How Long Does It Take To Cook An 18 lb. Turkey?

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Turkey seems to be the only grand choice to celebrate Thanksgiving or any major holiday like Christmas. It would not be a ceremony if you didn’t serve turkey in your home.

18lb turkey

Thus, the timing and methods of cooking the turkey are also factored in when it comes to churning out the best turkey. Today we’ll see the time to cook an 18 lb. turkey. 

An 18 lb. turkey takes about 4 or 4 ½ hours to cook. The turkey’s temperature also varies, and you can keep changing it to your preference as to how smoky you want it. 

The recipes that involve turkey also differ according to your volition, and so many innovations are possible when it comes to cooking turkey.

There are also some preparation tips that ease the process of cooking a turkey while also helping enhance the flavor. The taste and the texture are perfected by how well you maintain the turkey. 

In this article, we will see the duration to cook turkey depending on its weight and how well you can prepare it so that it is ready to be cooked perfectly and well.

What Are The Simple Ways To Prepare A Turkey?

stuffed turkey

We have to latch on to simple ways of cooking a turkey. The preparation that goes with cooking a great turkey has to be abided by in its entirety. 

This will also ease the process and make the turkey extremely delicious with a good texture. First, you have to ensure that the turkey is not spoiled and maintains its quality to the largest extent possible. 

1. Thaw Your Turkey

The ideal and best way to thaw a turkey is just by placing it in the fridge. It could also take 4 to 5 days to thaw the turkey, depending on its size completely.

The duration to thaw a turkey is laid out for your awareness, and that would be the approximate number of days you would need.

There are other ways to thaw a turkey, depending on how fast or sooner you want it. However, thawing it in the fridge is the best bet when you want to retain its quality and shelf life.

  1. 4 – 12 pounds take 1 to 3 days
  2. 12 – 16 pounds take about 3 to 4 days
  3. 16 – 20 pounds take about 4 to 5 days
  4. 20 – 25 pounds take about 5 to 6 days

2. Temper Your Turkey

This is an optional step to dole out the best turkey, but it helps greatly enhance the flavor. 

When the time is right to cook your bird, take the now-thawed turkey out of the fridge and place it in the corner of the kitchen to bring it to room temperature. 

The bottom of the turkey would be placed on top of the pan. Having a cooling rack inside the pan will also work out.

3. Prepare Your Oven

The oven rack is positioned in the lowest section, and then set the oven to 350 degrees F. Sometimes the turkey is roasted at a high temperature before it is simmered at a low temperature for some duration. 

The high heat is supposed to cook it, and the low constant heat is supposed to brown it and make it crispier on the surface. Both these processes need to be followed when you need a turkey perfect to satiate your expectations. 

Keeping it low for a considerable amount of time allows you the time to take care of other recipes in the offing.

4. Butter the turkey

This is the conventional step to make the turkey smoother and richer in taste. You may need ½ a cup of butter to dab on the surface. 

Slowly you have to work under the skin layers of the turkey. You have to ensure that the layers are not torn or scratched. Just apply it softly and ensure all the layers are covered fully.

5. Season The Turkey

If the turkey is brined, this step can be skipped for good. The skin of the turkey is salted and peppered nicely. 

For a 12 to 14-pound turkey, one needs to use ½ cup of salt and pepper to be rubbed over the layers. The peppering can also be done under the surface.

6. Stuff The Neck Cavity

This is quite an interesting tip that helps buffer all parts of the meat evenly. The meat should be placed in a position where the stuffed part faces the heat, and the rounded layer faces us. 

So mainly, the cavity or the hole around the neck has to be stuffed, not the main cavity. Stuffing the main cavity will slow down the cooking, and the fillings will be rendered uncooked or half-baked.

7. Make It Fragrant

If you don’t want a stuffed turkey, then it is better advised to make it smelly and fragrant. A bunch of onions with celery stalks, parsley, thymes, and spice of your choice can add flavor and boost the odor to make it more savory.

This also helps a great deal in layering the bottom of the pan so that the meat is not heated directly to become overroasted. 

Adding the spices to the pan can actually caramelize the turkey and waft its surface with an exotic odor. If you are not adding spices, it is better to fill the pan with some water so that the heat is manageable on the surface.

8. Cover The Turkey Initially

Wrap the turkey with aluminum foil, leaving out just the top layer to point up. The below layers are covered with foil so that the heat is not directly hitting the meat to make it over roasted. Slowly uncover the bottom portion as well after some time to make it crispier.

9. Basting Can Be Skipped

Basting the turkey is important for some traditional recipes but could not be more helpful when trying to make it crispier. Opening the oven intermittently and trying to dab the turkey with broth or wine will uneven the texture of the turkey.

It also oozes out the heat from the oven to a large extent.

10. Turkey Cooking Time And Temperature

The roasting time for a turkey is 13 minutes per pound at 350 degrees F. this is typical for an unstuffed turkey. A stuffed turkey takes about 15 minutes for the same weight.

Make sure it is heated until the temperature reads 165 degrees F. Check the temperature every 10 minutes to ensure it is evenly roasted at the right degrees.

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

roasted turkey

The below guidelines will elucidate the right temperature for the given weight of the turkey.

Weight of TurkeyTemperature Duration
8 to 12-pound turkey325 degrees F3 hours
12 to 14-pound turkey425 degrees F
350 degrees F
325 degrees F
2 ½ hours
3 hours
3 ¾ hours
15 to 16-pound turkey425 degrees F
350 degrees F
325 degrees F
3 ¼ hours
3 ¾ hours
4 hours
18 to 20-pound turkey425 degrees F
350 degrees F
325 degrees F
3 ¾ hours
4 hours
4 ½ hours
21 to 24-pound turkey425 degrees F
350 degrees F
325 degrees F
4 ½ hours
4 ¾ hours
5 hours

The above table directly explains how long a turkey should be cooked based on the weight of the meat. This would help people gain some knowledge on the cooking time and be more precise about the duration.

What Should You Do After Roasting The Turkey?

checking turkey's tempertaure

After the turkey is roasted, it is still being prepared to be gulped. The hotness of the turkey will make you want to delay eating the turkey. There are some things you need to follow before eating it.

Check The Temperature

The turkey, after roasting, has to be checked for temperature. The densest part of the meat should read 165 degrees F and not any less than that. A thermometer will help measure the temperature perfectly to ensure it is evenly heated.

Rest It

The turkey has to be rested until it turns tepid for your touch. The juices have to be absorbed fully, and the flavor has to catch on before it is ready to be eaten. It gives breathing space for the turkey to smoothen and fully serve its purpose.


This article is a nice description of how to cook the turkey and how long you have to do the same. Weight is the main factor similar to temperature.

The roasted turkey is a perfect meal, and the procedure will make it intact for the consumers. Following all the protocols could be slightly tedious, but it’s a joy to cook and eat it with all pleasure when it is done right.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long does it take to cook an 18lb turkey?

An 18 lb. turkey takes about 4 or 4 ½ hours to cook. The turkey’s temperature also varies, and you can keep changing it to your preference as to how smoky you want it. 

What is the temperature of the cooked turkey?

The dense part of the whole turkey meat should read 165 degrees F. you can use a meat thermometer to check it.

Should the turkey be rested after cooking?

Resting the turkey after is it cooked makes it absorb all the juices to become flavorful. It will also be slightly tepid to be eaten.

Should the turkey be basted necessarily?

Basting can be skipped since the turkey should not be disturbed periodically. The heat will be emitted out and the temperature will become uneven.

Should the turkey be covered in foil when it is cooked?

The turkey can be wrapped initially in the bottom to avoid being over-roasted. Then the layer can be removed slowly to brown the sealed part of the meat.

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