Let’s discuss the part of preparing a turkey that we all fear the most: How Long to Cook a Turkey. There’s nothing more nerve-wracking then wondering if you’re going to overcook the bird. I’ve broken every step down for you, meaning you can now begin your turkey takedown with confidence!
Table of Contents
Whether you’re preparing a modest 4-pound turkey breast or a whopping 24-pound full bird, I have tips to help you figure out when to thaw, brine, and bake your turkey.
Plus, I’ve included some of my best tips and tricks for knowing when your turkey is done (spoiler alert: you’re definitely going to want one of these bad boys).
Scroll down to view all of the content, or use the Table of Contents box above to skip to the content you need.
Plus, I have a printable how long to cook a turkey in the oven chart with turkey cook times at the end.
Turkey Cooking Times
Below, you’ll find estimated cook times for unstuffed turkeys (stuffing cooked outside the bird) and stuffed turkeys (stuffing cooked inside the bird).
The estimated times are also broken down by oven temperature.
Regardless of which method you choose, know that these are just estimates.
- These times are based on letting a turkey come to room temperature first. If you skip this step, your turkey will likely take longer to cook.
- Each oven is different; some run hot and others run cold.
- Each turkey is different (for example: more white meat vs dark meat can make a difference).
- Opening and closing the oven will affect your cook time. If you are opening it every 5 to 10 minutes to keep checking for doneness (understandable!), it will take longer to cook the turkey.
- BE FLEXIBLE. Give yourself a buffer and anticipate a range.
It’s important to keep a close eye on things throughout the cooking process to make sure everything turns out perfectly.
Unstuffed Turkey Cooking Times
These times are based on cooking a room temperature turkey at 325 degrees F the entire time; plan on 10 to 12 minutes per pound.
- 6 to 8 pounds: 45 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes
- 8 to 10 pounds: 1 hour 15 minutes to 2 hours
- 10 to 12 pounds: 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours 30 minutes
- 12 to 14 pounds: 2 hours to 2 hours 45 minutes
- 14 to 16 pounds: 2 hours 15 minutes to 3 hours 15 minutes
- 16 to 18 pounds: 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours 45 minutes
- 18 to 20 pounds: 3 hours to 4 hours
- 20 to 24 pounds: 3 hours 15 minutes to 4 hours 45 minutes
These times are based on starting a room temperature turkey at high temp (450 degrees F), then lowering it to 325 degrees F after 45 minutes to 1 hour (recommended for crispy skin).
- 6 to 8 pounds: 35 minutes to 1 hour
- 8 to 10 pounds: 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes
- 10 to 12 pounds: 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes
- 12 to 14 pounds: 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours
- 14 to 16 pounds: 2 hours to 2 hours 30 minutes
- 16 to 18 pounds: 2 hours 15 minutes to 2 hours 30 minutes
- 18 to 20 pounds: 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours
- 20 to 24 pounds: 3 hours to 3 hours 30 minutes
Stuffed Turkey Cook Times
These times are based on a room temperature turkey at 325 degrees F the entire time; plan on about 15 to 17 minutes per pound (the times below are based on 15 minutes per pound).
- 4 to 8 pounds: 1 to 2 hours
- 8 to 10 pounds: 2 hours to 2 hours 30 minutes
- 12 to 14 pounds: 3 hours to 3 hours 30 minutes
- 14 to 16 pounds: 3 hours 30 minutes to 4 hours
- 16 to 18 pounds: 4 hours to 4 hours 30 minutes
- 18 to 20 pounds: 4 hours 30 minutes to 5 hours
- 20 to 24 pounds: 5 to 6 hours
These times are based on starting a room temperature turkey at higher temp (450 degrees F), then lowering it to 325 degrees F after 45 minutes to 1 hour (recommended for crispy skin).
- 4 to 8 pounds: 45 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes
- 8 to 10 pounds: 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes
- 12 to 14 pounds: 2 hours 15 minutes to 2 hours 45 minutes
- 14 to 16 pounds: 2 hours 45 minutes to 3 hours 15 minutes
- 16 to 18 pounds: 3 hours 15 minutes to 3 hours 45 minutes
- 18 to 20 pounds: 3 hours 45 minutes to 4 hours 15 minutes
- 20 to 24 pounds: 4 hours 15 minutes to 5 hours 15 minutes
A Faster Way to Cook Turkey
Want to speed up the roasting process? Make Spatchcock Turkey!
- Spatchcocking (removing the turkey’s backbone and laying it flat to cook) cooks 75% faster than traditional roast turkey—a 10- to 12-pound spatchcock turkey can be done in around an hour.
The Turkey Prep Countdown
So, Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, you know how many guests you’ll be serving, and you’ve purchased your turkey.
Now, it’s time to make a turkey timeline!
Using the reference guides below, you can game plan what steps you’ll need to do and when you’ll need to do them.
When to Thaw Your Turkey
*Plan on 24 hours of thawing per 5 pounds of turkey*
- 4 to 8 pounds: 1 day before
- 8 to 10 pounds: 2 days before
- 12 to 14 pounds: 2 to 3 days before
- 14 to 16 pounds: 3 days before
- 16 to 18 pounds: 3 to 4 days before
- 18 to 20 pounds: 4 to 5 days before
- 20 to 24 pounds: 5 to 6 days before
When to Brine Your Turkey
- Wet Brine. If you’re using a wet brine, plan on adding it 12 to 24 hours ahead of time.
- Dry Brine. If you’re using a dry brine, plan on adding it 24 to 48 hours ahead of time.
What to Do the Day Before/Morning Of
- Wet Brine. Up to 24 hours in advance (complete by the morning of), remove the turkey from the brine and rinse it, pat it dry, then transfer it to a baking sheet. Return the uncovered turkey to the refrigerator until you’re ready to roast.
- Dry Brine. Up to 24 hours in advance (complete by the morning of), uncover the turkey and leave it in the refrigerator.
Recommended Tools to Roast a Turkey
- Roasting Pan. Ideal for preparing a perfectly cooked turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.
- Instant Read Thermometer. This option is an investment, but it’s well worth it. Here’s a more affordable option too. Both work very well for checking the internal temperature of your turkey. This tool is how you cook a turkey in the oven to be moist, not dry!
- Cutting Board with Grooves. Once you’ve roasted your turkey, you’ll need a cutting board like this one for carving.
Tips and Tricks
- Let the Turkey Come to Room Temp. No matter what brining method you use, make sure you remove the turkey from the refrigerator 1 hour before roasting to allow it to come to room temperature.
- Preheat Your Oven. Give your oven plenty of time to get to temperature before adding your turkey. I suggest letting it warm up for at least 30 minutes.
- Don’t Overcook Your Turkey. This is the MOST important tip I can provide. Overcooked turkey = dry turkey. Use an instant read thermometer to gauge your turkey’s progress throughout the cooking process.
Turkey Cooking Time Chart
Frequently Asked Questions
No, both the consistent temperature and high/low temperature methods will result in a flavorful turkey. With both options, I still recommend first brushing the turkey with melted butter and black pepper and stuffing the cavity with aromatics (I use carrots, thyme, apples, onion, lemon, and garlic).
I prefer using the 450 degrees F method because it will result in crispier, browner skin and more moisture in the meat. Sticking with 325 degrees F the entire time won’t allow your turkey to brown as much, and some of the fat will likely run off into the pan.
No, I don’t feel that it’s necessary to baste your turkey once it’s in the oven. Opening the oven door repeatedly will disrupt the temperature of the oven and increase how long you’ll need to cook turkey in the oven.
An unstuffed turkey will typically need about 10 to 12 minutes per pound. A stuffed turkey will typically need about 15 to 17 minutes per pound. Note that these times are just an estimate and are based on letting your turkey come to room temperature first (it will take longer if you don’t). Make sure to check your turkey’s temperature early and often to gauge how quickly it’s cooking.