How long to cook a turkey | Turkey recipes for Thanksgiving

Roast Turkey

How long to cook a turkey is more a function of temperature than time. Image: Wikimedia Commons

How long to cook a turkey can sometimes feel like part magic. You’ll find turkey recipes for Thanksgiving that suggest just about everything. Having a good basic understanding of how meat cooks your best weapon in figuring out how long to cook a turkey.

Prepping your Turkey recipes for Thanksgiving

The first and most important step in a turkey recipe for Thanksgiving (or any day) is a properly prepped bird. Make sure your turkey is completely thawed and you pull the neck and giblets out. Before baking or cooking your turkey, soak it in a turkey brine recipe. Keep the stuffing out of the turkey cavity. Stuffing dries out the turkey, increases the cooking time and increases the risk of salmonella. If you must stuff, put quartered onions, apples, garlic and sage in the turkey cavity.

Knowing how long to cook a turkey

The secret for how long to cook a turkey is temperature. Make sure to ignore the spring timer that has been stuck in many turkeys – it measures the temperature of the breast, yes, but more often than not they are simply not exact enough to get you a good turkey. As a general estimate in an oven, you should plan on 10 to 15 minutes per pound of turkey.

Turkey recipe for Thanksgiving

If you are planning on roasting a whole bird, how long to cook a turkey is affected by the size of the turkey and heat of your oven. To get a nice, crisp, browned skin that is the stuff of photographs, start with a blistering hot oven. Preheat it to 500 degrees and crisp the turkey for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees and cook about two to two and a half hours (for a 13 to 16 pound turkey). If you have a probe thermometer, insert the probe into the breast meat. If not, use a stick probe. Either way, pull the bird out of the oven when the breast meat reaches 160 degrees. Cover the bird with foil and let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes. The bird will continue to cook, and the resting will keep the moisture in the meat, not on the cutting board.

Read more of our Thanksgiving Recipe articles

Cranberry relish and cranberry sauce recipes
Thanksgiving recipes for kids
Sweet potato pie and sweet potato casserole recipes
Green bean casserole recipe

Other recent posts by bryanh