There's a reason the turkey is celebrated- it's a legendary meat that, when cooked correctly, tastes sensational.
Sadly, as much as we want it to be perfectly cooked, it's famously often not, leading to a disappointing centerpiece. If you're preparing for Thanksgiving, or are pulling out a turkey for a special occasion, we have you covered. This quick guide for optimal turkey roasting times will ensure your bird comes out perfectly.
Cooking a turkey can be an intimidating task, especially if you're not sure how long to cook it. Because the cooking time and temperature will vary depending on several factors, including the size of the turkey, the cooking method, and whether the turkey is stuffed or unstuffed. Regardless, if you're looking for how long to cook a turkey, read on!
How long to cook a stuffed turkey per pound
Before even starting to prep the bird, it's best practice to ensure you know exactly how heavy it is, as this drastically changes your cooking time. Here are some basic guidelines to follow for a stuffed turkey:
- 8-12 pounds: 3-3.5 hours at 325°F (163°C)
- 12-14 pounds: 3.75-4 hours at 325°F (163°C)
- 14-18 pounds: 4-4.25 hours at 325°F (163°C)
- 18-20 pounds: 4.25-4.75 hours at 325°F (163°C)
- 20-24 pounds: 4.75-5.25 hours at 325°F (163°C)
Note that suffing should be cooked to a minimum temperature of 165°F (74°C) to ensure it's safe to eat. So, it's really recommended to insert a meat thermometer into the center of the stuffing to check its temperature.
At Typhur, we just released our Typhur InstaProbe™, a great way to get a lightning-fast read on any of your meat!
How long to cook an unstuffed turkey per pound
A general rule of thumb for cooking an unstuffed turkey is to roast it at 325°F (163°C) for approximately 15 minutes per pound, and we've got some rough guidelines you can follow right here:
- 8-12 pounds: 2.5-3 hours at 325°F (163°C)
- 12-14 pounds: 3-3.75 hours at 325°F (163°C)
- 14-18 pounds: 3.75-4.25 hours at 325°F (163°C)
- 18-20 pounds: 4.25-4.5 hours at 325°F (163°C)
- 20-24 pounds: 4.5-5 hours at 325°F (163°C)
Checking the internal temperature of cooked turkey
You should use a meat thermometer to check the turkey is cooked to the correct temperature, but where to put thermometer in turkey? the answer is in the thickest part, which is usually the thigh, although we recommend checking both the breast and thigh.
But the turkey breast tends to cook faster than the dark meat. To avoid overcooking turkey breast, some people move the chicken breasts away from the heat source and place the chicken thighs closer to it to allow them to cook faster. Another way is to use ice on the chicken breast to lower its starting temperature, which prevents overcooking.
As makers of the industries current fastest meat thermometer, the InstaProbe™ does a great job of getting a rapid read on your turkey, just 0.75 seconds is all that's needed to get a highly accurate result. The OLED screen also ensures that it's easily readable, even with any steam that flies out of the oven!
In this case, here's how to use the InstaPorobe™ to check the internal temperature of cooked turkey:
Step 1. Locate the thickest part of the turkey, which is usually the thigh or the breast. This is where you will insert the InstaProbe thermometer.
Step 2. Insert the probe of the InstaProbe thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey. Make sure the probe is inserted deep enough to reach the center of the meat, but avoid touching the bone as this can affect the accuracy of the reading.
Step 3. Wait for the thermometer to register the temperature. This will take less than 1 second. The temperature reading will be displayed on the digital screen of the thermometer, then you can decide to pull out the bird and let it rest for 15 minutes (if you're happy), or if it isn't quite ready, put it back in and give it time.
Tips for cooking a turkey
We all want that turkey to turn out as a hit - so here are some guidelines that you can follow to ensure a juicy and flavorful turkey.
- Thaw the turkey properly. If you're using a frozen turkey, make sure to thaw it in the refrigerator for several days before cooking it. A good rule of thumb is to allow one day of thawing time for every four pounds of turkey.
- Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C). This is the recommended temperature for cooking a turkey, as it ensures that the meat cooks evenly and thoroughly without drying out.
- Use a thermometer to check the internal temperature. Cook the breast meat to 157°F/69°C for moist, juicy turkey. Since the dark meat, like a thigh, needs higher temperatures for the collagen to melt, our recommendation for the tender dark meat is 175-180°F/79-82°C.
- Let the turkey rest before carving. Once the turkey is cooked, let it rest for at least 15-20 minutes before carving it. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, making it juicier and more flavorful. Be patient here! This final step makes all of the difference.
FAQs about turkey cooking time and temperature
How long will a 5kg turkey take to cook?
The cooking time for a 5kg turkey can vary depending on the cooking method and temperature used. As a general rule of thumb, it's recommended to cook a turkey for approximately 40-45 minutes per kilogram at a temperature of 325°F (163°C).
Therefore, a 5kg turkey would take around 3-3.5 hours to cook at 325°F (163°C). However, it's important to use a meat thermometer to check that the internal temperature of the thickest part of the turkey (usually the thigh) has reached 165°F (74°C) before serving to ensure it is fully cooked and safe to eat.
Is it better to cook turkey at high or low temp?
When cooking a turkey, it's generally recommended to start cooking it at a high temperature to get the skin crispy and then lower the temperature to ensure the meat cooks evenly and remains juicy.
Starting the turkey at a high temperature (around 220-230°C or 425-450°F) for the first 30 minutes to an hour can help to brown and crisp the skin. After this initial high-heat cooking period, you can lower the oven temperature to around 325-350°F (160-180°C) and continue cooking until the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 165°F (74°C).
Cooking a turkey at a low temperature throughout can also be effective, but it can take longer to cook and may result in less crispy skin. Ultimately, the best temperature to cook a turkey depends on personal preference and the cooking method you choose.
To sum up
Hopefully our guide here helps you the next time you're prepping for a thanksgiving or a special occasion. We recommend bookmarking this or saving the guidelines from this article for later use, and highly recommend considering a meat thermometer for maximum consistency when you're tackling roasted meats.
It takes planning, patience, and care - but a turkey (or any good roast) is almost always worth the wait. Don't forget to let your meat rest after taking it out of the oven!
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