Turkey Cooking Times

Know How Long to Roast That Bird

how long to roast a turky time table
Illustration: Sage Youngblood

As everyone knows, Thanksgiving is one of the most high-pressure meals of year for the home cook. One of the best ways to alleviate some of the pressure is to plan ahead and get organized. Get an idea of what you want to cook, how long each component will take, and then structure your day (or days, because cooking ahead is the best way to tackle meals like this).

Since the star of the show is the turkey, get a good estimate of when Tom will be ready for his close-up.

If you are using a conventional oven recipe, these charts will help you determine approximately how long to roast stuffed and unstuffed turkey. Oven cooking times vary, though, so always use a meat thermometer to gauge doneness. And if you have a convection oven, know that this will also move things along faster.

For a stuffed turkey, the roasting time may vary up to 30 minutes, depending upon the bird and the oven. Use the meat thermometer to check the temperature of the dressing. The center of the dressing inside the bird (or in a separate baking dish) must reach a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit for food safety. Because of the variability of cooking times, it's always safer to cook stuffing outside of the bird. If you are going to stuff it, check the temperature of the dressing before serving and don't be afraid to microwave it to make sure the temperature is right. A moist, low-temperature environment is ideal for bacteria, and these are guests no one wants at their holiday dinner.

For an unstuffed turkey, place the meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh, taking care that it does not touch any bone. Roast the turkey until the meat thermometer reaches 165 degrees F. Don't forget to let the bird rest at least 30 minutes before carving to allow the juices to re-absorb into the flesh.

You don't want the moisture to drain out.

Roasting times are for a preheated 325 degrees Fahrenheit oven.

Approximate Times for Roasting a Stuffed Turkey

6-8 lbs.3 to 3 1/2 hours
8-12 lbs.3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours
12-16 lbs.4 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours
16-20 lbs.5 1/2 to 6 hours
20-24 lbs.6 to 6 1/2 hours


Approximate Times for Roasting an Unstuffed Turkey

6-8 lbs.2 1/2 to 3 hours
8-12 lbs.3 to 4 hours
12-16 lbs.4 to 5 hours
16-20 lbs.5 to 5 1/2 hours
20-24 lbs.5 1/2 to 6 hours