How Long to Cook a Turkey of Any Size for Juicy Results

From eight to 24 pounds, stuffed or unstuffed, use this guide to determine how long to roast any turkey.

roast turkey on platter with oranges and bowl of cranberry sauce
Photo: Andy Lyons

If you've been assigned to take on the turkey this Thanksgiving, or any other festivity, it's important to know that getting the juiciest, most tender results requires get the cooking time right. You can start your Thanksgiving countdown by coordinating the guest list, cleaning the house, and even planning the entire Thanksgiving menu, but you can't plan your cooking strategy until you determine how long to cook a turkey. The key to knowing how many hours to cook a turkey (yes, it takes hours) depends on the turkey's weight. From an 8-pound turkey for a more intimate gathering to a 24-pound turkey that feeds the entire extended family, these guidelines show you exactly how long to cook a turkey.

How Long to Thaw a Turkey

It's important to start cooking with a fully defrosted turkey. Our handy turkey defrosting guide shares full timing and methods for thawing your Thanksgiving turkey. Our favorite way to thaw a bird is to leave it in the refrigerator. You can keep a turkey in the fridge for up to four days before cooking.

How Long to Roast a Turkey

Once your turkey has been properly thawed and brined, seasoned, or stuffed as desired, roast in a pan at 325°F using these times as guidelines for unstuffed turkeys. Always determine doneness with a temperature check. Each time is for cooking one turkey at a time. Your meat thermometer should register 175°F in the thigh muscle.

Turkey Roasting Times
 Turkey Size Time
 8- to 12-pound turkey  2¾ to 3 hours
 12- to 14-pound turkey  3 to 3¾ hours
 14- to 18-pound turkey  3¾ to 4¼ hours
 18- to 20-pound turkey  4¼ to 4½ hours
 20- to 24-pound turkey  4½ to 5 hours

Test Kitchen Tip: When your turkey finishes 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, stuffing your turkey rather than cooking the stuffing 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, do a temperature test to be sure the turkey is done. The center of the stuffing should hit 165°F.

Whether you cook up a Classic Roast Turkey, Maple Sage Turkey, Honey Roast Turkey, or the recipe that your family has passed down for generations, using these timings as your guide will help you put a turkey on the table that you're proud of.

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