Roasted Turkey

Roast your turkey in the oven set at no lower than 325F.

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, many people are going to be purchasing a turkey in the coming days. When buying a turkey you can purchase it fresh or frozen. If buying a frozen turkey, allow 1 pound per person. If buying a fresh turkey, allow 1 pound per person and buy the turkey 1 to 2 days before cooking. Do not buy fresh pre-stuffed turkeys. Purchase only frozen pre-stuffed turkeys with the USDA or state marks of inspection.

When thawing a turkey in the refrigerator, allow approximately 24 hours per 5 pounds of a whole turkey. It will take:

4 to 12 pounds 1 to 3 days

12 to 16 pounds 3 to 4 days

16 to 20 4 to 5 days

20 to 24 pounds 5 to 6 days to thaw.

If thawing under cold water, allow approximately 30 minutes per pound per whole turkey to thaw. Changing the water every 30 minutes, it will take:

4 to 12 pounds 2 to 6 hours

12 to 16 pounds 6 to 8 hours

16 to 20 pounds 8 to 10 hours

20 to 24 pounds 10 to 12 hours.

After thawing, remove neck and giblets from both neck and body cavities. Wash turkey inside and out with cold water: drain well. Thawed turkey should be cooked immediately. If thawing in the microwave, check manufacturer’s instructions for the size of the turkey that will fit into your oven, the minutes per pound and the power level to use for thawing. Remove all outside wrapping and place on a microwave-safe dish. Cook immediately after thawing.

Now that the turkey is thawed you want to roast your turkey in the oven set at no lower than 325F. Place turkey breast-side-up on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. For optimum safety, it is recommended to cook stuffing outside of the bird. If stuffed, stuff loosely and cook immediately. For safety and doneness, the internal temperature, as registered on a meat thermometer, must reach a minimum of 165F in the thigh before removing from the oven. The center of the stuffing should reach 165F after stand time. For reasons of personal preferences, consumers may choose to cook turkey to higher temperatures. Below is a time table for roasting your turkey. These times are approximate and should always be used in conjunction with properly placed thermometer.


4 to 8 pounds (breast) 1 ½ to 3 ¼ hours

8 to 12 pounds 2 ¾ to 3 hours

12 to 14 pounds 3 to 3 ¾ hours

14 to 18 pounds 3 ¾ to 4 ½ hours

18 to 20 pounds 4 ¼ to 4 ½ hours

20 to 24 pounds 4 ½ to 5 hours


4 to 6 pounds (breast) not usually applicable

6 to 8 pounds (breast) 2 ½ to 3 ½ hours

8 to 12 pounds 3 to 3 ½ hours

12 to 14 pounds 3 ½ to 4 hours

14 to 18 pounds 4 to 4 ½ hours

18 to 20 pounds 4 ¼ to 4 ¾ hours

20 to 24 pounds 4 ¾ to 5 ¼ hours

Let the turkey stand 20 minutes before removing stuffing and carving.

When storing leftovers, debone turkey and refrigerate all leftovers in shallow containers within 2 hours of cooking. Use leftover turkey stuffing and gravy within 3 to 4 days. If freezing leftovers, use within two to six months for best quality. Cooked turkey may be eaten cold or reheated. Reheat turkey, stuffing and gravy thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165F.

Some additional tips when roasting. Add ½ cup of water to the bottom of the pan to keep turkey moist. A tent of aluminum foil may be placed over the turkey for the first 1 to 1 ½ hours of roasting tie and then removed for browning. Or a tent of foil may be placed over the turkey after it has reached a golden brown. An ovenproof thermometer may be placed in the thigh of the turkey to you can check the internal temperature at intervals during roasting. Or an instant-read thermometer may be used periodically to check the internal temperature during cooking. After each use, wash the stem section of the thermometer thoroughly in hot soapy water.

This information is provided by Dr. Janie Burney, Professor Family and Consumer Sciences, Knoxville, on behalf of the Hawkins Co. UT Extension-TSU Cooperative Extension in Rogersville.