Turkey roasting guide

Today's tender turkeys take much less time to cook than tougher birds of yore. Here's how to get it just right
Elaine Johnson

Every year, we chant the same turkey mantra: Don't overcook. Buy a meat thermometer and use it. The objective―moist, juicy breast meat and succulent thighs.

Today's young, moist, tender turkeys take much less time to cook than tougher birds of yore. Almost without exception, if a bird is dry, it's been cooked too long―and the breast meat suffers most.

More recipes and tips:  Your best Thanksgiving

Over the years at Sunset, we have cooked 1,000 turkeys or more, in ovens and on barbecues, charting cooking temperatures and times. Here are our tried-and-true techniques for turkey.

Roasting chart

Turkey weight with giblets: 10-13 lb.
Oven temp.: 350°
Internal temp.: 160°
Cooking time: 1 ½ to 2 ¼ hr.

Turkey weight with giblets: 14-23 lb.
Oven temp.: 325°
Internal temp.: 160°
Cooking time: 2 to 3 hr.

Turkey weight with giblets: 24-27 lb.
Oven temp.: 325°
Internal temp.: 160°
Cooking time: 3 to 3 ¾ hr.

Turkey weight with giblets: 28-30 lb.
Oven temp.: 325°
Internal temp.: 160°
Cooking time: 3 ½ to 4 ½ hr.

Tips:

Start with a completely defrosted bird (allow 24 hours in the fridge for every 5 lbs., the safest way to defrost).

To measure the internal temperature of the turkey, insert a thermometer through the thickest part of the breast to the bone.

Times are for unstuffed birds. A stuffed bird may cook at the same rate as an unstuffed one; however, be prepared to allow 30 to 50 minutes more. While turkeys take about the same time to roast in regular and convection heat, a convection oven does a better job of browning the bird all over.

When you remove the turkey legs, if you find that the meat around the thigh joint is still too pink, cut the drumsticks from the thighs and put thighs in a shallow pan in a 450° oven until no longer pink, 10 to 15 minutes.

More help: Thanksgiving 911

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