How long does it take to roast a turkey?


Roasting a turkey is a beloved tradition, especially during festive occasions like Thanksgiving or Christmas. However, determining the exact cooking time for a turkey can be a bit tricky as it depends on various factors such as the size of the bird, the cooking temperature, and the desired level of doneness. In this article, we will explore the different aspects that influence the cooking time of a turkey and provide you with detailed guidelines to ensure a perfectly cooked and juicy turkey.

1. Size of the turkey

The size of the turkey plays a crucial role in determining the cooking time. Larger turkeys generally require more time to cook compared to smaller ones. The weight of the turkey is measured in pounds, and it’s important to consider this factor when planning your cooking schedule.

1.1 Small turkeys (10-12 pounds)

For small turkeys weighing around 10-12 pounds, the average roasting time at a standard oven temperature of 325°F (163°C) is approximately 2.5 to 3 hours. However, it’s always recommended to rely on a meat thermometer to ensure the turkey is fully cooked, as cooking times can vary.

1.2 Medium turkeys (12-16 pounds)

Medium-sized turkeys, weighing between 12-16 pounds, will generally require around 3 to 3.5 hours of roasting time. Again, it’s essential to check the internal temperature of the turkey using a meat thermometer to ensure it reaches the recommended safe temperature.

1.3 Large turkeys (16-20 pounds)

When roasting larger turkeys, between 16-20 pounds, you can expect a cooking time of approximately 3.5 to 4 hours. It’s crucial to monitor the temperature and make sure the turkey is thoroughly cooked to avoid any foodborne illnesses.

1.4 Extra-large turkeys (20+ pounds)

Extra-large turkeys weighing 20 pounds or more will require even more time in the oven. The average roasting time for these turkeys is around 4 to 4.5 hours. However, it’s important to remember that these times are just estimates, and using a meat thermometer is the most reliable method to determine if the turkey is cooked to perfection.

2. Cooking temperature

The cooking temperature also influences the overall cooking time of a turkey. Most recipes recommend roasting the turkey at a temperature of 325°F (163°C) to ensure even cooking and to reduce the risk of drying out the meat.

2.1 High-temperature cooking

Cooking the turkey at a higher temperature, such as 375°F (190°C), can help reduce the cooking time. However, it’s important to note that higher temperatures may result in a slightly different texture and can increase the risk of the turkey drying out. If opting for a higher temperature, it’s crucial to monitor the turkey closely and check the internal temperature frequently.

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3. Desired level of doneness

The desired level of doneness is subjective and varies from person to person. Some prefer a well-done turkey, while others enjoy a slightly pinker and juicier meat. The level of doneness can influence the cooking time and the final temperature to be achieved.

3.1 Well-done turkey

If you prefer a well-done turkey, it’s recommended to cook the bird until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) in the thickest part of the thigh. This temperature ensures that the turkey is safe to eat and eliminates any concerns about foodborne illnesses.

3.2 Juicier turkey

If you prefer a juicier turkey with a slightly pinker center, you can aim for a lower internal temperature. Around 155°F (68°C) in the thickest part of the thigh is a good target. However, it’s important to note that cooking the turkey to this lower temperature may increase the risk of foodborne illnesses, so it’s crucial to handle and store the turkey properly.

4. Other factors to consider

While the size of the turkey, cooking temperature, and desired level of doneness are the primary factors affecting the cooking time, there are a few additional factors to consider:

4.1 Stuffed turkey

If you plan to stuff the turkey, it will require additional cooking time. It’s recommended to add approximately 30 minutes to the total cooking time for a stuffed turkey compared to an unstuffed one. It’s essential to ensure the stuffing reaches a safe internal temperature as well.

4.2 Preheating the oven

Preheating the oven to the desired cooking temperature is crucial for even cooking. Make sure to preheat the oven for around 20 minutes before placing the turkey inside.

4.3 Resting time

After removing the turkey from the oven, it’s important to let it rest for at least 20-30 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, resulting in a juicier and more flavorful turkey.

4.4 Oven variations

Each oven may have slight temperature variations, so it’s advisable to use an oven thermometer to ensure accuracy. This will help you adjust the cooking time accordingly and prevent undercooking or overcooking the turkey.


Roasting a turkey to perfection requires careful consideration of various factors such as the size of the bird, cooking temperature, desired level of doneness, and additional factors like stuffing, preheating the oven, resting time, and oven variations. By following the guidelines provided in this article and using a meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature, you can achieve a deliciously cooked turkey that will impress your guests and make your festive celebrations truly memorable.

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