Planning & Prep

Turkey Cooking Time Calculator: Thawing, Stuffing & Roasting Explained

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Last Updated: Nov 21, 2022

Turkey…check! Stuffing…check! Roasting pan…check! It’s time to make the tastiest feast for your loved ones to enjoy. But, wait! How long should you cook your turkey? How do you thaw your meat? Thankfully, we have an easy-to-use turkey cooking time calculator to help you.

To use our unstuffed or stuffed turkey cooking time calculator, all you have to do is fill out the size of your turkey, its filling (if it has any) and desired level of doneness. You will then find out the estimated cooking time in hours.

Turkey cooking time calculator

1. Turkey size

Check your entry! Please input a whole number between 4 and 24 pounds.

2. Turkey cavity

3. Turkey doneness

Cooking time estimated:

Animated turkey

Recipes listing cook times are approximate. Use food thermometers to ensure safe cooked food temperatures. Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish, or eggs may increase the risk of foodborne illness. Please refer to the USDA Safe Minimum Food Temperature Chart for further information.

Any allergen claim is assumed. Read all food ingredient labels for all allergy concerns.

You can learn more about how to stay healthy with these easy and safe meal preparation steps.

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How do you calculate turkey cooking time?

Turkey cooking time is calculated based on weight, stuffing and desired level of doneness. Each pound of turkey is calculated into the average cooking time to ensure the meat is fully cooked. 

Test out our turkey cooking time calculator or reference the chart provided by the USDA below for further directions. Please note all cooking times are based on a 325 F oven. You can also reference our turkey cooking time chart for more information.

Stuffed

Unstuffed

6 to 8 pounds (breast)

2½ to 3½ hours

4 to 8 pounds (breast)

1½ to 3¼ hours

8 to 12 pounds

3 to 3½ hours

8 to 12 pounds

2¾ to 3 hours

12 to 14 pounds

3½ to 4 hours

12 to 14 pounds

3 to 3¾ hours

14 to 18 pounds

4 to 4¼ hours

14 to 18 pounds

3¾ to 4¼ hours

18 to 20 pounds

4¼ to 4¾ hours

18 to 20 pounds

4¼ to 4½ hours

20 to 24 pounds

4¾ to 5¼ hours

20 to 24 pounds

4½ to 5 hours

Source: USDA

how to calculate turkey cooking time

How many minutes do you cook per pound of a turkey?

According to the recommended cooking times from the USDA,  you should cook an unstuffed turkey for roughly 20 minutes per pound. Stuffed turkeys require roughly two additional minutes per pound. Please note the exact cooking time will vary depending on the cooking method, exact weight and preferred doneness.

How long to thaw a turkey by size

Defrosting or thawing a turkey will vary depending on size and method. You can defrost a turkey in a refrigerator or thaw a turkey in cold water. It is not recommended to use a microwave for thawing a turkey due to size and safety hazards. 

Let’s review some of the turkey defrosting methods below.

Refrigerator thawing

If you have some time to spare before your feast, then you might want to try out the refrigerator thawing method for your turkey. For every four to five pounds of turkey, add an additional 24 hours to the thawing time.

When you thaw your turkey in the refrigerator, make sure to keep it in its original packaging. Add the wrapped turkey to a tray or pan to contain all juices that could potentially spill.

Thawing time in refrigerator (40 °F or below)

4 to 12 pounds

1 to 3 days

12 to 16 pounds

3 to 4 days

16 to 20 pounds

4 to 5 days

20 to 24 pounds

5 to 6 days

Source: USDA

Cold water thawing

Folks that are looking for a fast way to thaw their turkey can choose the cold water method. Start by making sure your turkey is wrapped thoroughly to ensure no water can leak in. 

Submerge your turkey in a bucket of cold water. Make sure to change the water every 30 minutes so it maintains cold. Every pound of turkey requires 30 minutes of thawing in cold water. 

Cook your turkey immediately after the cold water thawing method.

Thawing time in cold water

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

Source: USDA

How to safely refreeze a turkey

Cooked and uncooked turkey can be refrozen if you do so under certain thawing conditions. The USDA recommends thawing your turkey in the refrigerator and not freezing the meat if it has been left out at room temperature for more than two hours. Do not refreeze your meat after using the cold water method.

Here are a few tips to safely refreeze your turkey.

  1. Divide your turkey into small servings to save space in your freezer.
  2. Use freezer bags to protect and wrap your turkey properly.
  3. When you are ready to eat your leftover turkey, transfer it to the refrigerator and let it thaw for a day for every four to five pounds of meat.
  4. Add a small amount of gravy to your turkey to remoisten the meat after you heat it up.
turkey thawing times

Turkey cooking tips and tricks

Preparing the perfect turkey takes time, skill and patience (of course). Here are a few turkey cooking tips and tricks to test out.

  • Buy the right size turkey: Buying the biggest bird isn’t always the best option. Account for one pound of turkey per person for a whole turkey or half a pound for a boneless turkey breast. Turkey leftovers are enjoyable, but too many leftovers can lead to waste.
  • Plan out your thawing process: Pick your thawing method and factor this into your overall cooking time. 
  • Try dry brining: Avoid a flavorless turkey by dry brining it to ensure you season the bird thoroughly. Don’t over complicate your turkey brine — a salt rub can do the trick! However, there is no harm in creating a fresh herb butter brine for a flavorful turkey.
  • Cook stuffing separately: There’s no need to worry about overcooking your turkey by cooking your stuffing separately. Not only will your turkey cook faster, but your stuffing will come out perfect every time.
  • Add extra flavorings: Salt works fine, but adding rosemary, thyme, sage or garlic can add even more flavor. You can even add in a halved orange or lemon to bring even more aromatics to your turkey.

Turkey cooking supplies

When it comes to cooking a turkey, you need to have the proper supplies on hand. Here are a few turkey cooking supplies you may need to invest in.

  • Roasting pan and rack: You will need a large roasting pan to cook your turkey. Double check the capacity of your roasting pan to ensure your turkey will fit comfortably. The roasting rack will help the heat circulate and cook the bird thoroughly.
  • Meat thermometer: Skip the guesswork and use a meat thermometer to measure the exact temperature of your turkey. Here’s a quick how-to guide: Remove the turkey from the cooking method and stick the thermometer into the thigh. Make sure your bird reaches an internal temperature of 165 F.
  • Carving tools: Invest in a quality set of carving tools that includes a fork and knife for ultimate ease. Skip the hassle by cutting your bird with a knife designed for carving.
  • Baster: Not every recipe requires a baster, but it helps ensure the meat is tender and moist while adding more crispness to the skin. Large spoons are also an alternative to basters.
  • Cutting board: Invest in a cutting board that has grooves on the edges to catch all the liquid that escapes as you carve. Make sure the cutting board is large enough to cut your bird with ease.
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Final turkey cooking thoughts to baste in

There are many factors to consider when cooking a turkey — think about the size, desired cooking method and even your thawing method. With our turkey cooking time calculator you can estimate how long it will take to make your perfect bird.

Stock up on all your ingredients to prepare the tastiest feast with the help of Instacart. Focus all your time and effort on making your bird and leave the grocery shopping to our delivery experts. Place your online order today for your turkey meal.

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