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 frozen turkey, 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.

Get more recipes, inspiration, and cooking tools at our Thanksgiving Headquarters

How to Cook a Turkey Overnight
Article Name
How to Cook a Turkey Overnight
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.

75 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?

    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.

    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!

      1. Turkey Maker

        Is it safe to start it at 200 degrees and cook it at that temperature the entire time?

    3. Judy tinker

      I tried this at Thanksgiving and it was perfect!!!! My bird was 15 lbs. and was done by 1:00 pm…. No I didn’t cover it until it reached it’s brownness then I covered it until the internal temp. was right.. Yummy and moist…

    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.

    1. Danny

      I defrost my turkey overnight and placed it in the oven so it would be ready for dinner. It was enough to remove the bag from the turkey. I used a bit of hot sink water to completely defrost it.

  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.

  3. susan

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

    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?

    2. Sue

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

      1. Qbyrde

        Yes you can!
        I’ve stuffed my turkey with well-prepared and thoroughly cooked stuffing before putting it in the bird, for the past decade, and no one has ever gotten ill! As long as your bird is well cleaned & dried, inside and out, then cooked, depending on size, 25-60 minutes, at 475*, then reduce heat to 250*, you should have no problems. Preparation and temps are the key! Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.
        Still alive😉

      2. Renee D'Alessandro

        I do this meathod every year and my turkey is always stuffed. I’m in my 50’s and I’m still kicking! Lol!

    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!

    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.

      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°

  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!!!

      1. Leslie

        Dear Williams Sonoma,

        I live in Ireland so had to work on Thanksgiving, but thought I could get home by noon. So I put the turkey in the oven at midnight and when I woke it wasn’t quite done (I am just learning about temperatures and my oven) so I went off to work. But I was in court which went on a long time so I didn’t get home until six. At three I phoned a colleague to ask them to turn off my oven. With trepidation I came home and took the turkey out of the oven at six, and carved it for guests at eight. It was the loveliest turkey I have ever cooked. A real revelation. THANK YOU! I think I like turkey now!

    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!

        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.

          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!

  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.

  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?

  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.

  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?

  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.

  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

  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?

  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?

      1. Jeff

        I use the Splendid Table method as well, but you’re approaching spam levels of referring to it.

  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?

  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!!!

  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.

  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!!

    1. Ginger

      made my turkey this way last year for the first time and it was the best turkey I ever made! That’s why I’m here to get the roasting time and temp. again. Everyone loved it and mine was very moist.

  17. Karen

    PERFECT!!! Just finished making this delicious recipe. Will only cook overnight from now on. Thank you Williams-Sonoma!

  18. Barb

    We been cooking our turkey overnight for years. It’s always perfect and done.sometimes it was never ready if cooked during the day, this it’s done and room in over for other things

  19. فالوئر بگیر اینستاگرام

    That you make it seem to be simple together with your business presentation on the other hand obtain this specific topic to generally be truly some thing which Personally i think I’d personally in no way recognize. It seems very intricate and incredibly extensive in my situation فالوئر بگیر اینستاگرام. I am taking a look in advance with your following post, I am going to attempt to learn them!

  20. Cynthia T.

    I prepared my 2017 fresh 13-pound turkey (13.78 pounds) using this method and it came out beautifully. It was golden brown and juicy. The breast was a tad dry to me but everyone enjoyed and ate abundantly. This was so easy. My only issue was that I had the turkey done by around 11:30 and my guests were delayed in coming. I wrapped the turkey in foil and it stayed hot for an hour or so. I cooked the turkey on 200 degrees. My turkey was done and the oven was free for my sides and bread. Will definitely do this again.

  21. Josh Stevenson

    did it, first turkey ever for the family! Woohoo!. I covered in McCormick Poultry Seasoning. Put a quartered onion and a halved lemon in the middle. 22# bird, Cooked at 200 in an 18 quart roaster for 11ish hours, turned the heat up to 400 until it was done. The skin wasn’t super crispy but the meat was tender and juicy. I also put butter slices between the meat and skin on the bird. Thanks so muc!

  22. Gail

    AMAZING!!!! I cooked our turkey with the overnight roasting plan and it was the best turkey we have ever had. Some details which may be helpful….(1) I bought a fresh 18 1/2 pound turkey from Byerly’s – excellent flavor (2) Seasoned the turkey with salt and pepper and rubbed butter on the turkey (3) I roasted the turkey breast side down (after the first hour) as recommended by Lisa above (4) The article Lisa refers to in her post was REALLY helpful (5) I put the turkey in the oven at 5 PM and roasted it at 450 degrees for one hour. The skin browned beautifully. I then turned the turkey over so the breast was facing down (6) I turned the oven down to 170 degrees at 6 PM and roasted it until 11:30 AM (17 1/2 hours). The suggestion of roasting the turkey one hour PER POUND is spot on
    (7) I took the turkey out at 11:30 AM and covered it with foil to rest for 30 minutes (8) I carved the turkey at noon and it was absolutely delicious. I will always, always make the turkey this way. No more guessing on time. Thanks Lisa and WS for the help!!!

  23. DAVE

    Can you fix the print function here?
    I printed your recipe using the button under the share functions- out came 12 pages (1 page picture, 1 page recipe, + 10 pages of comments)

  24. Xxlcountryguy

    I have been doing this for YEARS and sadly my culinary arts teacher would have been so disappointed lol but it has always come out beyond perfect. I suggest covering with foil for all those asking. At the end of the cooking you want to throw it in the over as hot as possible to brown quickly because if you don’t turn up the heat high enough it will dry the turkey very quickly. Another suggestion is to inject your turkey at the end. I always make a concoction of melted butter and brown sugar white pepper or red pepper along with other spices “have to keep some secrets” this makes the turkey very very moist. The family always volunteer me to cook it every year. I don’t argue because it’s the easiest thing to make and I actually get to rest during the holidays lol.

  25. Emilia

    Please advise – am having an argument with husband as to wether turkey MUST come to room temperature before being put in oven. Thank you Williams Sonoma for your reply

  26. Hazel

    Perfect!! Just bought two deep discounted turkeys after Easter and cooked one overnight using the overnight method. Never done it before, but I’ll be doing it again and again! Deelish! Thanks all for the tips in the comments section too!

  27. Rainer Schmoll

    I have been slow roasting my frozen solid, very large Turkeys at low temperatures for 15 years and have never had any problems. Just now (12 noon Friday) I put a 32 pound frozen turkey into the oven at 450 degrees for 30 minutes then I will turn it down to 180 degrees and leave it till tomorrow evening (Saturday) at around 5pm when we will eat the most juicy, most mouth watering Turkey and no one will have any kind of worries about bacteria. Of course, I came upon this by accident one year when I forgot to take my Turkey out of the freezer to thaw a few days earlier and with a house full of people coming over the next day for my typical Christmas feast, I had no choice but to try this. I was nervous and worried and after the dinner, with everyone raving about it I realized that I had never eaten a Turkey this good before in my life and I will never change how I do Turkey, I actually make a large Turkey every month this way so that has me successfully testing this method with over 150 Turkeys and never an issue.

  28. Todd

    I grew up with slow roasting the turkeys overnight and so did my mom when she was a child. We never got sick from it nor did we ever die. This is actually my preferred method of cooking it and I have tried several other ways as an adult. Plus, just like my mom and her mom before her, I also like to stuff the bird beforehand too. That to me makes the best stuffing because it incorporates the juices from the turkey. We never got sick or dies from that way either.


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