How Long to Cook Turkey

How Long to Cook Turkey for Best Results

You want to be sure your turkey is moist and tender, but still fully cooked for safety and texture. Balancing the two so your bird is neither overdone nor underdone doesn’t have to be difficult, with these foolproof roasting techniques.

First of all, consider size. You want about a pound for each person who is coming for the meal. Next, decide whether you prefer your turkey fresh or frozen. Fresh turkeys should be purchased no more than one to two days before cooking, and it must be refrigerated for safety until you are ready to start cooking. Fresh turkeys sold already stuffed are never a good idea – they provide a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria to multiply.

Frozen turkeys should stay in your freezer until a few days beforehand, then allow enough time to thaw – but not too much. Birds up to 12 pounds require one to three days in the refrigerator, for 12 – 16 days give four, and add an additional day for every additional four pounds. Thaw your turkey on a tray to catch any drips, so you don’t contaminate the contents of your fridge.

Before you roast the turkey, remove the giblets and neck from the cavity, then heat your over to 325 degrees. Choose a roasting pan with shallow sides, and place on the center rack of your oven. Remember that stuffing should be cooked separately to ensure you stay healthy.

The bird should be cooked until the juices are clear, and the temperature on your meat thermometer reaches 165 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh and breast. Don’t rely on a pop-up timer – always manually double-check before determining doneness. Turkeys up to eight pounds will require between 1 ½ and 3 ¼ hours in the oven, with an additional 15 minutes for every additional pound. When you take the cooked turkey out of the oven, let it rest for 20-30 minutes so the juices can flavor the meat.

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