Popular Topics

BACK TO Holiday & Entertaining
Turkey Calculator: How Long Do You Cook a Turkey

Knowing Your Turkey is Done + Stuffing Safety

It’s perhaps the biggest question of Thanksgiving: How long do you cook a turkey? Turkey’s lean breast meat tends to cook faster than the denser dark meat of the leg and thigh. Because of that, it’s important to check the bird’s temperature in both areas. You have 2 options for accurately assessing when your turkey is done. Regardless of what option you choose, turkey should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165°F.

Is your turkey still frozen? Read: 2 Ways to Thaw a Turkey

Watch a Video of How to Temp a Turkey

The plastic pop-up timers in the turkey breast generally work to within +/- 2°F., but a meat thermometer is more accurate and using one ensures that all parts of the bird are properly and safely cooked.

Option 1: Ovenproof Dial Thermometer

Use an ovenproof dial thermometer if you don’t want to worry about taking periodic temperature readings during roasting. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the lower portion of the thigh before putting the turkey in the oven. Don’t let the stem touch bone or you may get inaccurately high readings.

Temping step 1

Remove the turkey from the oven when the thermometer reaches 165°F. in the thigh and the stuffing, if the bird is stuffed. The thermometer may have doneness temperature suggestions printed on it, but the turkey and stuffing are safely cooked at 165°F.

Option 2: Instant-Read Thermometer

Use an instant-read thermometer for quick, in-the-moment readings. After 2 hours of roasting, insert the thermometer first into the thickest part of the thigh, then into the breast and finally the stuffing, if the turkey is stuffed. Continue roasting, checking the temperature in the thigh, breast and stuffing every 20 to 30 min. until all reach 165°F.

temping step 2

Turkey’s lean breast meat can cook faster than the denser dark meat of the leg and thigh so temp both areas.

Do not leave an instant-read thermometer inside the bird while it roasts. It’s not designed to stay inside the oven.

Stuffing Safety

Be sure the stuffing reaches 165°F., if the turkey is stuffed. Turkey juices drip into the stuffing during roasting, and in order for the stuffing to be safe to eat, it also must reach the proper temperature. Insert the thermometer into the center of the stuffing to determine its internal temperature.

temping step 3

The stuffing is usually the last area to reach proper temperature, which may cause the quicker-cooking breast meat to dry out. Baking the stuffing separately in a baking dish can help prevent overcooking the breast meat.

Roasting Chart

Turkey Weight8 to 12 lb.12 to 14 lb.n14 to 18 lb.n18 to 20 lb.20 to 24 lb.n
Unstuffed2¾ to 3 hr.3 to 3¾ hr.3¾ to 4¼ hr.4¼ to 4½ hr.4½ to 5 hr.
Stuffed3 to 3½ hr.3½ to 4 hr.4 to 4¼ hr.4½ to 4¾ hr4¾ to 5¼ hr

Times above assume an oven temperature of 325°F. and are approximate based on recommendations of the USDA. Always use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey and stuffing.