a really rich gravy.

How to remove the wishbone

Removing the wishbone from a raw turkey makes it easier to carve later, giving you neater slices. Pull back the neck skin until the wishbone is located. Using a small, sharp knife, cut through the flesh under the contour of the bone on both sides just deep enough to free it. Ease it out, cutting it free at the tips.

Read more about choosing, defrosting and cooking turkey at the British Turkey Information Line or the Food Standards Agency.

How to cook a turkey

Basic recipe

  • 1 free-range turkey (5kg will feed eight people)
  • 50g butter
  • seasoning
  1. Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.
  2. Smear the butter all over the turkey and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Put in a roasting tin, breast-side up, and roast for 40 mins per 1kg for the first 4kg, then 45 mins for every 1kg over that weight, or until the internal temperature reaches 65-70C. For a turkey of this weight, the cooking time should be 3½-4 hrs. The turkey will continue to cook and the temperature will rise while it rests.
  4. Remove the turkey from the oven and rest in a warm place for 30-45 mins – don’t skip this step as the juices won’t be reabsorbed back into the turkey and will run out if you carve it straightaway. Don’t cover the turkey too tightly if you want the skin to stay crisp, but keep it warm.
  5. Before serving your turkey, check that the meat is steaming hot throughout, there is no pink meat visible and when you cut into the thickest part of the meat, the juices run clear.

For accurate timing, always weigh your turkey after it has been stuffed. If it’s very large, you may need to use bathroom scales.

How long to cook a turkey

The latest advice from the British Turkey information service is that, if the turkey is over 4kg, calculate 20 mins per 1kg, plus 90 mins. If the bird is under 4kg, calculate 20 mins per 1kg, plus 70 mins.

To test if it’s done, make sure the juices run clear when you pierce the thigh where it meets the body. If not, put it back in the oven for another 20 mins, then test again.

Availability

Turkey is available all year round, but whole birds are at their best in December.

Choose the best

As is the case with all meat, turkey should be bought from a source that you trust – a good supermarket, local butcher, farmers’ market or shop, or a website mail-order company. Of those five sources, the last four are perhaps more likely to be able to tell you the most about the turkey, such as where it came from and how it was reared. Traceability like that will give you assurance that the turkey has been humanely treated while alive; the higher the standard of welfare by which a turkey was reared, the better the quality of the meat.

Read more about turkey farming at Red Tractor.

Organic turkey is the most expensive, as the most stringent farming standards will have been adhered to at all stages of the animal’s life, including being allowed to roam outside during the day and being fed a mainly organic diet. As they are allowed to mature slowly, their flesh is firm and flavourful; however, because they have had lots of exercise during their lives, they may be less plump than indoor-reared birds. Look for the Soil Association sticker if you’d like to buy organic.

Free-range turkeys should have had some access to the open air and are usually cheaper than organic. The Freedom Food label can also be used by producers that meet the RSPCA’s welfare standards.

Battery (or ‘factory’) reared turkeys are the most commonly available kind. They are rarely labelled as such, but the low price is a giveaway. Although such turkeys are more affordable, the conditions they endure are extremely grim, as they are packed in at high densities, with little room to move around and no access to sunlight – all of which produces a noticeably inferior meat.

Good breeds to look out for include Norfolk Black, Kelly Bronze and Cambridge Bronze. Reared slowly in free-range conditions, they all have densely textured meat that is more flavourful and succulent than indoor-reared types. The phrase ‘farm fresh’ means that birds have been handled traditionally once slaughtered, i.e. dry hand-plucked (as opposed to wet-plucked, by which the turkey is immersed in very hot water to loosen the feathers, which are then mechanically removed) and hung for two weeks, which gives the flesh an enjoyably gamey flavour.

Whole birds should be roasted. Other portions are also available (either skin-on or skinless, bone-in or boneless), including breast joints (roast), crown joints (the bird without its legs and wings, also good for roasting), breast steaks, escalopes (very thin steaks of turkey breast, good for pan-frying) and drumsticks (roast or braise).

Turkey mince is also available – it’s very low in fat and you can use it as you would any mince. Whichever breed or cut you go for, choose a turkey that is plump and well-rounded, with clear, soft and evenly coloured skin. Avoid those that have been unevenly plucked.

Store it

Put fresh turkey in the fridge as soon as you get it home. Take off all the wrappings, then wipe it all over (including inside the cavities) with kitchen paper. If it has come with giblets (the neck, gizzard, heart and liver), these should be removed and kept in a covered bowl in the fridge.

Put the turkey on a tray or plate wide and deep enough to contain any blood or juice that might seep out. Cover loosely with foil. Make sure the turkey doesn’t touch any other food in the fridge that’s to be eaten raw, or meat that is already cooked.

Once a frozen turkey has defrosted (see ‘prepare’ above), store it in the fridge straightaway, as above, unless you are going to cook it immediately.

Whole birds and pieces of turkey will keep in the fridge for up to two days. Turkey mince should be cooked within 24 hours of purchase. Giblets can be used to make gravy and stock (but leave the liver out, as it can create quite a bitter taste) or stuffing, and should be cooked within two days of purchase.

Alternatives

Try chicken.

WINTER’S TURKEYS

Giblets

Giblets are packaged in a plastic bag and are found either in the neck cavity or the body cavity. Remove and rinse in cold water before cooking.

Stuffing Preparation

Stuffing can be prepared separately and placed in a covered casserole dish to cook during the last hour of the turkey roasting time. For those who prefer to stuff their turkey: Prepare stuffing and spoon loosely into body cavity just before roasting, do not pack stuffing. Never stuff your turkey the day before. Remove stuffing prior to carving the turkey.

Seasoning and Roasting Your Turkey

Place turkey breast side up on a rack in roasting pan. Season the skin and inside the cavity with salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, cayenne, thyme, rosemary or your favourite herbs and spices. Insert an oven-safe thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, being careful to not touch the bone.

Roasting Your Turkey

Place in roaster and cover loosely with foil or roaster lid. Roast in a preheated oven 325° to 350° F (160° – 180° C) oven. If you choose to baste your turkey, limit the number of times you open and close your oven (once an hour is sufficient). To brown skin further, remove foil or roaster lid approximately 1 hour before done.General rule of thumb for oven cooking a stuffed turkey at 325° F is 15 minutes per pound (30 minutes per kilogram).

Many variables affect the roasting time. An accurate meat thermometer is recommended. Time will vary based on the temperature of the preheated oven, temperature of the bird going into the oven, the accuracy of the oven’s thermostat, how many times the oven door is opened during roasting and the type of roasting pan. We find stainless steel roasters cook more slowly than the darker speckled enamelware.

Begin checking for doneness about one hour before the end of the recommended roasting time.

Fresh turkeys cook faster.

Your turkey is done when:

  • meat thermometer in the inner thigh reads 180° F (82° C) for a stuffed turkey
  • meat thermometer in the inner thigh reads 170° F (77° C) for an unstuffed turkey
  • when cooked to perfection the turkey meat and juices may have a slight pink tinge. The temperature of the meat is the most important sign of doneness.

When the turkey is done, remove it from the oven or barbecue. Cover it with foil and let it stand for 20-25 minutes before carving. Letting your turkey stand for at least 15 minutes will help lock in the natural juices, keeping the meat tender and easier to carve.
.

Approximate Times for Cooking

Weight Stuffed Turkey Unstuffed Turkey
13 – 16 lbs / 6.0 – 7.25 kg 3 ½ – 3 ¾ hours 3 ¼ – 3 ½ hours
16 – 19 lbs / 7.25 – 8.5 kg 4 – 4 ½ hours 3 ½ – 4 hours
10 – 22 lbs / 8.5 – 10 kg 4 ½ – 5 ¼ hours 4 – 4 ½ hours

Smaller birds require more minutes cooking time per pound.

Yield 4 Cooking time See below Preparation time 30 mins

INGREDIENTS

Christmas is really the only time of year that many of us will attempt to cook a roast turkey, so it’s unsurprising that the task is a little daunting for some. Squeezing the huge bird into the oven and simply hoping that it doesn’t come out dry from overcooking may have been the tactic until now, but follow our easy guide to cooking times and our simple but effective top tips and we’ll teach you how to cook the perfect turkey just in time for Christmas day. And for leftovers, we have all the best Boxing Day recipes to use them up.

  • 1 free range bronze turkey (see cooking chart below)
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 small onion, peeled
  • Butter, softened
  • 10-12 rashers unsmoked streaky bacon

Weight, roasting time, resting time, serves.

The best roast potatoes cooked with goose fat and bay leaves

The best recipes for a roast

The best roast potatoes cooked with goose fat and bay leaves

  • The best recipes for a roast
  • 22 Nov 2018

Prosciutto wrapped baby carrots

Christmas recipes from Donna Hay’s new book

Prosciutto wrapped baby carrots

  • Christmas recipes from Donna Hay’s new book
  • 20 Dec 2019

Method

  1. Up to 24 hours ahead of time, prepare the stuffing.
  2. On the day, remove the turkey from the fridge at least one hour before you want to cook it, allowing it to get to room temperature. Place 2 lemon halves and a small onion into the cavity.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Calculate the cooking time following the chart above.
  4. Place the turkey, breast-side up, in a large roasting tin. Spread the turkey breast with some butter and cover it with rashers of bacon. Place in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes. Remove the turkey from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 170°C. Remove the bacon (use later to accompany when serving).
  5. Turn over the turkey and place it breast side down, then return to the oven and cook for the rest of the calculated cooking time.
  6. About 15 minutes before the end of cooking, turn the bird breast-side up, season well, and return to the oven (this makes the breast nice and golden). If you are using a meat thermometer, insert your thermometer halfway through the thickest part of the breast and place back in the oven.
  7. Check every 10 minutes until correct temperature is reached and then remove from the oven.
  8. To manually check, insert a skewer into the thigh, and when the juices run clear, remove from the oven. If the juices are pink, place back in the oven and keep checking at 10 minute intervals.

Brussel sprouts with bacon and pecorino

Thomasina Miers’ boxing day banquet

Brussel sprouts with bacon and pecorino

  • Thomasina Miers’ boxing day banquet
  • 28 Oct 2019

Stuffing with sage, lemon and bacon

Christmas recipes: everything you need

Stuffing with sage, lemon and bacon

  • Christmas recipes: everything you need
  • 24 Dec 2019

Top Tips

  • Stuffing the turkey increases cooking time, which dries out the bird. Instead, place two lemon halves, a few fresh bay leaves and a small onion into the cavity. Roll the stuffing into walnut-sized balls and roast them for 20 minutes while the turkey is resting.
  • To check when the turkey is cooked, insert a skewer into the flesh of the thigh and hold a spoon underneath to catch the juices. If they are clear, rather than pink, it’s cooked.
  • Resting the turkey is crucial. Rest it breast-side down as the juices then flow into the breast meat. The skin isn’t as crisp, but the flavour and texture is fantastic. A roasted turkey will sit in a warm place for up to 1 hour and still be steaming hot. This resting time is good for the bird, but also good for you as you can then do all the extra bits, such as roast the stuffing balls, the vegetables and the sauces.
  • The juices from the roasting tray make a great, simple sauce, and are also good for pouring over the carved meat to keep it moist when serving. Remember to skim off any excess fat with a spoon.

Poached turkey breast with lemon and thyme gravy

Healthy comfort food

Poached turkey breast with lemon and thyme gravy

  • Healthy comfort food
  • 20 Dec 2019

How Margot Henderson of Rochelle Canteen hosts Christmas day

Entertaining

How Margot Henderson of Rochelle Canteen hosts Christmas day

  • Entertaining
  • 29 Nov 2019

Red cabbage, fennel and parsnip coleslaw

The best Boxing Day recipes

Red cabbage, fennel and parsnip coleslaw

  • The best Boxing Day recipes
  • 26 Dec 2019

Five tips for cooking a turkey crown

Christmas food

Five tips for cooking a turkey crown

Elizabeth Metcalfe

  • Christmas food
  • 17 Dec 2019
  • Elizabeth Metcalfe

Christmas season is upon us so it’s time to brush up on all the best Christmas recipes. From mince pies to Christmas pudding, Christmas ham, Christmas cake and turkey crown cooking instructions, not forgetting Christmas biscuits, Christmas cookies and brussel sprouts.

To some of us, turkey is the savory, succulent centerpiece at Thanksgiving. To others, it’s the unfortunate (albeit convenient) vehicle for gravy, dressing, and cranberry sauce. But turkey—yes, even the white meat—can be great (delicious even) if you know how to roast a turkey properly. Whether you’re a long-time turkey roaster who’s feeling bogged down by the year’s newest trend (Is it spatchcocking or dry-brining this year? We can’t keep up.) or a Thanksgiving newbie who doesn’t even know where to start, your turkey is best served by a few guiding principles and a simple, foolproof method. You don’t need even a recipe if you just stick to these basic guidelines.

1. Thaw Your Turkey

The ideal place to thaw your turkey is in the fridge, which can take up to a week depending on the size of the bird. Here’s how long it takes a typical turkey to thaw in the fridge:

  • 4-12 pounds: 1 to 3 days
  • 12-16 pounds: 3 to 4 days
  • 16-20 pounds: 4 to 5 days
  • 20-24 pounds: 5 to 6 days

If you’re short on time, however, there are other, faster ways to thaw a turkey, but thawing it in the refrigerator is your best bet when it comes to safe kitchen practices.

2. Air Your Turkey Out

When it comes time to cook your bird, take the now-thawed turkey out of the fridge and set it on a rack at room temperature for an hour to take the chill off and to dry out the skin. (This can be the same rack you plan to roast it in—no need to dirty another dish.) Your roasting rack should allow the bottom of the turkey to sit at or just below the top of the pan). No roasting rack? A heavy-duty cooling rack set inside a half-sheet pan works too.

3. Prep Your Oven

Position your oven rack on the lowest rung so the lower part of the turkey (which takes the longest to cook) will be blasted with heat first. Some recipes have you start roasting the turkey at a high temperature for a brief period before lowering the heat for the duration. The belief is that the high heat “sears” the bird and the low heat gently roasts, yielding a moister bird, but I haven’t found this makes a huge difference. Plus the skin gets browned very quickly (often, too quickly). Steady heat means not having to check the oven so frequently, leaving you free to do other things. So set that oven to 350°F.

4. Butter Your Turkey

Rub room temperature salted butter—or your favorite flavored compound butter—all over that turkey. (For a 12- to 14-pound turkey you’ll need about 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter.) Slowly work your fingers under the skin starting at the neck, being careful not to tear the skin or separate it completely at the large cavity. Rub most of it under the skin, a little inside the large cavity, and the rest over the skin.

5. Season Your Turkey, if Necessary

For a 12- to 14-pound bird, 1 1/2 teaspoons each kosher salt and freshly ground pepper in the large cavity and another 1 1/2 teaspoons each over the skin is plenty. For kosher turkeys, which are already salted, there’s no need to salt the cavity, but do salt the skin! If you’ve chosen to brine your bird (via a wet or dry brine) you can skip this final seasoning.

6. Stuff the Neck Cavity With an Apple

Sounds random, I know. But stuffing the neck cavity (not the large cavity) with a halved apple—placing the cut side against the turkey’s flesh with the rounded side facing out—helps buffer the breast against heat and protects it from overcooking. But don’t fill the main cavity with stuffing—it’ll only slow down your cooking time.

Instead, you can cook the stuffing on the side in a casserole dish. Add some stock to replace the turkey juices it would have absorbed in the cavity. You can also sauté the turkey liver, gizzard, and neck in butter, cut it up (shredding the neck meat off the bone) and add them for more flavor. This will make the stuffing nearly as rich as if it had been baked in the turkey itself (though don’t forget to make a meatless version if you’ve got any vegetarians on the guest list).

Meat and Poultry Charts

Raw meat and poultry should always be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature. When roasting meat and poultry, use an oven temperature no lower than 325 °F. Use a food thermometer to assure that meat and poultry have reached a safe minimum internal temperature. Explore the charts below to learn how to get great results every time you cook.

Beef, Lamb, and Veal Roasting Chart

Type Oven °F Timing Minimum Internal Temperature
and Rest Time
Beef
Rib roast, bone-in
4 to 6 lbs.
325 23 to 25 min/lb. 145 °F and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes
Rib roast, boneless
4 to 6 lbs.
325 Add 5-8 min/lb. to times above
Round or Rump Roast
2 ½ to 4 lbs.
325 30 to 35 min/lb.
Tenderloin roast, whole
4 to 6 lbs.
425 45 to 60 minutes total
Lamb
Leg, bone-in
5 to 7 lbs.
325 20 to 25 min/lb. 145 °F and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes
Leg, boneless
4 to 7 lbs.
325 20 to 25 min/lb.
Shoulder roast
3 to 4 lbs.
325 20 to 30 min/lb.
Veal
Rib Roast 4 to 5 lbs. 325 25 to 27 min/lb. 145 °F and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes
Loin
3 to 4 lbs.
325 34 to 36 min/lb.

Poultry Charts

Poultry Roasting Chart

The times shown below are for unstuffed poultry. Add 15 to 30 minutes for stuffed birds. The internal temperature should reach 165 °F in the center of the stuffing.

Type Oven °F Timing Minimum Internal Temperature
and Rest Time
Chicken, whole
3 to 4 lbs 5 to 7 lbs.
350 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours 2 to 2 ¼ hours 165 °F
Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh, innermost part of the wing, and thickest part of the breast.
Capon, whole
4 to 8 lbs.
350 2 to 3 hours
Cornish hen, whole
18 to 24 oz.
350 50 to 60 minutes
Duck, whole 4 to 6 lbs. 350 30 to 35 min/lb
Duck, legs or thighs 325 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours
Young goose, whole 8 to 12 lbs. 325 2 ½ to 3 hours
Young goose, pieces or cut up 325 2 hours

Turkey Roasting Time by Size

The following times are based on an oven setting of 325 °F. A food thermometer should be used to ensure a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F has been reached to destroy bacteria and prevent foodborne illness.

Turkey Thawing Time

You can thaw turkey in a refrigerator set to 40 °F or below for approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds. Allow about 30 minutes per pound for cold water thawing, changing the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. A turkey thawed in cold water should be cooked immediately.

Turkey Size Thaw in Refrigerator Thaw in Cold Water
4 to 12 lbs. 1 to 3 days 2 to 6 hours
12 to 16 lbs. 3 to 4 days 6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 lbs. 4 to 5 days 8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 lbs. 5 to 6 days 10 to 12 hours

Pork Charts

Pork Roasting Chart

Type Oven °F Timing Minimum Internal Temperature
and Rest Time
Fresh Pork
Loin roast, bone-in or boneless
2 to 5 lbs.
350 20 min/lb. 145 °F and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes
Crown roast
10 lbs.
350 12 min/lb.
Tenderloin
½ to 1 ½ lbs.
425-450 20 to 27 minutes total
Boston Butt 3 to 6 lbs. 350 45 min./lb.
Ribs 2 to 4 lbs. 350 1 ½ to 2 hours (or until fork tender)

Ham Cooking Chart

Set oven temperature to 325 °F.

Type Cut Weight (lbs.) Min/Lb Minimum Internal Temperature
and Rest Time
Smoked, cook before eating Whole, bone-in 10 to 14 18 to 20 145 °F and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes
Half, bone-in 5 to 7 22 to 25
Shank or butt portion, bone-in 3 to 4 35 to 40
Arm picnic shoulder, boneless 5 to 8 30 to 35
Shoulder roll (butt), boneless 2 to 4 35 to 40
Smoked ham, cooked Whole, bone in 10 to 14 15 to 18 Reheat cooked hams packaged in USDA-inspected plants to 140 °F and all others to 165 °F
Half, bone in 5 to 7 18 to 24
Arm picnic shoulder, boneless 5 to 8 25 to 30
Canned ham, boneless 3 to 10 15 to 20
Vacuum packed, boneless 6 to 12 10 to 15
Spiral cut, whole or half 7 to 9 10 to 18
Fresh ham, uncooked Whole leg, bone in 12 to 16 22 to 26 145 °F and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes
Whole leg, boneless 10 to 14 24 to 28
Half, bone in 5 to 8 35 to 40
Country ham
(whole, or half)
  1. Soak 4 to 12 hours in refrigerator.
  2. Cover with water, then boil 20 to 25 minutes per pound.
  3. Drain, glaze, and brown at 400 °F for 15 minutes.

Roasting a Whole Turkey

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).
  2. If stuffing the turkey, do so while the oven is preheating. Spoon stuffing lightly into turkey instead of packing firmly because stuffing expands while cooking. (Allow ½ cup (125 ml) of stuffing per pound (500 g) of turkey.)
  3. Place turkey breast-up on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.
  4. Roast uncovered, or loosely covered with foil. If you choose to baste your turkey, limit the number of times you open and close your oven (once per hour is sufficient).
  5. Turkey is cooked when the meat thermometer reads 170°F (77°C) for an unstuffed turkey, or 180°F (82°C) for a stuffed turkey and the juices run clear. Insert meat thermometer in the thickest part of the inner thigh, but not touching the bone.
  6. When roasting, any stuffing placed in the cavity of the bird should read and internal temperature of at least 165°F (74°C).
  7. Remove the turkey from the oven when cooking is completed and let stand 20 minutes to allow the juices to set.

Approximate Timetable for Roasting a Turkey at 350°F (177°C)*

Weight Stuffed Unstuffed
8 – 10 lbs
(3.6 – 4.5 kg)
2 h 40 min – 3 h 30 min 2 h – 2 h 30 min
11 – 13 lbs
(5.0 – 5.9 kg)
3 h 40 min – 4 h 20 min 2 h 45 min – 3 h 15 min
14 – 16 lbs
(6.4 – 7.3 kg)
4 h 40 min – 5 h 20 min 3 h 30 min – 4 h
17 – 19 lbs
(7.7 – 8.6 kg)
5 h 40 min – 6 h 20 min 4 h 15 min – 4 h 45 min
20 – 22 lbs
(9.1 – 10.0 kg)
6 h 40 min – 7 h 20 min 5 h – 5 h 30 min
23 – 24 lbs
(10.4 – 10.9 kg)
7 h 40 min – 8 h 5 h 45 min to 6 h

*cooking times approximate at 350°F (177°C).

Cooking times may vary depending on: the temperature of the bird going into the oven, the accuracy of the oven’s thermostat, how many times the oven door is opened during roasting, the type and size of roasting pan used and the size of the turkey in relation to the size of the oven.

Download our Cooking Times quick fact sheet.

Convection Oven

  • The Turkey Farmers of Canada recommend that consumers check with their manufacturer as to how much faster and hotter their oven might be compared to a conventional oven. Generally speaking, convection oven cooking temperatures should be 25-50°F (3.9-10°C) lower than conventional oven temperatures to prevent overbrowning due to surface drying. Convection cooking does typically cause greater moisture loss in turkey.
  • The result of roasting a turkey is the same in conventional or convection ovens in that the turkey is done when the endpoint temperature is reached. Your turkey is done when a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 180°F (82°C) for a stuffed turkey or 170°F (77°C) for an unstuffed turkey. The drumsticks should also move easily in the joints at this point.
  • Avoid overcrowding in the oven when roasting in a convection oven as crowding may inhibit air circulation and slow cooking.

Approximate Timetable for Roasting a Turkey in a Convection Oven 300°F (149°C)

Cooking
Temperature
Weight
Unstuffed
Estimated
Cooking Time
Weight
Stuffed
Estimated
Cooking Time
300ºF 14-18 lbs. 2¼ – 2½ hours 14-18 lbs. 2½ – 3 hours
300ºF 18-22 lbs. 2½ – 3 hours 18-22 lbs. 3 – 3½ hours

Using a Meat Thermometer

Prior to cooking, insert stem of oven-proof thermometer (stem will need to be at least 4 1/2″ (11 cm) long) into the thickest part of the inner thigh meat, not touching thigh bone. OR near end of cooking, remove from heat and insert instant-read thermometer stem or fork thermometer tines into inner thigh meat (as above). If stuffed, check stuffing temperature by inserting thermometer stem into centre of stuffing.

Always wash the tongs, plate and thermometer stem used in checking partially cooked meats/poultry before using again.