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Learn how long to cook a turkey and get a perfectly cooked bird for your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner! The rule of thumb is 15 minutes per pound, but turkey cooking time also depends on oven temperature, whether the turkey is stuffed or unstuffed, and fresh versus frozen.

Learn how long to cook a turkey and get a perfectly cooked bird for your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner! The rule of thumb is 15 minutes per pound, but turkey cooking time also depends on oven temperature, whether it’s stuffed or unstuffed, and thawed vs. frozen.

How long to cook a turkey?

Want to cook a whole turkey that’s tender and juicy, with lots of flavor and crispy skin? We’ll show you how to get the best results every time. No more dried-out turkey!

How long to cook a turkey depends mainly on its size but also on the oven temperature. You need to cook the bird to a safe internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) measured using an instant-read thermometer. Also you’ll need to budget enough time to rest your turkey so the juices can redistribute through the meat to keep it extra moist.

Tip: We recommend using an oven-proof food thermometer and leave it in the turkey while roasting. This will allow you to monitor the internal temperature without opening the oven.

Insert an oven-proof food thermometer into the turkey before roasting.

What Temperature to Cook a Turkey: 325°F or 350°F?

  • Bake at 350°F for any turkey less than 14 pounds (5.9 kg)
  • Bake at 325°F for a turkey over 14 pounds.

How Long to Cook a Turkey Per Pound

Here are the general rules for how long to cook turkey per pound according to the USDA:

  • Unstuffed Turkey: 15 minutes per pound at 325°F, or 13 minutes per pound at 350°F.
  • Stuffed Turkey: 16 to 17 minutes per pound at 325°F, or 14 to 15 minutes per pound at 350°F

Note that these times apply whether you are using a fresh turkey or a defrosted turkey.

Display of a 12 lb and 15 lb turkey on a cutting board. They require different cooking times.

Turkey Cook Time Per Pound

Turkey cooking time varies widely by size. You may be wondering how long to cook a 20 lb turkey, a 25 lb, 12 lb, 15 lb turkey, or any other size for that matter? Here is a time chart for cooking an unstuffed turkey:

Turkey
weight
Unstuffed turkey
cook time
Stuffed turkey
cook time
Oven temperature
(recommended)
10 pounds2 hours 15 minutes2 hours 40 minutes350°F
12 pounds2 hours 40 minutes3 hours350°F
14 pounds3 hours 30 minutes3 hours 50 minutes325°F
15 pounds3 hours 45 minutes4 hours325°F
18 pounds4 hours 15 minutes4 hours 30 minutes325°F
20 pounds4 hours 40 minutes5 hours325°F
22 pounds5 hours5 hours 20 minutes325°F
25 pounds5 hours 15 minutes5 hours 45 minutes325°F
30 pounds5 hours 30 minutes6 hours325°F

Note: If you’re using a forced air or convection oven, you may be able to bake for 15 to 30% less time.

As there’s variation in kitchen equipment, always check doneness at least 30 minutes before the specified time and verify using a thermometer instead of relying on time alone.

Stuffing a turkey from the neck end by lifting the flap of skin to expose the cavity

How long to cook a stuffed turkey?

It’s always best to stuff the neck end of the turkey, as filling the body cavity will block the flow of air needed to evenly cook the bird. Stuff right before cooking and tuck in the skin to seal.

Follow the cooking time above using the weight of the stuffed turkey. You can weigh the stuffed turkey if you have a scale or estimate the new weight based on how much stuffing you added.

How long to cook a frozen turkey?

If you roast your turkey from frozen, the cooking time is at least 50% longer according to the USDA. That means you’ll need to plan to bake your frozen turkey for 22 minutes per pound or more.

How to tell when a turkey is done?

The most accurate way to check doneness is by inserting a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey (breast, outer thigh and inner thigh), making sure the probe is not touching the bone. A temperature reading of 165°F to 170°F means it’s done.

Keep a watchful eye during the final stages, as the temperature can rise from 130°F to 170°F in as little as 30 minutes!

Meat thermometer inserted into a whole roast turkey reading 170 degrees F, indicating the turkey is done

How to roast a turkey

Roasting a turkey is actually quite easy, as long as you follow the cooking time guide and don’t overcook the bird.

  • Brining: This optional step makes for a more tender and juicy turkey. The basic ratio is 2 cups of kosher salt to 2 gallons of water. Brine for 8-18 hours in the fridge and rinse the turkey with water before cooking.
  • Seasoning: Rubbing with butter, minced garlic, salt, pepper and oil before baking will add moisture and flavor to your turkey.
  • Baking: Following the baking time and temperature guidance provided above until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.
  • Resting: Let the roasted turkey rest for 30 to 60 minutes covered with aluminum foil so the juices can redistribute throughout the meat. It’s important not to cut into the meat right away, as juices will be lost and the turkey will dry out. You can make gravy during this time instead.
Carved roast turkey on a serving platter showing delicious golden wings, breasts, thighs and legs ready to eat with red radishes, lemon slices and fresh sage as garnish

Turkey Cooking Time FAQ

How Long to Cook a 12 pound turkey?

An unstuffed 12-pound turkey will take about 2 ¾ hours at the recommended oven temperature of 350°F, or alternatively 3 hours at 325°F. If the turkey is stuffed, add an extra 20 to 30 minutes.

How Long to Cook 14 lb Turkey?

An unstuffed 14-pound turkey will take 3 ½ hours in the oven at 325°F, or 3 hours at 350°F. If the turkey is stuffed, add an extra 20 to 30 minutes.

How Long to Cook a 15 pound Turkey?

An unstuffed 15-pound turkey will take about 3 ¾ hours at the recommended oven temperature of 325°F. If the turkey is stuffed, add an extra 20 to 30 minutes.

How Long to Cook 18 lb Turkey?

An unstuffed 18-pound turkey will take about 4 ¼ hours at the recommended oven temperature of 325°F. If the turkey is stuffed, it will take about 4 ½ hours.

How Long to Cook a 20 pound Turkey at 350?

An unstuffed 20-pound turkey will take about 4 ¼ hours at 350°F. If the turkey is stuffed, it will take 4 ½ hours.

How Long to Cook a 22 pound Turkey?

An unstuffed 22-pound turkey will take about 5 hours at the recommended oven temperature of 325°F. If the turkey is stuffed, it will take about 5 ¼ to 5 ½ hours.

How Long to Cook a 25 pound Turkey?

An unstuffed 25-pound turkey will take about 5 ¼ hours at the recommended oven temperature of 325°F. A stuffed turkey will take about about 5 ½ to 5 ¾ hours.

Side dishes for Thanksgiving turkey

Traditional side dishes for Thanksgiving dinner include scalloped potatoes, green bean casserole, roasted parsnips, roasted Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, gratin and more!

Learn how long to cook a turkey and get a perfectly cooked bird for your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner! The rule of thumb is 15 minutes per pound, but turkey cooking time also depends on oven temperature, whether it’s stuffed or unstuffed, and thawed vs. frozen.
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5 from 5 votes

How to Cook a Turkey (+How Long to Cook a Turkey)

Learn how to cook a turkey to perfection for your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner! Follow this step-by-step guide to enjoy tender and juicy turkey at its best!
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 3 hrs
Total Time: 3 hrs 15 mins
Servings: 10 people

Ingredients 

  • 1 whole turkey, (15 pound or 6.8kg) fresh or thawed, see notes for other sizes*
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (1 tablespoon)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste

Instructions 

  • Prepare the turkey: (Optional: brine the turkey for 8-18 hours for extra tenderness.) Remove the turkey from the fridge 1 hour before roasting. Remove the giblets from the body cavity or neck cavity. Pat dry with paper towels. It’s ok if your turkey still feels cool after sitting at room temperature.
  • Seasoning: In a small bowl, mix together the softened butter, garlic, salt, and pepper. Rub all over the turkey. Then rub with olive oil. (If you have stuffing, spoon it through the neck end of the turkey.)
  • Preheat the oven to 425°F: Position an oven rack in the bottom third of the oven. Then preheat the oven to 425°F (218°C). Place a wire rack in a roasting pan. Then place the turkey onto the rack breast side up. If available, insert an ovenproof meat thermometer all the way into the thigh and leave it in during baking.
  • Place the turkey in the oven and lower the heat to 325°F: When the oven is hot, add the turkey and immediately lower the heat to 325°F.
  • Roast the turkey: It takes about 3 hours to cook in a regular oven and 30 minutes less in a convection/forced air oven. Baste the turkey with pan juices halfway through. Start checking the internal temperature of the turkey regularly after 2 hours.
  • Check the doneness: Look at the meat thermometer or insert an instant-read thermometer into the turkey thigh and breast. Your turkey is done as soon as it registers 165°F (74°C). If it’s not ready, put it turkey back in the oven. (Note: the temperature can rise quickly after 140°F).
  • Rest the turkey: When the turkey is done baking, remove it from the oven. Using an oven mitt, lift one end of the roasting pan lengthwise to allow liquids from the cavity to flow out. Transfer the turkey to a cutting board. Cover with aluminum foil and let it rest for 30 to 60 minutes before carving.

Notes

  • *Cook times for other turkey sizes (unstuffed):
    • 12 pounds: 2 3/4 hours at 350°F (or 3 hours at 325°F)
    • 14 pounds: 3 1/2 hours at 325°F (or 3 hours at 325°F)
    • 15 pounds: 3 3/4 hours at 325°F
    • 18 pounds: 4 1/4 hours at 325°F
    • 22 pounds: 5 hours at 325°F
    • 25 pounds: 5 1/4 hours at 325°F
    • 30 pounds: 5 3/4 hours at 325°F
    • Reduce times by 15 to 30% when using a convection oven.
  • If you’re stuffing your turkey, add the weight of the stuffing to the overall weight used to calculate the cooking time. If you don’t have a scale, then an extra 30 minutes is usually sufficient for smaller turkeys, and an extra 15 to 20 minutes for larger turkeys.
  • Leftover turkey can be stored in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days in the fridge and up to 2 months in the freezer according to the USDA.
Nutrition Facts
How to Cook a Turkey (+How Long to Cook a Turkey)
Amount per Serving
Calories
458
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
25
g
38
%
Saturated Fat
 
10
g
50
%
Cholesterol
 
210
mg
70
%
Sodium
 
290
mg
12
%
Potassium
 
581
mg
17
%
Carbohydrates
 
1
g
0
%
Sugar
 
1
g
1
%
Net Carbs
 
1
g
2
%
Protein
 
56
g
112
%
Vitamin A
 
428
IU
9
%
Vitamin C
 
1
mg
1
%
Calcium
 
33
mg
3
%
Iron
 
2
mg
11
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Please read our nutrition disclaimer.

Author: Cindy
Course: dinner, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: How long to cook a turkey, How to cook a turkey
Did you make this recipe? Leave a comment below!

Further Questions

The USDA provides a Meat and Poultry Hotline available toll-free at 1-888-MPHotline or 1-888-674-6854. Alternatively, you can also chat live with a food safety specialist at AskUSDA. This service is available in English and Spanish between the hours of 10 am to 4 pm ET, Monday through Friday.

Learn how long to cook a turkey and get a perfectly cooked bird for your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner! The rule of thumb is 15 minutes per pound, but the cooking time also depends on oven temperature, whether the turkey is stuffed or unstuffed, and fresh vs. frozen.