Tick Tock: How Long to Cook a Turkey?
There are so many things to worry about when you’re hosting Thanksgiving: how to keep the gravy lump-free; how to fit all of the side dishes in the oven; whether Aunt Margaret is going to pick a fight with Uncle Max. But perhaps the most stress-inducing problem of the day is how long to cook the turkey. You’re starting with a gorgeous raw bird, but cook it too long, and everyone will be politely sliding the dry slices under their mashed potatoes. Undercook it, and you’ll be dialing 911 instead of the Butterball hotline.
So how, exactly, do you know how long to cook your turkey? The goal, according to the USDA, is to get all of the meat to come to a food-safe 165 degrees. (That means the stuffing needs to be that hot, too, or else you’re asking for trouble.) If you’re roasting your turkey at 325F, that breaks down like this:
• 8–12 pounds = 2 ¾ to 3 hours
• 12–14 pounds = 3 to 3 ¼ hours
• 14–18 pounds = 3 ¼ to 4 ¼ hours
• 18–20 pounds = 4 ¼ to 4 ½ hours
• 20–24 pounds = 4 ½ to 5 hours
And that’s it. Pretty simple, huh? Of course, you need to check the turkey with a meat thermometer as it cooks to make sure your oven is calibrated to the times above. When you see 165F, you’re in the clear. Be sure to wait at least 20 minutes before slicing to let the juices redistribute. Then carve – you’ll end up with moist, tender turkey that will make even Aunt Margaret happy.