How Long to Cook a 30-Pound Turkey

Discover the secrets to cooking a large turkey along with some helpful hints for turning that big bird into a feast to remember.

You're cooking a 30-pound turkey? Lucky you—you're blessed with an abundance of family and friends, and they'll soon be gathered around your table. The trouble is, while many great turkey recipes tell you how to roast a 10- to 12-pound turkey, or even 16 to 18 pounds, few tell you how long to cook a 30-pounder. We're here to help. We'll give you the most accurate cooking time, along with the information you need, including the right internal temperature for doneness and the best-tasting meat.

Turkey Math: As a general rule, plan on 1 pound of turkey per person. If you like leftovers, make it 1½ to 2 pounds per person. Therefore, a 30-pound turkey can serve up to 30 people (but realistically, more like 15 to 20 if you want leftovers, and you probably do!).

Classic Roast Turkey
Andy Lyons

First, Defrost Your Turkey

Plan ahead. Before you can roast your 30-pound turkey, you must defrost it. It will take at least 7 days to thaw such a large turkey completely (turkeys injected with a solution of water, salt, and/or spices take even longer—another day or so). While there is a cold-water method for thawing turkey, it's somewhat hands-on. We prefer to let our fridge do the work.

While your turkey is defrosting in the fridge, you'll have plenty of time to make a few decisions. Brine or no brine? Rub or no rub? You'll also want to choose gravy and stuffing or dressing recipes.

How Long to Cook a 30-Pound Turkey

Our Classic Roast Turkey recipe explains how to prep your turkey for roasting. You'll also need to insert an oven-safe meat thermometer (Bed Bath & Beyond) into the center of an inside thigh muscle, making sure the probe does not touch the bone.

When you're ready to roast your turkey, here is what our Test Kitchen and the folks at Butterball suggest for 24- to 30-pound turkeys:

  • 24- to 30-pound turkey cooking time (unstuffed): Cook for 4½ to 5 hours at 325°F.
  • 24- to 30-pound turkey cooking time (stuffed): Cook for 5½ to 6¼ hours at 325°F.

Test Kitchen Tip: Toward the end of the cooking time, your recipe might instruct you to cut the string you've used to tie the drumsticks together and remove the foil covering the breast. Be sure to follow these steps.

When Is a 30-Pound Turkey Done?

While the U.S. Department of Agriculture specifies that turkey meat is safe to eat at 165°F, in our Test Kitchen, we found turkeys look and taste better when the temperature reaches 175°F in the dark meat and 165°F in the breast. (At this point, the juices should run clear, and the drumsticks should move easily in their sockets.) Also, if your turkey is stuffed, the center of stuffing must register 165°F.

Before carving with your carving set (Williams Sonoma), let the turkey stand as directed in your recipe (usually 15 to 20 minutes). This allows the meat to get firmer, so it's easier to cut. The resting time also allows the juices to redistribute throughout the turkey.

The only downside to roasting a 30-pound turkey is that you won't have much room in your oven for anything else. The solution? Try some slow-cooker Thanksgiving sides and Instant Pot Thanksgiving side dishes. Or, have guests bring their own favorite Thanksgiving sides and desserts.

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