Cooking for Thanksgiving (and other holidays) is stressful enough without worrying about how long to cook the main dish: turkey. To ensure your turkey is safe to serve, follow our guidelines on how long to cook a turkey. Whether you're cooking a stuffed or unstuffed turkey, we've got the turkey timing guidance you need.

By Sheena Chihak
Updated August 20, 2020
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If you’ve been charged with cooking the bird for Thanksgiving, or any other gathering, the first thing you’re likely to wonder is, “just how long does a turkey take to cook?” You can start your Thanksgiving countdown by coordinating the guest list, cleaning the house, and even planning the entire thanksgiving menu, but until you know how long to cook a turkey you can’t plan your day-of cooking strategy. Don’t stress, we’ve got your back. The key to determining how many hours to cook a turkey (yes, it does take hours, plural) is in the turkey’s weight. From 8-pound turkeys for smaller gatherings to 24-pound turkeys to feed the entire extended family, here are your guidelines for how long to cook a turkey.

Jason Donnelly

How Long to Roast a Turkey

Once your turkey has been properly thawed and brined, seasoned, or stuffed as desired, roast in a roasting pan ($60, Williams Sonoma) at 325°F using these times as guidelines for unstuffed turkeys. Always determine doneness with a temperature check. Your meat thermometer ($15, Target) should register 175°F in the thigh muscle.

  • For one 8- to 12-pound turkey, roast at 325°F for 2¾ to 3 hours.
  • For one 12- to 14-pound turkey, roast at 325°F for 3 to 3¾ hours.
  • For one 14- to 18-pound turkey, roast at 325°F for 3¾ to 4¼ hours.
  • For one 18- to 20-pound turkey, roast at 325°F for 4¼ to 4½ hours.
  • For one 20- to 24-pound turkey, roast at 325°F for 4½ to 5 hours.

Test Kitchen Tip: When your turkey is done cooking, cover it loosely with foil and let it stand 15 minutes before carving.

Timing Guidelines for Stuffed Whole Turkeys

If you're going the classic route and stuffing your bird rather than cooking the stuffing recipe in its own dish, you'll increase the above roasting times by 15 to 45 minutes. Look here for the stuffed turkey timing details. Again, you'll know the turkey is done by a temperature test. The center of the stuffing should hit 165°F.

Cook up a Classic Roast Turkey, Maple Sage Turkey, Honey Roast Turkey, or whatever turkey recipe has been passed down in your family using these timings as your guide and getting to the point of carving the bird will feel so much simpler.

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