How long does it take to cook a turkey?

Get to know how long it takes at which temperature to cook a bird of so many pounds

5D4B8469 - Rosemary lemon roasted turkey

According to legend, someone, somewhere once cooked a turkey to perfection — moist and flavorful, with crispy, golden-brown (not burnt) skin. The story is whispered in kitchens around the world, and each time, cooks bow their heads in honor of the nameless chef. And the question remains: How long does it take to cook a turkey? But we have answers.

Planning and preparing an entire Thanksgiving should be classified as an extreme sport. Pulling this off is no small feat, and frankly, we think you deserve an award when you do. In our efforts to help ease your stress a bit, we are providing you with the information you need to cook whatever type and size of turkey you bought to delicious perfection.


Fresh or frozen whole turkeys
  1. Preheat oven to 325F. Drain juices and pat dry with clean paper towels. (Also see Should you rinse or wash your turkey?
  2. Place turkey breast-side up in a roasting pan. Turn the wings back to hold the neck skin in place. Brush or spray skin lightly with vegetable or cooking oil for best appearance.
  3. If you’re using a metal meat thermometer, insert it deep into the lower part of the thigh without touching the bone. When the thigh is up to temperature, and if the turkey is stuffed, move the thermometer to the center of the stuffing.
  4. Place your turkey in the oven.
  5. When the turkey is about two-thirds of the way done, loosely cover the breast with a piece of foil to prevent overcooking.
  6. When the internal temperature is 180F in the thigh and 165F in the breast or stuffing, the turkey is done.
  7. Let the turkey stand for 15–20 minutes before carving.
Cooking a raw turkey in a regular oven at 325F
Weight Cook time (unstuffed) Cook time (stuffed)
6 to 7 pounds 2 to 2-1/2 hours 2-1/4 to 2-3/4 hours
7 to 10 pounds 2-1/2 to 3 hours 2-3/4 to 3-1/2 hours
10 to 18 pounds 3 to 3-1/2 hours 3-3/4 to 4-1/2 hours
18 to 22 pounds 3-1/2 to 4 hours 4-1/2 to 5 hours
22 to 24 pounds 4 to 4-1/2 hours 5 to 5-1/2 hours
24 to 30 pounds 4-1/2 to 5 hours 5-1/2 to 6-1/4
Cooking in a convection oven at 325F
Weight Cook time (unstuffed) Cook time (stuffed)
6 to 10 pounds 1-1/2 to 2 hours 1-3/4 to 2-1/4 hours
10 to 18 pounds 2 to 2-1/2 hours 2-1/2 to 3-1/4 hours
18 to 22 pounds 2-1/2 to 3 hours 3-1/4 to 3-3/4 hours
22 to 24 pounds 3 to 3-1/2 hours 3-3/4 to 4-1/2 hours

How to roast a turkey


Fully-cooked whole turkeys

Purchasing a fully-cooked turkey means cutting down on your cooking time.

  1. Preheat oven to 325F. Remove the wrapper. Do not stuff the turkey.
  2. Place the thawed turkey, breast-side up, in a roasting pan. Brush or spray skin lightly with vegetable or cooking oil for best appearance.
  3. Insert oven-safe meat thermometer deep into the thigh without touching the bone.
  4. Place the turkey in the preheated oven and heat until hot, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 140F.
  5. Begin checking the turkey for doneness about 30 minutes before the recommended cook time.
  6. Your turkey is done when the meat thermometer reaches 140F in the thigh.
  7. Carve and serve immediately.
Heating a fully-cooked turkey in a regular oven at 325F
Weight Cook time, baked (thawed) Cook time, baked (frozen) Cook time, smoked (thawed)
8 to 10 pounds 1-1/4 to 1-3/4 hours 2-1/4 to 3-1/4 hours 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours
10 to 16 pounds 1-3/4 to 2-1/4 hours 2-3/4 to 3-3/4 hours 1-1/2 to 2 hours
16 to 18 pounds 2-1/4 to 2-1/2 hours 3-1/4 to 4 hours 2 to 2-1/2 hours
Whole turkey breast
  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. Remove the whole breast from the bag. Drain the juices and pat dry with clean paper towels.
  3. Place the breast, skin side up, in the roasting pan. Do not add water to the pan.
  4. Brush or spray skin lightly with vegetable or cooking oil for best appearance.
  5. Roast uncovered according to the chart or until the meat thermometer in the thickest part of the breast reaches 170F. If the breast is stuffed, the center of the stuffing should register a temp of 165F.
  6. Roasting time will vary if the turkey is covered or placed in a cooking bag.
  7. Before you remove the stuffing and carve, let your turkey breast stand for 15 minutes to allow the juices to set.
Frozen turkey breast
  • Roast skin-side down, uncovered, in a roasting pan at 325F for the first hour.
  • Remove turkey from the oven. Carefully take out the gravy packet and refrigerate for future use.
  • Turn breast skin-side up, and brush or spray lightly with vegetable or cooking oil for best appearance. Return to oven.
  • Roast uncovered according to chart or until meat thermometer in the thickest part of breast reaches 170F. If the breast is stuffed, the center of the stuffing should register 165F.
  • Let the turkey breast stand for 10 minutes before carving.
Cooking in a regular oven at 325F
Weight Cook time (unstuffed) Cook time (stuffed)
3 to 5-1/2 pounds 1-1/2 to 2-1/4 hours 2 to 2-3/4 hours
5-1/2 to 9 pounds 2-1/4 to 2-3/4 hours 2-3/4 to 3-3/4 hours
Cooking in a convection oven at 325F
Weight Cook time (unstuffed) Cook time (stuffed)
3 to 5-1/2 pounds 1-1/2 to 2 hours 1-3/4 to 2-1/2 hours
5-1/2 to 9 pounds 2 to 2-1/2 hours 2-1/2 to 3-1/4 hours
Cooking from frozen in a regular oven at 325F
Weight Frozen (unstuffed)
3 to 5-1/2 pounds 3 to 3-3/4 hours
5-1/2 to 9 pounds 3-3/4 to 4-1/2 hours

Always let your turkey sit for 20 minutes before slicing to allow it to cool and re-absorb most of its juices, which greatly enhances the flavor.


Pop-up thermometers

Let’s talk thermometers: They’re crucial. Cook your turkey for too long, and you get a dry bird. Undercook it, and the only thing your guests will remember is the food poisoning you gave them.

Many turkeys come with the pop-up thermometers already inserted. You also can purchase a pop-up thermometer to insert in the turkey before cooking. In theory, these are supposed to pop up when the turkey reaches the correct internal temperature, which is a minimum of 165F. Are they accurate? The short answer is no. Testing done on these thermometers showed that both types tend to pop up at the wrong times — some too early, some too late. The too-early indication is the biggest concern, of course, due to the risk of food poisoning. Food safety experts recommend that you not rely on these pop-up thermometers to test for doneness and advise you to use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature with multiple readings.

TRY THIS TURKEY: Roasted turkey with fresh herbs

Meat thermometers

With your diners’ health at stake, it’s wise to err on the side of caution and use a meat thermometer. They’re available online and in grocery and department stores.

Instant-read thermometers

Available with digital or dial gauges, these usually come with storage containers. Instant-read thermometers cannot go into the oven while the bird is cooking because of plastic parts; however, they read the temperature within 15 seconds once inserted into the turkey. Two of the top-rated, based on accuracy and ease of use, are the EatSmart Precision Elite Thermocouple Food Thermometer w/ Backlit Display & InstaRead Technology and the Lavatools Javelin PRO Duo Ambidextrous Backlit Instant Read Digital Meat Thermometer.

Standard meat thermometers

These are metal, so they go right into the oven with the bird, remaining there while it cooks. Be sure to read the directions to familiarize yourself with the thermometer and the depth to which it must be inserted. Two highly recommended models are the Taylor Precision Products Digital Cooking Thermometer with Probe and Timer and The ORIGINAL Oven & BBQ Touchscreen Digital Meat Cooking Thermometer and Timer.

If you don’t have a thermometer

The turkey is brined and resting in the roasting pan, the oven is preheating, and then you realize you forgot to get a reliable meat thermometer. Don’t panic! You can still cook your turkey without worrying about poisoning your guests.

Here’s the best way to tell if your turkey is done: Cut a slit between the thigh, leg, and breast. This will release some of the juices of the turkey. If those juices run clear, it’s safe to take the turkey out of the oven. If they are still even slightly red, keep cooking.

MAKE THIS TURKEY: Orange, anise and thyme roasted turkey

How long to cook a turkey

Making sure your turkey is done in time for Thanksgiving dinner takes planning; you have to take into account time needed for thawing (if your bird is frozen), prepping, cooking and carving. The charts above will help ensure your 4 p.m. dinnertime doesn’t turn into a midnight feast.