How to Cook a Turkey
If you're making your first Thanksgiving turkey or just need a refresher on the basics, we're sharing easy step-by-step instructions for how to cook a turkey from start to finish, including a roasting chart with cooking times for every size of bird.
Step-by-Step Turkey Roasting
- Remove giblets that are usually stored in a packet in the neck area of the bird. Use for preparing broth if desired. Remove and discard any large pockets of fat that may be present in the neck area.
- For whole poultry, drain juices and blot cavity dry with paper towels. Currently, the USDA does not advise washing poultry before cooking. If you do, after removing the turkey, wash the sink with hot, soapy water or sanitize with a mild bleach solution of 1 teaspoon chlorine bleach to 1 quart of water. This will help prevent cross-contamination to other foods that are washed in the sink.
- Rub the inside of cavity and neck area with salt.
- Place breast side up on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.
- Brush the skin with oil or melted butter.
- Insert an oven-safe meat thermometer into the thigh area of large birds, not touching bone. (Or for large or small birds, use an instant read thermometer before you return it to the oven.)
- Roast, uncovered without liquid, according to the temperature and time given in the chart below or in your recipe. The roasting times provided in the chart below are for defrosted poultry that is refrigerator cold.
- If poultry browns too quickly, tent with foil.
- Because turkeys will continue to cook after being removed from the oven, remove them when the internal temperature is 5 degrees below desired doneness.
- Cover with foil and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes before removing any stuffing and carving.
Turkey Cooking Times
The roasting times provided in this chart are for defrosted poultry that is refrigerator cold.
|Type of Turkey
(Minutes Per Pound)
|Oven Temp||Doneness Temp|
|Turkey, Whole||8 to 12 lbs.||15 to 20||325°||170° to 175°|
|12 to 14 lbs.||15 to 17||325°||170° to 175°|
|14 to 18 lbs.||14 to 16||325°||170° to 175°|
|18 to 20 lbs.||13 to 14||325°||170° to 175°|
|20 to 24 lbs.||12 to 13-1/2||325°||170° to 175°|
|Turkey Breast, Whole||4 to 6 lbs.||22 to 30||325°||165°|
|Turkey Breast, Half||1-3/4 to 3-1/2 lbs.||35 to 40||325°||165°|
|Turkey Breast, Roast||1-1/4 to 1-3/4 lbs.||45 to 60||325°||165°|
*For stuffed birds, add 15 to 45 minutes to the roasting time. Temperature of stuffing should read at least 165°.