How Long Do You Cook A 20 lb Turkey (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 4 – 5 Hours

A thanksgiving party is incomplete without a turkey dish. No thanksgiving guest is more important than the turkey itself. The golden brown, perfectly cooked 20-pound turkey is what everyone looks forward to.

When one is cooking the turkey at the lowest temperature recommended by the USDA i.e. 325 degrees Fahrenheit, one needs to cook a 20 lb turkey for about 4 – 5 hours if it is unstuffed, and for a little time more if it is stuffed. However, one should always remember this is not completely fail-safe, thus one needs to check and make sure that the internal temperature is at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature is the minimum safe temperature according to the USDA.

One can easily check the internal temperature of the turkey by using a meat thermometer. By using it one can easily ensure that the bird is cooked to perfection. Thus, a meat thermometer is also one of the essential tools that must be kept handy while cooking a turkey. It is worthwhile to remember that the cooking time depends on the size of the turkey that is to be cooked. The Cooking time can vary anywhere from 1.5 hours to 5.5 hours based on how big the bird is.

How Long Do You Cook A 20 lb Turkey

How Long Do You Cook A 20 lb Turkey?

WeightCooking Time (Unstuffed Turkey)Cooking Time (Stuffed Turkey)
14 – 18 pounds3.75 – 4.25 hours4 – 4.25 hours
18 – 20 pounds4.25 – 4.5 hours4.25 – 4.75 hou4s
20 – 24 pounds4.5 – 5 hours4.75 – 5.25 hours

While the best temperature to cook a turkey is always 325 degrees Fahrenheit, how much time the bird will need to cook will depend on its weight. An unstuffed 8 – pound turkey can take less than 3 hours, while a stuffed 24 – pound turkey can take over 5 hours.

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It is safe to cook a turkey from a frozen state, according to the USDA. However, the cooking time will be at least 50 percent longer than the usual cooking time of turkey. It requires 24 hours of thawing time for every five pounds of turkey. A frozen turkey cannot be cooked immediately, it needs to be thawed so that it comes to room temperature. For quicker thawing, one can try placing the turkey in a cold water bath and change the water every 30 minutes until it is thawed.

Cooking a turkey is just like cooking a large, jumbo-size chicken. The same method and ideas used while cooking chicken apply in the case of cooking a turkey. Even if one does not get too fancy with spices, the turkey will still turn out browned, moist, and flavorful.

Why Does It Take So Long To Cook A 20 lb Turkey?

When one is ready to start cooking, preheating the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit is essential. The turkey should be kept removed from the refrigerator. It should be unwrapped (if previously packed) and the neck and giblets should be removed. One can save the neck for roasting and the giblets for the gravy if one desires. Let the turkey sit for an hour at room temperature while the oven heats up.

The ideal temperature for cooking a turkey is 325 degrees Fahrenheit. While higher temperatures do cook the bird faster, they also increase the risk of an overcooked, dry, or even a burnt turkey. Thus, the recommended temperature is 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

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When cooking any type of meat, one can always start by seasoning at the beginning of the cooking process so that the flavors can build on as one progresses through the recipe. The major steps in cooking a Turkey are:- 1. preparing the turkey, 2. Brushing the turkey’s skin with butter, 3. Roasting the turkey, 4. Tent the turkey with a foil, and 5. Let the turkey rest and then serve.

After removing the turkey from the oven, it is important to let it rest for at least 15 minutes or up to 40 minutes. This is crucial and helps in ensuring that the turkey tastes delicious.


The only true test for the doneness of the turkey is the temperature of the meat, not the color of the skin. The important point one must remember while cooking is that turkey is entirely cooked at an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit i.e 75 degrees Celsius.

To get an accurate reading, ensure that the thermometer is not touching the bone. One must allow the turkey to rest for at least 30 minutes before carving and serving. Using an oven thermometer for meat to get accurate temperatures reading is highly recommended.


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Hi! I'm Nidhi.

Here at the EHL, it's all about delicious, easy recipes for casual entertaining. So come and join me at the beach, relax and enjoy the food.

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