How Long Do You Cook a Turkey (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 2 hours 15 minutes

Turkey goes hand in hand with thanksgiving ceremonies and Christmas. Turkey is extremely popular poultry meat especially in countries like North America. Though you may get sliced turkey in the market, whole turkey meat is the most famous. 

Turkey is said to go with sandwiches and is seen as a substitute for chicken at times. Turkey contains no carbohydrates, mostly water, and 25% of nutrients. The cooking time of turkey depends on whether it is stuffed or not. Plain turkeys take only up to 15 to 20 minutes to cook. The bigger the turkey is, the longer it takes to cook. It is considered to be a savory dish all around the globe.

How Long Do You Cook a Turkey

How Long Do You Cook a Turkey? 

Weight of Turkey Cooking Time 
4 to 6 pounds  1:30 hours to 2 hours 
6 to 8 pounds  2 to 3 hours 
8 to 12 pounds 2:45 hours to 3 hours 
12 to 14 pounds 3 hours to 3:45 hours 
14 to 18 pounds 3:45 hours to 4:15 hours 
18 to 20 pounds 4:15 hours to 4:30 hours 
20 to 24 pounds 4:30 hours to 5 hours 

The cooking time given here is based on the assumption that you are cooking the turkey in an oven at 350 degrees. After the turkey is done cooking, leave it at rest for a period of 3o minutes before you can take it out to serve. An oven thermometer and a meat thermometer are highly recommended to get accurate temperature readings.  

Cook Turkey

Always have a thermometer while making a turkey, to know if it is cooked properly or not. It always stops your turkey from getting overcooked. The general rule that goes into cooking a turkey is 15 to 20 minutes for each pound.  

The turkey should be cooked only on the outside. Cooking the insides of the turkey will leave it uneven, leaving you to miss out on the crisp, delicious parts of the turkey. Use aluminum foil to cook a turkey and keep using the thermometer to not let it burn.  

Why Does It Take So Long To Cook A Turkey?  

If you follow the given steps rightly, cooking a turkey will be very simple. A turkey should be cooked for so long to eliminate the bacteria it might contain from its raw meat. Sometimes, you have to cook the legs of the turkey more than the breast to not let the turkey dry out.  

After getting the cooking done, you should leave the turkey to stand for a period of 15 minutes to let its juices absorb the meat. Apart from getting the timings wrong, there are several other mistakes that people make which extend the cooking time a lot more than it is intended to.  

People keep their turkeys in the fridge for a long time and therefore it takes a lot of time for the turkey to defrost. To let it completely defrost, you have to cook it for a longer time. Therefore, try not to keep your turkey inside the refrigerator for a long time.  

Cook a Turkey

You have to cook your turkey until the thermometer shows a temperature of 170 degrees. If you take your turkey out before this, there are a lot of chances that your turkey will come out raw.  

Another mistake that people commonly make which extends the cooking time is that they keep opening the oven door to see if the turkey is cooked. Doing so lets the heat out, resulting in the turkey being half-cooked. A turkey, in general, is a large slice of meat that needs appropriate timings while being cooked.  


You should always try to bake the turkey in an oven as roasting makes it very unhealthy. The breast coming out overcooked is not a sign for you to worry as the turkey is never evenly cooked. The breast of the turkey being overcooked will leave the leg and other parts being perfectly cooked.  

There is no chance of things going wrong if you put the thermometer in the thickest part of the turkey’s thighs. You should keep in mind that covering the turkey while cooking will stop it from drying out. If you keep in mind the timings right, nothing can stop you from serving a delicious turkey.  


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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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