You have your bird, but how long, exactly, should you plan to cook it to ensure Thanksgiving dinner is served on time? Here's a handy turkey cooking chart.

By Real Simple Editors
Updated June 24, 2021
Advertisement
How long to cook a turkey - Roasted turkey in oven
Credit: Getty Images

No Thanksgiving guest is more important than the turkey. But you might have a late arrival on your hands if you don't get it in the oven on time. Planning a 3 p.m. meal? You'll need to have a 20-pound bird (sans stuffing) cooking by around 10:30 a.m. Don't stress about the math though-follow our easy chart for how long to cook a turkey, plus recommendations from the USDA for cooking frozen and stuffed turkeys.

Just remember: Even with this turkey cooking chart, the safest way to know your turkey is cooked is to use a meat thermometer. Your turkey is done when the internal temperature is minimum 165 degrees F.

How Long Does it Take to Cook a Turkey?

While the best temperature to cook a turkey is always 325 degrees F, how much time your bird will need in the oven will depend on its weight. An unstuffed 8-pound turkey can take less than 3 hours, while a stuffed 24-pound turkey can take over 5 hours. Here's how long it takes to cook a fully thawed turkey.

How long to cook a turkey chart
Credit: Katie Field

How Long to Cook an Unstuffed Turkey

Weight

Cook Time

8 to 12 pounds

2¾ to 3 hours

12 to 14 pounds

3 to 3¾ hours

14 to 18 pounds

3¾ to 4¼ hours

18 to 20 pounds

4¼ to 4½ hours

20 to 24 pounds

4½ to 5 hours

How Long to Cook an Stuffed Turkey

Weight

Cook Time

8 to 12 pounds

3 to 3½ hours

12 to 14 pounds

3½ to 4 hours

14 to 18 pounds

4 to 4¼ hours

18 to 20 pounds

4¼ to 4¾ hours

20 to 24 pounds

4¾ to 5¼ hours

Can You Cook a Frozen Turkey?

It is safe to cook a turkey from the frozen state, according to the USDA. However, the cooking time will be at least 50 percent longer than what's recommended in the table above.

Cooking a Stuffed Turkey Guidelines

For safety reasons, the USDA recommends cooking Thanksgiving stuffing outside your turkey to guarantee uniform doneness. If you do choose to stuff it, check the temp of the center of the stuffing to make sure it, too, reaches the safe 165 degrees F (otherwise bacteria could contaminate your cooked turkey). Keep wet stuffing ingredients refrigerated ahead of time, and separate from dry ingredients until just before mixing, stuffing loosely and cooking.

Sticking with a casserole dish? You should still cook the stuffing to 165 degrees F. If you're caught without a thermometer, don't stress: Here's how to know if a turkey's done without a thermometer.

For more turkey and stuffing safety and cooking tips, check out the USDA's site.