The Secret to the Perfect Turkey: How Long to Cook It

How Long to Cook a Turkey

If you’re going to spend all day carving a turkey, you’ll want to make sure it turns out perfectly! That means learning how long to cook it, and there are two major factors that will affect this time: the size of the turkey, and the temperature at which you cook it. Smaller turkeys will cook faster than larger ones, but since they have less mass, they’ll also be more likely to dry out if overcooked.

4 Things To Do Before You Start

#1 When cooking a turkey, it's important to make sure it is at room temperature before going into the oven. This can take up to 2 hours in advance. #2 To determine how long your turkey will need to cook, you'll want to use these equations: The larger the bird, the longer it will need in order #3 Before putting your bird in the oven, fill an aluminum tray with 1-inch of water and set it on a rack below or on top of your oven racks - this will create steam that seals moisture into your bird as it cooks and help keep its skin from drying out too much. #4 Brush oil over both sides of your raw turkey if you want more flavorful skin.

Cooking Time Depends on Size, Weight, and Method

Generally, cooking a turkey requires 20 minutes per pound. A six-pound bird will take two hours and twenty minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, or one hour and forty minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooking times will be shorter if you use other methods such as roasting, baking, or deep frying. Keep in mind that the cooking time for these methods will vary depending on your recipe.

Consider an Instant-Read Thermometer

With all these estimations in mind, it's no wonder cooking a turkey can feel like an exhausting guessing game. But fear not, you can use an instant-read thermometer for your turkey (and roast or ham). In most cases, an instant-read thermometer is inserted deep into the thickest part of your bird. A quick read will tell you how cooked your meat is and help you know when it's time to take it out of the oven or off the grill. Knowing how long to cook a turkey will make entertaining stress-free and your guests will be impressed with your culinary skills!

Determining Doneness is Not as Simple as You Think

Contrary to popular belief, how long you cook a turkey does not make all that much of a difference. The general consensus is that if you have enough room in your oven and want the turkey breast meat to be tender, then cook it for 15 minutes per pound. If you prefer a crisper skin with more dark meat or don't mind dry white meat, cook it for 18 minutes per pound. But there's no need to monitor the exact weight of your bird.

Thaw in Refrigerator, Not in Water

Thawing turkey in water will leave it wet and unappetizing. Before you even put it in the oven, make sure that your bird is thawed out. You can easily do this by letting it sit in your refrigerator, or while cooking with your crock pot and braising methods. Here are a few handy tips for finding out how long to cook your turkey!

- Size Matters For big birds (14 pounds or more), plan on 3 hours per pound at 325 degrees F For medium birds (8-12 pounds), plan on 2 hours per pound at 325 degrees F For small birds (less than 8 pounds), plan on 1 hour per pound at 325 degrees F If you want to use higher temps, reduce cooking time by half.

Rotate Basting Every 30 Minutes

There are many variables that can affect how long it takes for a turkey to cook. If you want, use this recipe as a guideline, but always be sure to check with your turkey. 

-Before starting any other steps, preheat the oven and let it come up to temperature according to the instructions on your turkey package.

-Heat 3 tablespoons of butter in a roasting pan on the stovetop over medium heat until melted and foamy.

For Crisp Skin, Leave In Oven 30 Minutes After Done

A 10-12 pound turkey will take about 12 hours at 325 degrees. Oven times may vary, so use a meat thermometer to know when your turkey is done and remove it from the oven. The internal temperature should reach 180 degrees before it's finished cooking, with crispy skin. Leaving it in the oven 30 minutes after it's done will result in a crispier bird skin. Remove stuffing if you're concerned about how long to cook a turkey because this can also make turkey skin mushy (and don't forget salt and pepper)!

Safety First! Always Use Meat Thermometer

One of the most common ways that people mess up their Thanksgiving dinner is by not cooking it properly. If you don't take your turkey out of the oven in time, it can easily go from brown and crispy to black and burnt. However, if you leave your turkey in too long, then there's a possibility that some dangerous bacteria could form on it.

That's why it's important to use a meat thermometer when cooking a turkey. These handy tools let you know when your turkey is ready by monitoring its internal temperature. When using a meat thermometer, make sure that you insert it into the thickest part of the thigh (without touching bone) or center of the breast without touching any bones for at least 10 minutes before taking it out of the oven!

Clean Up Immediately After Cooking

After cooking a turkey, it's very important to clean up all the mess you created in your kitchen. Letting food cool and congeal on a dirty surface will create bacteria that could make someone sick. Make sure you always have a clean set of dishcloths, sponges, and towels on hand. You might also want to invest in some air freshener spray - turkey smells can linger in the kitchen for days.

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