How Long To Cook a Turkey Per Pound: The Ultimate Guide

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how long to cook a turkey per pound

When you’re dealing with a large cut of meat like a whole turkey, the cooking time can vary quite a bit.

Not only do you have to factor in the total weight of the bird, you have to choose the right cooking temperature for the method you’ve selected. This can vary depending on whether the turkey is roasted, smoked, or deep-fried.

By the time you’ve finished reading this ultimate guide, you should have a good idea of how long to cook a turkey per pound.

How Long to Cook a Turkey Per Pound

When you set the oven to 325 degrees, a turkey should cook at a rate of about 15 minutes per pound. A stuffed turkey could take longer—up to 20 minutes per pound. Smoking is done at lower temperatures. If you smoke the turkey at 275 degrees, it takes 20-25 minutes per pound for the meat to cook through—or up to 30 minutes per pound for a stuffed bird.

What’s the Best Temperature to Cook a Turkey?

Many recipes for roasted turkey call for an oven temperature of 325 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a reasonable temp, as it allows the meat to remain moist as it cooks to a safe internal temperature (see Recommended Internal Temperature for Turkey, below).

You can crank up the temperature to 350 or even 375 degrees if you want to speed things along. This shouldn’t do any harm when you’re roasting the bird in the oven.

For smoked meats, though, we like to set the temperature a bit lower. You want the meat to cook through while accruing a rich smoky flavor from the wood. If the temp is set too high, the meat won’t taste as smoky.

275 degrees is our preferred target temperature when smoking whole turkeys. Of course, if you don’t want a lot of smoke flavor, you can set it to a higher temperature. The turkey will cook faster, but as long as you don’t overcook it, the meat should remain juicy.

Recommended Internal Temperature for Turkey

Regardless of what cooking temperature you select, you’ll need to ensure that the meat cooks to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. These are the guidelines set by the USDA.

Since the meat will continue to cook as it rests, you can remove the turkey from the heat when the breast meat has cooked to 160 degrees. Try not to let it cook past this point, or the meat will have a chalky texture.

Although you should take care not to cook the breast meat past 165, the dark meat on the thighs and drumsticks plays by a different set of rules. It may be safe to eat it at 165 degrees, but it doesn’t achieve the optimum temperature until it’s cooked to 180-185.

You may be able to prevent the breast meat from overcooking by tenting it with foil. However, if you do this too early, the skin on the breasts will be rubbery. Wait until the skin has achieved a crisp, golden appearance before you add the foil.

Another option might be to carve the breast meat off when it’s reached the correct temperature, and let the legs and thighs continue to cook. This isn’t ideal, since the breast meat will cool off while you’re waiting, but it’s preferable to overcooked meat.

Do Stuffed Turkeys Take Longer to Cook?

In a word, yes. If you stuff the turkey, it will take longer to reach the optimum serving temperature than if you’d left the cavity empty. You should increase your estimated cooking time by 3 to 5 minutes per pound when cooking a stuffed turkey.

Remember that the stuffing needs to reach a safe internal temperature as well. Once it’s come into contact with the raw poultry, it’s been exposed to the same bacteria. Cooking the stuffing to 165 is the only way to be sure that it will be safe to eat.

To summarize, the breast meat and stuffing are done cooking when they’ve achieved an internal temperature of 165, and the dark meat is finished at 180. You can remove the stuffing to a buttered heatproof dish and let it finish cooking in that if necessary.

Is it Safe to Stuff a Turkey?

As long as the stuffing is allowed to cook to a safe temperature, it’s safe to eat it when it’s been inside the bird. In fact, this method will give the stuffing a richer flavor, which is why it continues to be popular.

We should mention, though, that stuffing the turkey can be a pain. The stuffing needs to be hot—or at least at room temperature—when you put it in the turkey. Otherwise, it will take too long to cook to 165 degrees.

You’ll also have to make sure not to touch any leftover stuffing with the hand that’s come into contact with the raw turkey. If you do, the rest of the stuffing will be contaminated, and you’ll have to heat it to 165 degrees as well.

Finally, we prefer to leave the turkey unstuffed when putting it on the smoker. The wood smoke gives the stuffing an unpleasant bitter taste, which has an adverse effect on the whole meal.

Instead of stuffing the turkey, consider baking it in a buttered casserole dish. It might not have the same rich taste, but you may be able to offset this by serving the turkey with a gravy made from the drippings.

A Word About Turkey Size

In theory, you can cook a turkey of any size as long as your unit is large enough to hold the entire bird. Some of us have suffered the indignity of preparing a turkey for the oven or smoker, only to find that we can’t fit it inside without leaving the door or lid ajar.

We’ve found that when the turkey is destined for the smoker, it’s better to choose a specimen that falls on the lighter end of the spectrum. 10 to 12 pounds is preferable, but if it’s a bit larger or smaller, you’re still in good shape.

When roasting a turkey, the size doesn’t matter as much because you’ll probably be cooking it at a higher temperature. What’s more, you won’t have to carry the huge bird from the kitchen to the outdoor cooking area and back again.

The size of the turkey matters in one other important respect. If the turkey you’re cooking is very large—over 18 pounds—you can decrease the per-pound estimate.

Although it’s crucial to cook the meat to a safe temperature, turkey is very lean. The longer it spends in the oven or smoker, the more likely it is to dry out.

You can expect an oversized turkey to cook for quite a while. However, the estimates we’ve listed below assume that these larger specimens won’t need to cook for quite as long on a per-pound basis as their smaller counterparts would.

How Long To Cook a Turkey Per Pound

For your reference, we’ve put together this easy-to-follow section on how long to cook a turkey per pound, based on the size of the bird.

how long to cook a turkey per pound

Remember that the times listed are only estimates. Every turkey is different, and yours may cook faster or slower, depending on how well your oven or smoker is able to retain its heat. The only way to tell when the meat is done is to test the internal temperature.

How Long to Cook a 10 lb Turkey

  • At 275 Degrees: 3-1/3 to 4 hours
  • At 275 Degrees Stuffed: 4-1/2 to 5 hours
  • At 325 Degrees: 2-1/2 hours
  • At 325 Degrees Stuffed: 3-1/3 hours

How Long to Cook an 11 lb Turkey

  • At 275 Degrees: 3-3/4 to 4-1/2 hours 
  • At 275 Degrees Stuffed: 4-3/4 to 5 hours
  • At 325 Degrees: 2-3/4 hours
  • At 325 Degrees Stuffed: 3-3/4 hours

How Long to Cook a 12 lb Turkey

  • At 275 Degrees: 4 to 5 hours
  • At 275 Degrees Stuffed: 5 to 6 hours
  • At 325 Degrees: 3 hours
  • At 325 Degrees Stuffed: 4 hours

How Long to Cook a 13 lb Turkey

  • At 275 Degrees: 4-1/3 to 5-1/2 hours
  • At 275 Degrees Stuffed: 5-1/2 to 6 hours
  • At 325 Degrees: 3-1/4 hours
  • At 325 Degrees Stuffed: 4-1/3 hours

How Long to Cook a 14 lb Turkey

  • At 275 Degrees: 4-3/4 to 5-1/2 hours
  • At 275 Degrees Stuffed: 5-3/4 to 6-1/2 hours
  • At 325 Degrees: 3-3/4 hours
  • At 325 Degrees Stuffed: 4-1/4 hours

How Long to Cook a 15 lb Turkey

  • At 275 Degrees: 4-3/4 to 5-1/2 hours
  • At 275 Degrees Stuffed: 6 to 6-1/2 hours
  • At 325 Degrees: 3-3/4 to 4 hours
  • At 325 Degrees Stuffed: 4-1/4 to 4-1/2 hours

How Long to Cook a 16 lb Turkey

  • At 275 Degrees: 5-1/3 to 6-1/2 hours
  • At 275 Degrees Stuffed: 6-1/2 to 7-1/2 hours
  • At 325 Degrees: 4 to 4-1/2 hours
  • At 325 Degrees Stuffed: 5-1/3 to 5-1/2 hours

How Long to Cook a 17 lb Turkey

  • At 275 Degrees: 5-1/2 to 6-1/2 hours
  • At 275 Degrees Stuffed: 6-3/4 to 8 hours
  • At 325 Degrees: 4-1/2 hours
  • At 325 Degrees Stuffed: 5-1/2 hours

How Long to Cook an 18 lb Turkey

  • At 275 Degrees: 6 to 7-1/2 hours
  • At 275 Degrees Stuffed: 7-1/2 to 8 hours
  • At 325 Degrees: 4-1/2 hours
  • At 325 Degrees Stuffed: 5-1/4 to 5-3/4 hours

How Long to Cook a 19 lb Turkey

  • At 275 Degrees: 6 to 7-1/2 hours
  • At 275 Degrees Stuffed: 7-1/2 to 8 hours
  • At 325 Degrees: 4-1/2 to 4-3/4 hours
  • At 325 Degrees Stuffed: 5-1/2 to 6 hours

How Long to Cook a 20 lb Turkey

  • At 275 Degrees: 6-1/2 to 7-1/2 hours
  • At 275 Degrees Stuffed: 7-3/4 to 8-1/4 hours
  • At 325 Degrees: 4-1/2 to 5 hours
  • At 325 Degrees Stuffed: 5-1/2 to 6 hours

How Long to Cook a 21 lb Turkey

  • At 275 Degrees: 7 to 7-1/2 hours
  • At 275 Degrees Stuffed: 8-1/2 hours
  • At 325 Degrees: 4-1/2 to 5 hours
  • At 325 Degrees Stuffed: 5-1/2 to 6 hours

How Long to Cook a 22 lb Turkey

  • At 275 Degrees: 7 to 7-1/2 hours
  • At 275 Degrees Stuffed: 8-1/2 hours
  • At 325 Degrees: 5 to 5-1/4 hours
  • At 325 Degrees Stuffed: 5-1/2 to 6 hours

How Long to Cook a 23 lb Turkey

  • At 275 Degrees: 7 to 7-1/2 hours
  • At 275 Degrees Stuffed: 8-1/2 hours
  • At 325 Degrees: 5 to 5-1/4 hours
  • At 325 Degrees Stuffed: 5-1/2 to 6 hours

How Long to Cook a 24 lb Turkey

  • At 275 Degrees: 7-1/2 to 8 hours
  • At 275 Degrees Stuffed: 8-1/2 hours
  • At 325 Degrees: 5 to 5-3/4 hours
  • At 325 Degrees Stuffed: 5-3/4 to 6 hours

How Long to Cook a 25 lb Turkey

  • At 275 Degrees: 7-1/2 to 8 hours
  • At 275 Degrees Stuffed: 8-1/2 hours
  • At 325 Degrees: 5 to 6 hours
  • At 325 Degrees Stuffed: 5-3/4 to 6-1/4 hours

How Long To Deep-Fry a Turkey

If you’re deep-frying a turkey, you’ll need to follow a different set of guidelines.

how long to cook a turkey per pound

The oil you use for deep-frying should be at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. This seals in the juices and gives the skin a crispy texture without causing it to burn.

Assuming the oil remains at 350 degrees, a turkey should cook at a rate of 3 to 5 minutes per pound when it’s deep-fried. That means a 10-pound turkey could be done in 30 minutes to an hour. A 25-pounder could be in the hot oil for as long as 2 hours.

Although deep-frying is a messy technique—and can even be dangerous if it’s not done correctly—it does save a lot of time. If you’re tired of waiting around for your meat to cook, consider investing in a turkey fryer.

The Bottom Line

How long you cook a turkey per pound depends on the oven or smoker temperature and the size of the turkey. If you start testing the meat for doneness at the estimated halfway point, you should be able to guess how much longer it will need.

Best of luck, and happy grilling!

Darren Wayland Avatar

AUTHOR

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