You’ve prepped your Thanksgiving pies, assembled the green bean casserole and your make-ahead gravy is ready for serving. Now it’s time to tackle that Thanksgiving turkey. Determining how long to cook a turkey will anchor your entire Thanksgiving Day timeline, so it’s crucial to learn exactly when to put that bird in the oven, and when to take it out for the perfect Thanksgiving dinner. Quick note: The temperature of your turkey is really the best way to tell if it’s done, rather than how much time it’s been in the oven. So, invest in a great meat thermometer and stop stressing about undercooked poultry for good.
Turkey cooking times depend on the size of your bird and what temperature you cook your turkey. A 12-pound bird will cook more quickly than a 20-pound monster, which is just one of the reasons why we suggest buying two smaller birds (or cooking one whole turkey and one turkey breast) if you’re feeding a crowd. The longer the bird stays in the oven, the more likely it is to dry out. If you cook a turkey at 325 or 350℉, it will take longer to cook than at higher temperatures. The Test Kitchen agrees that 375℉ is the best temperature to cook a turkey, because it’s not too hot, not too cold, and cooks quickly enough to ensure that a juicy, flavorful bird is ready by dinnertime.
When it’s finally Turkey Day, turn your oven on to 375°F and roast the bird using our chart’s cooking times as a guide. When it’s done, a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the turkey’s thigh should register 165°F. Cover it loosely with foil and let it rest for at least 25 minutes before carving, serving, and enjoying.
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