Knowing the perfect cooking time for a turkey is a crucial skill, especially when it comes to Thanksgiving. Picture this: all your guests eagerly gathered around the table, anxiously awaiting that glorious bird, only for it to emerge from the oven still raw. Talk about embarrassing! Not to mention, undercooked turkey can be potentially life-threatening. But fret not! We’ve got you covered with everything you need to know about cooking times, temperatures, and tips for the juiciest turkey ever.
Timing Is Everything
For a rough estimate of cooking time, calculate about 13 minutes per pound for an unstuffed turkey. However, if you plan to stuff your turkey, allow for approximately 15 minutes per pound. But here’s the catch: we highly recommend roasting your turkey unstuffed. Why? Well, cooking stuffing inside the bird requires overcooking the turkey to ensure the stuffing reaches a safe temperature. No amount of Thanksgiving gravy can salvage a dry turkey. The better alternative is to bake your stuffing recipe separately in a pan. Oh, and if you’re considering cooking your turkey upside down, think again. Our Test Kitchen pros advise against it, as it doesn’t result in a juicier bird, and all that flipping can be quite risky!
Before you pop that beautiful bird into the oven, don’t forget a couple of pre-roasting preparations. If your turkey is frozen, make sure to thaw it properly. Additionally, consider seasoning your turkey with a flavor-boosting dry brine. These steps are essential to factor into your overall cooking time. As for the tools, a trusty timer can help you keep track of the hours, but the real hero in achieving perfect results every time is a great meat thermometer. It’ll ensure your turkey reaches the ideal internal temperature.
Cooking Times for Unstuffed Turkey
Here’s a handy guide to cooking times for an unstuffed turkey based on weight:
- Turkey 8-10 lbs: 1 hr 45 mins-2 hrs 15 mins
- Turkey 10-12 lbs: 2 hrs 15 mins-2 hrs 30 mins
- Turkey 12-14 lbs: 2 hrs 30 mins-3 hrs
- Turkey 14-16 lbs: 3 hrs-3 hrs 30 mins
- Turkey 16-18 lbs: 3 hrs 30 mins-4 hrs
- Turkey 18-20 lbs: 4 hrs-4 hrs 15 mins
Cooking Times for Stuffed Turkey
For those who prefer a stuffed turkey, here are the cooking times based on pre-stuffed weight:
- Turkey 6 to 8 pounds (breast only): 2 hrs 30 mins-3 hrs 30 mins
- Turkey 8 to 12 pounds: 3 hrs-3 hrs 30 mins
- Turkey 12 to 14 pounds: 3 hrs 30 mins-4 hrs
- Turkey 14 to 18 pounds: 4 hrs-4 hrs 15 mins
- Turkey 18 to 20 pounds: 4 hrs 15 mins-4 hrs 45 mins
- Turkey 20 to 24 pounds: 4 hrs 45 mins-5 hrs 15 mins
How to Cook a Frozen Turkey
If your turkey is still partially frozen on Thanksgiving morning, fear not! You can still roast it safely. Just keep in mind that it will take about 50% longer to cook than a fully thawed bird. So, dinner might be delayed a bit, but that just means more time for Thanksgiving appetizers. In the end, you’ll be rewarded with a delicious turkey.
Turkey Size Matters
When it comes to turkey, bigger isn’t necessarily better. If you’re feeding a crowd, consider buying two smaller birds or one whole turkey and a turkey breast. Two 10-pound birds will cook more evenly and stay juicier compared to a massive 20-pound beast. Plus, they’ll be much easier to carve!
The Goldilocks of Temperatures
Ever wondered at what temperature you should cook your turkey? Our Test Kitchen has the answer! They found that 375℉ is the Goldilocks temperature for turkey roasting. It’s not too hot, not too cold, and ensures a perfectly cooked bird in no time.
Is It Done Yet?
To determine if your turkey is done, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. The internal temperature should register 165°F, and the juices should run clear, not pink. This is the ultimate indication that your turkey is ready to be devoured!
Rest and Carve
Patience is key! Allow your turkey to rest for at least 25 minutes after cooking. This allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in a more succulent and flavorful turkey. Cover the bird loosely with foil to keep it hot, then get ready to carve and serve.
Remember, cooking a turkey to perfection is an art. With the right cooking times, temperatures, and tips, you’ll be well on your way to impressing your guests with a mouthwatering Thanksgiving feast. Happy cooking!
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