Ultimate Guide to Turkey Cooking Times: Perfect Your Holiday Main Course

Cooking a turkey to perfection is a culinary achievement that everyone aspires to during festive seasons. The first step to a delightful turkey dish is understanding the correct cooking duration, ensuring a juicy and flavorful result. This guide offers valuable insights on turkey cooking times and a simple recipe to follow.

How long to cook a turkey
How long to cook a turkey

The Timing Formula

Calculating turkey cooking time depends on the turkey’s weight and whether it’s stuffed or unstuffed. A general rule is to cook the turkey for approximately 13 minutes per pound if unstuffed, and 15 minutes per pound if stuffed, in an oven preheated to 325°F (163°C).

For precision:

  • Unstuffed Turkey: 13 minutes per pound
  • Stuffed Turkey: 15 minutes per pound

Cooking Times Breakdown

Below are the estimated cooking times for both stuffed and unstuffed turkeys at 325°F:

  • 8 to 12 lbs: 2 3/4 to 3 hours (unstuffed), 3 to 3 1/2 hours (stuffed)
  • 12 to 14 lbs: 3 to 3 3/4 hours (unstuffed), 3 1/2 to 4 hours (stuffed)
  • 14 to 18 lbs: 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours (unstuffed), 4 to 4 1/4 hours (stuffed)
  • 18 to 20 lbs: 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours (unstuffed), 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours (stuffed)
  • 20 to 24 lbs: 4 1/2 to 5 hours (unstuffed), 4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours (stuffed)

Simple Roasted Turkey Recipe


  • 1 whole turkey (12 to 14 pounds)
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper


  1. Preheat your oven to 325°F (163°C).
  2. Clean the turkey by removing the neck and giblets, then rinse and pat dry.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic powder, dried basil, ground sage, salt, and black pepper to make the seasoning.
  4. Rub the seasoning mixture all over the turkey, covering both the inside and outside.
  5. Place the turkey, breast side up, in a roasting pan.
  6. Calculate the cooking time based on the weight of your turkey using the timing formula provided.
  7. Roast the turkey for the calculated time, basting occasionally with pan drippings.
  8. The turkey is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165°F (74°C).
  9. Once cooked, remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.

Understanding the correct cooking time is crucial for preparing a turkey that is moist and delicious. Use the time recommendations and the simple roasted turkey recipe provided in this guide to create a show-stopping main course for your holiday celebrations. For best results, always check the internal temperature of your turkey to ensure it’s cooked to perfection. Happy cooking!