Once you’ve chosen your Thanksgiving turkey recipe and selected your bird, it’s time to start cooking. If you are following a specific recipe, follow the instructions outlined in the directions — but if you’re keeping it simple, here are some general guidelines to successful turkey roasting every time.
For best results, roast your turkey on a wire rack in an open roasting pan. Because of the turkey’s weight, a sturdy pan with good handles is recommended. If you use a foil roasting pan, double it for extra strength and take special care when transferring it into and out of the oven. Keep these rules in mind when picking a pan to fit the size of your turkey:
- Up to 12 pounds: 14″ x 10″ x 2 3/4″ high (small)
- Up to 16 pounds: 15 3/4″ x 12″ x 3″ high (medium)
- Up to 20 pounds: 16″ x 13″ x 3″ high (large)
Bring Turkey to Room Temperature
Your turkey will cook more evenly and faster if you start it out at room temperature so remove the turkey from the refrigerator 1 hour before roasting. If you plan to stuff your turkey, wait until you’re ready to put it in the oven before putting the stuffing in the turkey.
Creating a loose tent of aluminum foil over your turkey can keep the bird moist and avoid over-browning the skin. If you’re concerned about over-cooking, start roasting the bird with the foil for the first hour, then remove it for the remainder of the cooking time.
- 10 to 12 pounds: 2 1/2 to 3 hours
- 12 to 14 pounds: 2 3/4 to 3 1/4 hours
- 14 to 16 pounds: 3 to 3 3/4 hours
- 16 to 18 pounds: 3 1/4 to 4 hours
- 18 to 20 pounds: 3 1/2 to 4 1/4 hours
- 20+ pounds: 3 3/4 to 4 1/2 hours
To ensure that a stuffed turkey cooks evenly, roast the bird slowly, breast side up, at 325 degrees, covering the breast loosely with foil for the first two-thirds of the roasting time. Using the chart above, add about 30 minutes to the total cooking time for stuffed birds weighing 16 pounds or less, and about 1 hour for birds weighing more than 16 pounds.
- To test the breast: Using an instant-read thermometer, insert it into the meatiest part, several inches above the wings.
- To test the thigh: Insert the instant-read thermometer away from the bone, alongside the opening of the main cavity underneath the drumstick. This is the meatiest part of the thigh.