How to Cook A Turkey: Cooking Time and Turkey Temperature

November 24, 2010
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You want to know how to cook a turkey? Cooking time and turkey temperature are usually pretty consistent, but for those of you cooking a turkey for the first time or need a refresher, we’ve got what you need to know right here!

When learning how to cook a turkey, cooking time and turkey temperature are extremely important especially if you want your turkey to stay moist and tender. In the past you may have wondered why your turkey turned out dry tasting in texture. The reason being? You overcooked the bird.

Here are some good tips when preparing your turkey.

First of all, you need to know the weight of your bird in order to thaw it out for the right amount of time.

Here is the proper thaw time necessary for turkey by poundage:

If you have an 8 to 12 lb. turkey, you need to thaw it for 2-3 days.

For a 13 to 16lb turkey, you need to let it thaw for 3-4 days.

For a 17 to 20 lb turkey, allow 4-5 days.

For a 21-24 lb turkey, allow 5-6 days for thawing time.

Here and here are some ways to make your turkey better.

When you are ready to cook your turkey, make sure that the temperature in your oven is accurate. One of the most important parts of pre-cooking action is to make sure that your turkey has been totally thawed and cleaned. To do so, you can thaw it in your refrigerator and run cold water over it. One thing you do not want to do is place it in a microwave. You risk bacterial growth and contamination that way.

Next up, you will want to remove the neck and giblets from inside of the bird. I know it sounds nasty, but it is necessary for a perfect tasting turkey. Trust me!

Preheat your oven to 475 degrees! That is the magic number for cooking a turkey!

For best results, you will want to use this method of cooking for turkeys under 20 lbs. If you want more turkey, use two smaller turkeys.

Ok, now that you have your turkey cleaned and stripped it of giblets, you will want to gently peel the skin from the breast without removing it entirely. What you want to do next is use a butter rub on the bare breast…not the skin.

If you so choose, you can add rosemary and thyme to season the breast skin, along with the meat. In addition to that seasoning, you will want to salt and pepper the skin.

Once you have it seasoned, you will want to put your turkey in the roasting pan and place it in the over for 20 minutes. Do not add water to the pan at all.

After the 20 minutes at that temperature, you will want to reduce the heat to 250 degrees. What you are actually doing is slow cooking the turkey. The time for cooking the turkey at this temperature is 20 minutes.

The best way to know if your turkey is fully cooked is to use a meat thermometer. The correct interior temp of the turkey should be between 170 degrees F to 180 degrees F.

Cook the turkey at 250°F for 20 additional minutes for each pound. Below is a good way of measuring the total cooking time. This time chart is good only for a completely THAWED turkey.

Size Turkey Time at 475°F Time at 250°F “Resting” Time Total Preparation Time
10 lbs. 20 minutes 3 hours 20 minutes 20 minutes 4 hours
11 lbs. 20 minutes 3 hours 40 minutes 20 minutes 4 hours 20 minutes
12 lbs. 20 minutes 4 hours 20 minutes 4 hours 40 minutes
13 lbs. 20 minutes 4 hours 20 minutes 20 minutes 5 hours
14 lbs. 20 minutes 4 hours 40 minutes 20 minutes 5 hours 20 minutes
15 lbs. 20 minutes 5 hours 20 minutes 5 hours 40 minutes
16 lbs. 20 minutes 5 hours 20 minutes 20 minutes 6 hours
17 lbs. 20 minutes 5 hours 40 minutes 20 minutes 6 hours 20 minutes
18 lbs. 20 minutes 6 hours 20 minutes 6 hours 40 minutes
19 lbs. 20 minutes 6 hours 20 minutes 20 minutes 7 hours
20 lbs. 20 minutes 6 hours 40 minutes 20 minutes 7 hours 20 minutes

Resting Time refers to how long you should let the turkey sit before you carve it.

After you have allowed the turkey to “rest”, you are ready to carve and serve!

When you learn how to cook a turkey, cooking time and temperature time will come naturally to you! Enjoy!






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3 Responses to “How to Cook A Turkey: Cooking Time and Turkey Temperature”

  1. 1
    Stacy Says:

    Thanks- that was handy!

  2. 2
    Jeanne Says:

    Never used this method, but I am going to try it since I only have a 10 pound turkey this year. I will let you know how it turns out

  3. 3
    Miriam Says:

    Great one, thanks