An important part of cooking a turkey is to know when it is done cooking. Properly cooked turkey is tender, juicy, and delicious. In this post, you’ll find how to cook the bird properly with the right internal temperature.
There are tips and tricks you can use to ensure it’s deliciously cooked and safe to eat every time. Today we’re sharing some helpful tips for preparing turkey so that you’ll have a mouth-watering meal for Thanksgiving or other special occasions.
Oven Temperature for Roasting a Turkey
- Bake at 350°F for any turkey that’s less than 14 pounds (5.9kg)
- Bake at 325°F for bigger turkeys over 14 pounds.
What is the Proper Internal Temperature for Turkey?
According to recommendations from the United States Department for Agriculture (USDA), the minimum internal temperature for turkey is 165°F. This temperature eliminates toxins or parasites from the meat, and preserves the juices for the best flavor .
Note: The turkey will continue to cook for a short time after it is removed from the heat. For this reason, you may want to remove cuts of pork from the heat source when the internal temperature has reached 160°F.
How to Know When Turkey is Done: Use an Instant Read Thermometer
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.
How Long to Cook Turkey
For an unstuffed turkey (fresh or defrosted), the general rule is about 15 minutes per pound at a 325°F regular oven according to the USDA. If you’re using a convection oven, your turkey will cook slightly faster.
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 Cooking Time||Oven Temperature|
|10 to 14 lb||2-1/4 to 3 hours||350°F|
|15 to 22 lb||3 to 4 hours||325°F|
|23 to 25 lb||4 to 4 1/2hours||325°F|
|26 to 29 lb||4-1/2 to 5 hours||325°F|
Note: If you’re using a convection oven, bake for 15-30% less time. As there’s variation in kitchen equipment, always verify doneness using a thermometer instead of relying on time alone.
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 Roast a Turkey
- 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
- 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 the 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.
- *For other sizes: 2-1/4-3 hours for 10-14 lbs (at 350°F), 3-4 hours for 15-22 lbs, 4-4.5 hours for 23-25 lbs and 4.5-5 hours for 26-29 lbs. Reduce by 15-30% for 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.
- Leftover turkey can be stored in an airtight container for up to 4 days in the fridge and up to 2 months in the freezer.