How Long Do You Cook A Turkey Per Pound?

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As Thanksgiving is coming up really soon, most of you must be all geared up to cook a delicious turkey feast. Turkey, however, is a tricky bird to get right in the first go. So, have you ever wondered how long does it take to cook a turkey per pound? Well, you will get that answer and much more in this article! 

turkey cooked in electric roaster

If you are new to cooking turkey, it can be a confusing task. Firstly, the bird is huge! That is usually where most, if not all, the problems begin. Moreover, if you don’t have a probe thermometer handy, you might think that it will even be a tad bit more difficult to get it right! But there is actually a very easy way to estimate how long it will take to cook a turkey, just by its weight! 

While cooking a turkey, if you don’t have a thermometer handy to check the temperature, it is still a pretty easy task to know how long it will take for it to cook completely. Usually, the estimate can be made based on the overall weight of the turkey.

However, on average, a single pound of turkey should take about 13 minutes to cook. This is at a standard oven temperature of 325 degrees Fahrenheit. 

In case you are worried about getting your turkey cooked on time for Thanksgiving dinner, you should definitely give this article a read before you start with your preps. Along with how long it would take to cook turkeys of different sizes, I have also included information on different variations of turkey.

Lastly, there is information about the estimated time to cook all of them! So, let us dive into getting that juicy turkey for Thanksgiving! 

How Long Does It Take To Cook A Turkey Per Pound? 

cooked turkey

As I mentioned in the previous section, the estimated time that it would take to cook a turkey per pound is 13 minutes at a temperature of 325 degrees Fahrenheit. However, that is indeed an estimate, and there are a lot of factors involved in this process.

These may make subtle changes to the amount of time you would need to cook a turkey perfectly. Mostly, the factors that would determine these things are how long the turkey has been thawed, whether it was brined before roasting, what part of the turkey it is, and so on.

Although you can determine the time of how long it would take to cook your turkey, it still is very important to check whether it is done or not once it is out of the oven. This can be done with a probe thermometer or even using a fork.

But, let us take a look at how long it will take to cook turkeys of different sizes at a standard temperature of 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Along with that, also what the internal temperature of the turkey should be when done. 

Turkey WeightTimeInternal Temperature
4-6 lbs (Breast)1 Hour 30 Minutes – 2 Hours165 degrees Fahrenheit
6-8 lbs (Breast)2 Hours – 3 Hours165 degrees Fahrenheit
8-12 lbs2 Hours 45 Minutes – 3 Hours170-175 degrees Fahrenheit
12-14 lbs3 Hours – 3 Hours 45 Minutes170-175 degrees Fahrenheit
14-18 lbs3 Hours 45 Minutes- 4 Hours 15 Minutes170-175 degrees Fahrenheit
18-20 lbs4 Hours 15 Minutes – 4 Hours 30 Minutes170-175 degrees Fahrenheit
20-24 lbs4 Hours 30 Minutes – 5 Hours170-175 degrees Fahrenheit

How To Check If Turkey Is Properly Cooked? 

The Right Cooking Temperature For Turkey

Now you know how long it takes to cook a turkey for every pound. This is a pretty accurate estimate to figure out the amount of time a turkey would take to cook. However, even after that, it is important to keep in mind that you will have to check the doneness of the turkey once it is out of the oven. 

This way, you can avoid surprises later with an undercooked turkey. Now checking with a probe is one of the best ways to do so, as it will give you an accurate reading.

However, even with a probe, it is important to check the temperature in a certain way. Even in case, you don’t have a probe thermometer, checking whether your turkey is done or not is actually a very easy task. Let’s take a look at these methods. 

1. With A Probe Thermometer

While checking whether your turkey is done or not based on the estimates given above, the turkey will surely be perfectly cooked once the temperature is optimum. However, while checking the temperature of the turkey, it is important to get the probe thermometer deep into the thickest part of the turkey, preferably the thigh.

But, it is very important that the end of the probe should not touch the bone under any circumstances. This will surely give you an incorrect reading. 

2. With A Fork

If you don’t have a probe thermometer, don’t stress! Firstly, as long as your oven heats evenly and if you made an estimate about the cooking time of the turkey based on its weight, chances are that you will get a perfectly cooked turkey even if you don’t check the temperature. 

However, to be extra sure, in case you don’t have a probe thermometer, you can insert a fork deep into the thickest part of the turkey, and if the juices come out clean, the turkey is perfectly cooked. If they come out red or pink, your turkey needs to be cooked for a little longer. 

How To Prevent Turkey From Overcooking Or Drying Out? 

overcooked turkey

Cooking the turkey as per weight estimate is a great way to know whether your turkey is perfectly cooked or not. Here, however, there are also chances of the turkey going to the other extreme and getting overcooked or even dry. Is there really a way to stop this from happening? There sure is! 

One way to prevent your turkey from overcooking or drying out is to check the temperature of the turkey about 15 minutes before you are supposed to take it out of the oven. If the temperature reads 160 degrees Fahrenheit for the thickest portion, then you can take the turkey out of the oven and let it rest. 

Usually, turkey continues to cook even after it is out of the oven. So, while you let it rest, the turkey will soon reach its optimum temperature once you check with a probe after 10 minutes. 

Moreover, you can also take the turkey out of the oven at the right temperature and then cover it with aluminum foil. This way, the turkey will not dry out. However, this is recommended only if your turkey is skinless, as otherwise, your crispy skin will turn soggy with all that steam. 

Does It Take Longer To Cook A Turkey With Stuffing? 

There are so many different ways to cook a turkey. Some recipes demand the turkey to be roasted in the oven just as it is, whereas others also cook the stuffing at the same time. This may not sound like that big a thing. However, stuffing does create a difference in the overall cooking time of the turkey. 

It does take a little longer as compared to otherwise when cooking a turkey that is stuffed. Here, the estimated time that should be kept in mind for the turkey is 15 minutes for every pound at 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Moreover, once your turkey is done, it is also important to check the temperature of the stuffing. The temperature of the stuffing should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit when done. 

How Long Does It Take To Cook A Frozen Turkey? 

defrosted turkey

Thawing is a really important part of the whole turkey cooking process. However, if you probably forgot to thaw your turkey before Thanksgiving, there is no need to worry.

You can actually cook a turkey that has not been thawed for 24 hours! But, do be prepared for the long cooking process, as this will indeed be much longer than cooking a fully thawed turkey. 

While cooking a frozen turkey, the first and most important rule is to not partially thaw the bird. If the bird is thawed just partially and then cooked, there are increased chances of uneven cooking of the turkey.

So, cooking a fully frozen turkey can actually give you a better result, with an even finish. The estimated time to be kept in mind to cook a frozen turkey is 5-6 hours for a regular 14 lb turkey.

Here, first, you can place the turkey as it is, without the plastic wrap, in an oven that has been preheated to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. After two hours, you can take the turkey out, brush it with oil and spices and then cook it for another 3-4 hours until the temperature for both legs and breasts reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. 

How Long Does It Take To Cook A Heritage Turkey? 

A heritage turkey is actually very different from a regular supermarket turkey in terms of the flesh and other body proportions. Mostly, as heritage birds tend to have a more active life, they have leaner flesh and also a smaller size.

This also means that they don’t take as much time to cook as supermarket turkeys do. However, that also means you need to be a little more careful while cooking a heritage turkey to avoid overcooking or toughness. 

To achieve tender and juicy meat with a heritage turkey, the best way to cook it is by roasting it at a lower temperature. You can prepare the turkey the same way as you would with a regular supermarket turkey. Cook the turkey at a temperature of 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 3-3.5 hours for a 12-14 lbs turkey.

With a heritage turkey, it may even happen that once the probe reads the correct temperature, the meat near the bones might still be a little pink. However, that is okay as long as the thermometer reading is accurate. 


Cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving can easily be done once the time is estimated as per the weight of the bird. As per a general rule, a turkey should take 13 minutes to cook for every pound, as long as it is not stuffed and at a standard temperature of 325 degrees Fahrenheit. If the turkey is stuffed, then it should take 15 minutes for every pound. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Should a frozen turkey be partially thawed before cooking? 

No, partially thawing a turkey will cook the bird unevenly. So, if you have forgotten to thaw your turkey beforehand, it is best to cook it frozen rather than thawing partially. 

Why does a heritage turkey need a lower temperature for cooking? 

A heritage turkey is comparatively smaller than a supermarket turkey. So, if cooked at the same temperature as a supermarket turkey, there are chances that the meat will get dry. Hence, a lower temperature is preferred. 

Is it necessary to check the temperature of the stuffing as well? 

Yes, it is important to check the temperature of the stuffing as well if you are cooking it along with the turkey. 

Does bringing a turkey affect the cooking time? 

No, bringing makes the meat softer and more flavorful, but it does not necessarily make a difference to the overall cooking time of the turkey. 

What would happen if you cooked a turkey at a very high temperature for a short amount of time? 

If a turkey is cooked at a very high temperature for a very short time, chances are that it won’t cook all the way through, and the skin might also get burned. 

What can be done if the temperature and time are correct, but one part of the turkey is not properly cooked? 

This could happen if the circulation of heat in the oven is not proper. If this happens, then you can place the undercooked portion of the turkey closer to the heat source so that it can cook faster. 

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