How Long Should I Cook a Turkey in the Oven?
The smell of a roasting turkey is an unmistakable sign that the holiday season is here. But making a perfectly golden-brown bird with succulent, tender meat can be a challenge. When it comes to making a Thanksgiving turkey that will leave your guests asking for seconds, timing is everything. What’s key is learning how long to cook a turkey, how to thaw it and how to choose the right cooking method. With our turkey cooking time calculator and some helpful tips, you can make sure your turkey is cooked to perfection.
Turkey Cooking Times
The key to getting a golden, juicy turkey is timing. Learn how long to cook a turkey using our foolproof calculator for the best results every time.
Thawing a Turkey
Thawing a turkey is an important first step in the cooking process. If you’re thawing in the fridge, plan to start thawing a few days ahead of the big event. For every 4 pounds of turkey, your bird will need about 1 day to thaw.
If you’re thawing in cold water, each pound requires about 30 minutes of thawing. While this method takes less time, it requires more effort. You should change the water every 30 minutes to maintain a safe temperature. It’s recommended to cook the turkey immediately after thawing this way. Keep this in mind when planning your Thanksgiving morning.
You can cook a turkey without thawing first, but remember that it will take much longer to cook this way. Because of the amount of time spent in the oven, it might be more difficult to create a juicy turkey. Check the internal temperature frequently to avoid overcooking. Your internal turkey temperature should be 165°F when done.
For more tips, check out our guide to thawing frozen turkeys.
Best Ways to Cook a Turkey
Figuring out how long to cook a turkey can depend on how you’re planning to cook it. Roasting is the most traditional way to prepare a turkey, and for good reason. It’s a relatively hands-off way to cook a bird and allows you to keep your focus on stovetop sides or welcoming family. Roasting also gives you more control over timing, allowing your flavors to develop slowly until you’re ready to remove the foil for a crispy, golden skin.
Making your turkey in a slow cooker may sound unconventional, but it has a lot in common with traditional roasting. You can layer aromatics in the bottom of the slow cooker to create a pan sauce and infuse the meat with flavor. You can even get crispy skin by removing your turkey about 15 minutes before its done and transferring it to the oven to broil. The main difference to keep in mind is cook time. Preparing a turkey in the slow cooker could take around 8 hours or more.
If you’re really looking to impress your guests this Thanksgiving, you could smoke your turkey. From choosing which wood chips to use, to picking the perfect seasonings and sauces, there are many opportunities to customize the flavor of your turkey when using this method. Allow about 30 minutes per pound for a juicy, smoked turkey that breaks from tradition.
For more information and tips on the best ways to cook your turkey this year, check out our guide on turkey cooking methods.
Turkey Times and Tips
Visit our blog for more turkey tips, including our Carving Guide and Turkey Brining Guide. Check out or Thanksgiving shop for everything you’ll need to host the big day, and visit us for more turkey tips.