How Long Does It Take To Cook Turkey (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 30 Minutes

It is impossible to think about Thanksgiving or Christmas without sparing a thought for turkey, a staple food during these times of the year. For some, it acts as the centerpiece of Thanksgiving dinner and a vehicle for gravy for others. Either way, cooking a perfect turkey is a must.
Doing so can be especially challenging for a newbie.

One can face many questions regarding the type of turkey, its size, the cooking method, but the crucial question is always- how long does it take to cook the turkey? In this situation, a comprehensive guide with cooking times of turkey using various methods might help.

How Long Does It Take To Cook Turkey?

Method Time (8-Pound Turkey)
Oven Roasted2-5 hours
Slow-Cooked 6-8 hours
Poached 2-2.5 hours
Barbecue 1 hour
Deep-fried 30-35 minutes
Sous Vide 5-6 hours

There are several different ways one can cook a whole turkey. Oven roasting a turkey is the most common one. In this method, a preheated oven at a temperature over 350 F is used to prepare the meat. The time required for this method depends on the weight of the bird and the temperature of the oven. The time is directly proportional to the size of the turkey. Generally, it is 13 minutes for each pound of unstuffed meat cooked.

Slow cooking is another method used. Here an 8-pound turkey is cooked on low for 6 to 8 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Poaching is one more way to cook a turkey. The general procedure asks to cook for twenty minutes for every pound of turkey. Therefore, a total of 2 hours is required to cook 8 pounds of turkey at 165 F.

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On the other hand, simply placing the turkey in a roasting pan on the grill, and cooking the 10-pounder meat for about 1.5 hours, gives a nice barbecue turkey. The result is similar to oven roasting the meat. Deep frying a turkey is no easy challenge and demands attentiveness and focus. However, it is the fastest way to cook a whole bird.

Deep frying a turkey only takes 3-4 minutes per pound. Therefore, it will only take 30-35 min to cook an 8-pound turkey. Finally, a turkey can also be sous vide. However, for this, a smaller bird, or one cut into pieces, has to be used. The turkey is sealed in a sou vide bag and cooked in a water bath for 1 hour at 185℉. Then for 5, more hours at 170℉. Therefore, it will take 6 hours to cook a 10-pound turkey.

Why Does It Take So Long To Cook Turkey?

Cooking a turkey to perfection can be tricky as it contains two different kinds of meat. The active muscles like the leg store a lot of oxygen and become dark, while less active ones like the breast remain white. These meats cook at different times and temperatures, which makes the process quite challenging.

As the turkey cooks, active muscle fibers contract and break at around 180 degrees Fahrenheit, causing the proteins to unravel and the meat to become tender. Dark meat, mainly composed of active muscle fibers, and fat requires more time to reach the desired temperature. As a result, dark meat takes longer to cook.

In contrast, white meat is lean and tender. Therefore, it cooks faster and at a lower temperature of around 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
A dilemma arises here. Cook the meat for too long, and the breast meat coagulates. One must not cook it long enough, and the legs remain tough and chewy.

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To combat this, experts suggest cooking the turkey for longer at lower temperatures. The turkey may become dry if cooked quickly at higher temperatures.

Conclusion

The above information will help decide the most suitable cooking method based on the pallet and time availability. One must opt for a barbeque or deep frying for crispy turkey meat in the shortest time or a slow cooker used overnight for soft and tender meat. Turkey should be consumed fresh for the best taste.

References

  1. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=bKVCtH4AjwgC&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=On+Food+and+Cooking,+Harold+McGee&ots=qZILleI4ki&sig=ewCQyBwumMpU2heCjkUZroo8AU8
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S002364380500023X
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