What Temperature, Time to Cook a Thanksgiving Turkey and How Long?

November 26, 2014 Updated: March 12, 2018    

Thanksgiving is coming up on Thursday and people are wondering how to cook turkey.

There’s different ways to cook a turkey, with the most common sticking it in the oven.

The bigger a turkey is, the longer it will take to cook in the oven. It will also take longer if the turkey isn’t fully cooked, and if its stuffed.

Check out the cook times for different sizes and different types below, and how to prepare them via Butterball.

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Fresh or Thawed Frozen Whole Turkeys

To start out, preheat your oven to 325 degrees, and drain the juices from the turkey.

Place the turkey breast side up on a flat rack in a shallow roasting pan that’s 2 to 2.5 inches deep. If you don’t have a rack, crunch aluminum foil into a coil or use vegetables like carrots to keep your turkey off the bottom of the pan.

Turn the wings back to hold the neck skin in place. For the best appearance, brush the skin lightly with vegetable of cooking oil.

Insert a meat thermometer into the lower thigh without touching the bone. When the temperature reaches 180 degrees, the turkey is done. After that, take the temperature of a breast, or the stuffing and make sure it’s at 165.

Also, when the turkey is about 2/3 done, loosely cover the breast and tops of the drumsticks with a piece of foil to prevent overcooking. After the turkey is done completely, let is stand 15 minutes before carving.

Regular Oven

Weight: 4 1/2 to 7 lbs
Cook Time (Unstuffed): 2 to 2 1/2 hours
Cook Time (Stuffed): 2 1/4 to 2 3/4 hours

Weight: 7 to 9 lbs
Cook Time (Unstuffed): 2 1/2 to 3 hours
Cook Time (Stuffed): 2 3/4 to 4 1/2 hours

Weight: 9 to 18 lbs
Cook Time (Unstuffed): 3 to 3 1/2 hours
Cook Time (Stuffed): 3 3/4 to 4 1/2 hours

Weight: 18 to 22 lbs
Cook Time (Unstuffed): 3 1/2 to 4 hours
Cook Time (Stuffed): 4 1/2 to 5 hours

Weight: 22 to 24 lbs
Cook Time (Unstuffed): 4 to 4 1/2 hours
Cook Time (Stuffed): 5 to 5 1/2 hours

Weight: 24 to 30 lbs
Cook Time (Unstuffed): 4 1/2 to 5 hours
Cook Time (Stuffed): 5 1/2 to 6 1/4 hours

Convection Oven

Weight: 6 to 10 lbs
Cook Time (Unstuffed): 1 1/2 to 2 hours
Cook Time (Stuffed): 1 3/4 to 2 1/2 hours

Weight:  10 to 18 lbs
Cook Time (Unstuffed): 2 to 2 1/2 hours
Cook Time (Stuffed): 2 1/2 to 3 1/4 hours

Weight: 18 to 22 lbs
Cook Time (Unstuffed): e2 1/2 to 3 hours
Cook Time (Stuffed): 3 1/4 to 3 3/4 hours

Weight: 22 to 24 lbs
Cook Time (Unstuffed): 3 to 3 1/2 hours
Cook Time (Stuffed): 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours

Fully Cooked Turkeys

For those who want to spend less time, fully cooked turkeys are easier, although they should not be stuffed.

To cook one of these turkeys, preheat the oven to 325 degrees and remove the wrapper. Place the turkey breast side up on a flat rack in a shallow roasting pan that’s 2 to 2.5 inches deep. For the best appearance, brush or spray the skin lightly with vegetable of cooking oil.

Insert an oven-safe meat thermometer into the turkey’s thigh without touching the bone, and cook until it hits 140 degrees. 

To smoke the turkey, cover the pan completely with foil for the entire cooking time. To bake the turkey, cover breast loosely with foil after about 1 hour to prevent over-browning and drying.

Weight: 8 to 10 lbs
Cook Time (Baked, Thawed): 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 hours
Cook Time (Baked, Frozen): 2 1/4 to 3 1/4 hours
Cook Time: (Smoked, Thawed): 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours

Weight: 10 to 16 lbs
Cook Time (Baked, Thawed): 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 hours
Cook Time (Baked, Frozen): 2 3/4 to 3 3/4 hours
Cook Time: (Smoked, Thawed): 1 1/2 to 2 hours

Weight: 16 to 18 lbs
Cook Time (Baked, Thawed): 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 hours
Cook Time (Baked, Frozen): 3 1/4 to 4 hours
Cook Time: (Smoked, Thawed): 2 to 2 1/2 hours

(Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

 

Breasts and Legs

Some people prefer turkey breasts or legs separately.

For breasts, preheat oven to 325 degrees and remove a whole breast from bag. Drain the juices and pat dry with clean paper towels, and place the breast skin side up on the flat rack in a shallow roasting pan that’s 2 to 2.5 inches deep.

Roast until the thermometer in the thickest part of the breast reaches 170. If stuffed, stuffing should each 165. 

After it’s done, let it cool down for 15 minutes.

Regular Oven

Weight: 3 to 5 1/2 lbs
Cook Time (Unstuffed): 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 hours
Cook Time (Stuffed): 2 to 2 3/4 hours

Weight: 5 1/2 to 9 lbs
Cook Time (Unstuffed): 1 1/4 to 2 3/4 hours
Cook Time (Stuffed):2 3/4 to 3 1/4 hours

Convection Oven

Weight: 3 to 5 1/2 lbs
Cook Time (Unstuffed): 1 1/2 to 2 hours
Cook Time (Stuffed): 1 3/4 to 2 1/2 hours

Weight: 5 1/2 to 9 lbs
Cook Time (Unstuffed): 2 to 2 1/2 hours
Cook Time (Stuffed): 2 1/2 to 3 1/4 hours

Weight: 18 to 22 lbs
Cook Time (Unstuffed): 2 1/2 to 3 hours
Cook Time (Stuffed): 3 1/4 to 3 3/4 hours

Weight: 22 to 24 lbs
Cook Time (Unstuffed): 3 to 3 1/2 hours 
Cook Time (Stuffed): 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours

For legs, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and pat them dry and place them in a roasting pan.

People use different methods here, but a popular one is to mix butter, salt, pepper, and other seasonings in a bowl and then rub that mixture over the legs. Rub it under the skin as well for more flavor. Pour water or chicken broth into the pan to keep the legs moist.

Roast for 1 1/2 hours or a little more, until the meat thermometer reaches 175 degrees.

Let stand for 10 minutes before you serve.

 

*Turkey in oven image via Shutterstock