There is arguably no dish in our country more symbolic of its corresponding holiday than that of the Thanksgiving turkey. In fact, according to the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association, over 46 million turkeys are eaten around the national holiday during which we give thanks. Considering the average holiday turkey clocks in at 16 pounds and gets served along with a bountiful plethora of Thanksgiving sides, timing the meal can be… intense.
Whether your Thanksgiving meal is served midday, early evening or even late into the night, timing the preparation of your entire holiday menu ultimately depends on how long it will take to cook the turkey. And determining the cooking time depends on a few key factors, namely the size of the bird and whether it’s stuffed or not. (Fans of brined turkeys will also want to factor in an extra day, which is what The Pioneer Woman likes to do.)
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So get ahead of the game—whether this year’s bird is a classic roasted turkey or a little gussied up, like Ree Drummond’s bacon-wrapped version—because a little advance planning will ensure that time is on your side. And no matter what, do like the pros and factor in resting time for your bird and let the turkey rest for at least 30 minutes after cooking—and longer is even better!—so that the juices have time to redistribute for the juiciest meat possible.
Do you cook a turkey longer if it is stuffed?
Yes! A stuffed turkey takes longer to cook, as this means you’ll need the very center of the stuffing to register 165˚ on an instant read thermometer to ensure that it’s cooked all the way through. (Conversely, an unstuffed bird also needs to reach 165˚, but the thermometer probe would be inserted in the deepest part of the thigh, taking care to not touch the bone, which would give an inaccurate reading.)
Overall, it’s safer to cook stuffing in a separate baking dish—plus, a crusty top isn’t possible when stuffed inside the bird—but this is the holiday to honor family traditions and personal preferences!
How long per pound do I cook my turkey?
Roasting times for the turkey will vary based on the size of the bird as well as whether it’s stuffed or unstuffed. As a general rule of thumb, plan on roasting your turkey for 15 to 20 minutes per pound—though to prevent undercooking or overcooking the bird, a thermometer reading will be your best bet. The suggested cooking times below are for a turkey that’s roasted at 325˚.
8 to 12 pounds: 2 3/4 to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds: 3 to 3 3/4 hours
14 to 18 pounds: 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds: 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours
20 to 24 pounds 4 1/2 to 5 hours
8 to 12 pounds: 3 to 3 1/2 hours
12 to 14 pounds: 3 1/2 to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds: 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
Is it better to cook a turkey at 325˚ or 350˚?
It’s not so much the specific oven temperature or roasting time that matters, but rather the final temperature reading on an instant-read thermometer, which is the best way to ensure that the turkey has been cooked all the way through.
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