How to Cook a Turkey Overnight

Holidays, Learn, Thanksgiving, Tips & Techniques

How to Roast a Turkey Overnight

If you were shocked to learn that you could roast a turkey from frozen, you’re in for another surprise: You can roast that turkey while you sleep, too!

 

At a typical roasting temperature (around 325ºF), a large turkey can take upwards of four hours to roast. Add in pulling the bird out of the fridge beforehand to take off the chill, rest time, and carving, and you’re looking at nearly six hours. If you aim to serve your turkey around lunchtime, this means starting things at 7 a.m. If you can feel your blood pressure rising just thinking about it, don’t fret, there’s an easier way: roast the turkey overnight.

 

The unconventional cooking method of roasting a turkey while you sleep might seem crazy on the outset, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Cooked low and slow, turkey is tender, juicy, and pretty hard to mess up. 

How to Cook a Turkey Overnight

  1. When you’re starting to think about going to bed, preheat your oven to somewhere between 170-180ºF. If your oven temperature does not go this low, set it to its coolest setting; anything up to 200ºF is fine. Pull the turkey out of the refrigerator, season it with salt and aromatics, and rub the outside with butter. Set a rack in a roasting pan, fill the pan with about a quart of water, arrange the turkey breast-side up on the rack, and wrap the pan tightly in aluminum foil.
  2. Roast the turkey while you sleep and get ready in the morning (as long as 9-11 hours). Don’t worry about basting; the low temperature and moisture from the water will cook it gently.
  3. Remove the foil and take the turkey’s temperature with an instant-read thermometer. Your end goal: a temperature of 160ºF in the breast and 170-175ºF in the thigh. Keep roasting at a low temperature until it is getting close to these numbers, around 155ºF. Remove the pan from the oven and turn up the heat to 475ºF. Once preheated, roast the turkey until the skin has browned and it is 160ºF in the breast and 170-175ºF in the thigh, about 15-30 minutes.
  4. Let the turkey rest for 20-30 minutes.
  5. Carve and serve!

We tested this with a 14-pound turkey, and it took 10-1/2 hours for it to come to 155ºF, and another 15 minutes for the skin to brown and the temperature to read 160ºF. Do note that smaller birds may dry out a bit if cooked for this long, and don’t take very long to roast to at a conventional temperature, eliminating the problem this overnight method solves. This technique might make sense, however, if you’re roasting a turkey in the neighborhood of 16-20 pounds. For the most freshly-cooked bird possible, plan to tuck in to your Thanksgiving meal around lunchtime.

 

Summary
How to Cook a Turkey Overnight
Article Name
How to Cook a Turkey Overnight
Description
Wish you could maximize your cooking time in the days leading up to Thanksgiving? Well, you can: Here's how to cook a turkey overnight.
Author

48 comments about “How to Cook a Turkey Overnight

  1. AnneMarie

    I’ve always thought that according to food safety rules, it was not recommended to cook a turkey at such a low temperature, as it could harbor bacteria?

    Reply
    1. shorisuperstore[dot]com

      No i think its not, it says low temperature overnight..if we did it on a high temp overenight, there will be no chicken for tomorrow.
      Overnight roasting is to ready the turkey and I think its the best timing so it will be ok for tomorrow’s event..cooked and fresh.

      Reply
    2. Williams-Sonoma Editors Post author

      Hi AnneMarie: We initially had the same concern ourselves, but did some research and found that as long as your turkey is finished at a temperature that’s food-safe, you have nothing to worry about. (Similar logic applies to cooking poultry at a low temperature in a slow cooker or immersion circulator.) For that reason, we have to stress that an instant-read thermometer is crucial here! Hope this helps. Happy Thanksgiving!

      Reply
    1. Randy

      Eon, I noticed that no-one responded to your post. This is not done with a “frozen” turkey. You have to thaw out the turkey in the refrigerator. Once thawed, then remove it from the refrigerator, allow it to come close to room temperature. Then you are ready to cook the turkey.

      Reply
  2. Tessa

    This is wonderful! I am all about the slow roasting and while I sleep! I have already brined the bird for 20hrs then this method. I may not even have to carve it will be so tender.

    Reply
  3. susan

    Have been overnite roasting turkey forever..1 hour at 450° then down to 200° overnite. Perfect turkey everytime

    Reply
    1. Melissa

      How many hours is the Turkey in the oven total? I love the idea of slow roasting the turkey, but we usually eat around 4 pm. So thinking about starting the process at 6 am when I get up rather than overnight so its not ready to eat at 9 am. Thoughts? Also do you Brine your turkey a day or so ahead still?

      Reply
    2. Sue

      Susan do you stuff the turkey. I want to stuff and 22 lb and cook overnight. Any suggestions?

      Reply
    3. Barb

      Do you cover it with foil or any other details would be so helpful. Like the size of bird, temps how long all that good stuff please!

      Reply
    1. Sarg

      Don’t do this with a “frozen ” turkey, defrost it first.
      Cyndi, turkeys cooked this way cannot be stuffed. But I believe you will be OK if you put a quarter or so of onion inside the cavity. But be sure to not do to much. You’ll have plenty of time to bake stuffing in a pan after the turkey comes out.

      Reply
      1. Eva

        I’ve been cooking turkeys
        Overnight since I was 20yrs old. An now I’m 60yrs old still brown bagging it WITH STUFFING. Temp.200°

        Reply
  4. Sundy Fitch

    Tried this recipe for the first time for our family’s Thanksgiving dinner… It was received with rave reviews. .. The best turkey I’ve ever prepared… In fact, I have my oven preheated now and know it will again be a hit with my family! I generally don’t roast a turkey for Christmas dinner, but , per my family’s request, we will once more be dining on the best roasted turkey EVER!!!

    Reply
    1. Gail

      So for a 16 to 20 pound turkey, I should plan on roasting it around 10 hours? I am trying to get a timeline set so that we are ready to eat at noon. Any help you can send my way would be great. Thanks!

      Reply
        1. Gail

          Thanks, Lisa. I read that entire article too. I guess I am just going to try it. And hope for the best. The article was helpful but again some conflicting ideas about foil or no foil. And people that complained about dry turkeys make me second guess my choice. But….there are enough great reviews for me to give it a whirl. Will post hopefully a success story after the holiday. Thanks again.

          Reply
          1. Lisa

            I’ve done this for many years. Here is a warning and a suggestion:
            Warning: the skin does not look like the picture. No way. It is inedible and leathery. Which doesn’t bother us because turkey skin is never really the point and there’s never enough for the meat anyway.

            Suggestion: cook the turkey breast side down. It makes the breast meat even moister.

            Benefit: besides the no fuss cooking, the meat is fall= off-the bone tender and delicious.

    1. Jeanne

      I tried this method last year roasting my turkey at 400 degrees for one hour then lowering the temp to 170 and cooking one hour per pound. It came out golden, moist and delicious! Happy Thanksgiving!

      Reply
  5. Hannah

    I haven’t made a slow cook turkey before, so I am a bit nervous about “safety”. I’m trying this method because I love my “cheater” duck confit , slow cooked legs at about 200 F for a few hours. My dry seasoned 16 pound turkey has been air-drying in the fridge for about 24 hours. It’s 8 pm now, and ideally, we will eat late afternoon. I might bail on the slow cooked turkey … so any tips or comments would be greatly appreciated. Canadian Thanksgiving = October 9th BUT we are having ours tomorrow.

    Reply
  6. Lillian

    How many lbs of turkey do you need for about 15-20 persons and If I want my turkey done around 4:30 – 5 PM when do I start a 20 lb turkey or 22 lb turkey. Can we really cook at a low temp all night without bacteria setting in?

    Reply
  7. tina mcclain

    I am having 29 for sit down Thanksgiving dinner. I am cooking a 20-24lb turkey and an additional turkey breast @ 16lbs @ the same time. What do you recommend as far as time frame for slow cooking overnight.

    Reply
  8. Tammy Nelson

    My mother has always cooked her turkey overnight in a Brown Paper Bag.I am worried that the store may not carry Brown Paper Bags any longer.That Turkey cooking overnight is one of the best smells.I think its the onion and Bell Pepper and Celery that I am smelling but it still smells heavenly.Do you mean we can wrap the Turkey in foil and bake it?

    Reply
  9. Lynne

    I’ve cooked turkeys both ways – conventional and overnight. The overnight is always best. I put the turkey in around 11:00 pm and take it out in the late AM; I take out the drippings to start the gravy and now that the oven is free I can bake other things (stuffing, squash). The turkey, in the roasting pan, is then set in on the outdoor grill with only the side burners lit to keep it at the right temperature.

    Reply
  10. Sue

    I would like to cook a stuffed unfrozen 22lb turkey overnite and eat at 3:30pm. Any suggestions for time and temp? Thanks

    Reply
  11. Bobbi

    I am cooking a 9 lb turkey – yes small but it is for 2 people – before i used to cook big turkeys overnight…. really it is the only way i know how to cook a turkey. Can I still cook my turkey overnight?

    Reply
  12. dana

    I usually cook my turkey breast side down to keep the breast meat from drying out while roasting. Can I cook the turkey this way overnight?

    Reply
  13. Rachel

    I am cooking a 25 pound turkey. How long do you think this will take to cook? Can I loosely add onions, celery and carrots to cavity of turkey?

    Reply
  14. Gail

    Just to clarify…. Sounds like cooking it at high heat for an hour (at 400 degrees) and then one hour per pound at 170 to 180 degrees is the trick. Since we are all cooking different size turkeys and serving at different times, this might be a good guideline. That’s helpful in devising our timelines. Please weigh in WILLIAMS-SONOMA if this isn’t correct. Thanks!!!

    Reply
  15. Drexel

    My father lived with his grandparents til the end of WWI in Denver. He fondly remembered how his grandmother would cook the turkey all night in the wood fired oven. These were obviously fond memories for him because it was the only thing he ever did in the kitchen. Every year he’d stay up late to prep the bird then tend it every couple of hours during the night.
    It was always wonderful.

    Reply
  16. Carmen Queen

    I have done this for a couple years now…. WARNING- Most ovens are built with a setting that automatically turns the oven off after 12 hours. So, beware! Otherwise the oven turns off in the middle of the night and your bird won’t be cooked!!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *