Wondering how long you need to cook your turkey?
The last thing you want at your Thanksgiving meal is to serve an over or undercooked turkey!
So below you’ll learn exactly how long you need to cook your turkey per pound so you can turn out the perfect, delicious turkey with crispy skin.
Table of contents
How Long to Cook Turkey Per Pound
You need to cook your turkey for 13 minutes per pound at a temperature of 350°F if it is an unstuffed bird.
However long you cook your turkey can vary depending on your oven temperature or whether the bird is stuffed or unstuffed.
If stuffed, then you should cook it for 15 minutes per pound.
How Long to Cook a Stuffed Turkey
A stuffed turkey takes longer to cook than an unstuffed turkey.
Furthermore, it is important to ensure the stuffing temperature is 165°F when you insert a thermometer into its center after cooking.
Neglecting to check the temperature of the stuffing could lead to food-borne illness.
Skip the Stuffing
Although many choose to roast a stuffed turkey, it is not considered food-safe and may even dry out the turkey meat faster.
Hence, it is best to stick to the 13-minute per pound rule and skip the stuffing entirely.
You can instead bake your stuffing recipe in a separate dish and serve it alongside your turkey, warm and fresh.
Keeping a steady temperature of 325°F- 350°F for the entire cooking time is recommended.
This temperature is low enough to not worry about moisture evaporating quickly and drying the bird out.
However, it is also warm enough for the meat to cook all the way through at a quick pace.
This makes the 350°F mark ideal for achieving the perfect turkey.
How Big Should You Go?
A good gauge when buying your turkey is to measure one pound of turkey per person.
However, buying a turkey within the 12 and 15-pound mark, as anything larger than this can result in uneven cooking.
If you have more than 15 guests, buying two smaller birds to feed everyone would be a good idea.
Cooking Frozen Turkey
Although it is safe to cook a frozen turkey, it will take 50 percent longer to cook than a fully thawed bird.
The best method to cook a frozen turkey is a two-pronged method.
The first cycle will be a controlled partial defrost. Start by pre-heating your oven to 325°F and defrost the bird for 2 hours.
Next, remove the turkey from the oven to season and brush it with oil.
Next, return the turkey to the oven to cook for 3-4 hours more at 325°F.
If cooking a frozen turkey, ensure that you remove the giblet packet with tongs about halfway through.
Cook until the internal temperature of the deepest part of the thigh registers 165°F with a meat thermometer.
How to Know if Turkey Is Done?
The only way to know if your turkey is done is to check the temperature of the meat.
You can check this by inserting a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the bird.
Be sure that your thermometer is not touching the bone to get an accurate reading.
A general guideline is to remove the turkey from the oven or smoker when the thigh meat is 155°F.
Cooking a completely defrosted bird is the best way to keep the cooking time short.
However, it is important to budget enough time for defrosting the bird as the whole turkey can take several days to thaw.
In general, you will need 24 hours of thawing time for every 5 pounds of turkey after placing it in the refrigerator.
Baste or Not to Baste?
It is not recommended that you baste the turkey.
Basting requires you to open the oven door, which lets the heat out and cools the surface of your bird.
This means that every time you baste, you increase the bird’s overall cooking time.
Furthermore, more time in the oven leads to the meat drying out and becoming tough.
The Secret to Golden Skin
The trick to achieving the perfect crispy, golden skin is before the turkey even enters the oven.
The day before cooking, take the bird out of the packaging and rake out the giblets.
Then massage kosher salt all over the bird and return it to the fridge until it is ready to roast.
This not only seasons the meat but also draws out excess moisture from the skin, which leads to nice and crispy skin once baked.
Letting the Turkey Rest
Resting the turkey is crucial to prevent any moisture from escaping and to let the juices redistribute throughout the meat, leading to the plump, tender meat.
Should You Brine?
Brining is not necessary but is a good idea, nonetheless.
If brined in saltwater for a day or two before cooking, you can expect to achieve well-seasoned meat and perfectly crispy skin.
Measuring the cooking time of a turkey and making the process quick and easy while preparing for a thanksgiving dinner is no easy task.
However, by sticking to the above guidelines and steps, you are sure to roast up a juicy, delicious turkey easily and in no time for your next holiday feast!
Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)
You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!
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