You need to consider lots of things before cooking your turkey, especially if you’re a first-timer. One of them is deciding on how long to cook turkey before it’s ready for serving. The turkey that you have cooked yourself will be the center of attention in Thanksgiving dinner or a family feast. This is why you need to learn how to cook it to perfection. Keep on reading to learn how to serve a perfectly cooked turkey.
What Factors Affect the Time Needed to Cook Your Turkey?
There are three factors that affect how long your turkey will take to be cooked perfectly. The first factor is the size of the turkey. The second one is whether it has been thawed or not. The third and last factor is related to whether you’re cooking a stuffed turkey or prefer to use a rub on top of it.
You can cook a turkey in the oven without thawing it first. It will, however, take more time to be perfectly cooked. You shouldn’t deep fry, grill, or smoke a frozen turkey because it won’t cook evenly.
As a rule of thumb, the time needed to cook a frozen turkey will increase by at least 50%. After the turkey has warmed up inside the oven, you need to use a fork or a pair of tongs to pick up the giblets package that should be inside. If the giblets have been kept in a plastic package that has already started to melt, you should consider discarding the turkey because it will be full of harmful chemicals.
When it’s time to pick the right stuffing for your turkey, you should choose between raw and cooked recipes. If you’re using a recipe that involves uncooked meat like bacon, you need to cook this stuffing separately to decrease the risk of food-borne illnesses and guarantee that the stuffing will be perfectly cooked inside the turkey.
Preparing a rub for the turkey will keep the meat moist and tender, even if there’s no stuffing inside. An unstuffed turkey will cook faster than a stuffed one, even if you have cooked the stuffing before using it.
The turkey’s size and weight will affect how much time is needed for cooking it to perfection. Larger turkeys will take more time to cook. You should make sure that you have enough time for prepping and cooking your turkey to make sure that it will be ready by the time you’re planning to serve dinner.
Turkey Cook Time
A simple rule would be to cook the turkey for 20 minutes per pound. If you have a 10-pound turkey, you need to cook it for 200 minutes or 3 hours and 20 minutes. However, this time is right in the following cases.
- This is an un-stuffed turkey.
- You’re cooking it in a preheated oven at 350 degrees.
- It was thawed before cooking.
The amount of time needed to cook the turkey will increase if you’re cooking a stuffed bird. Here’s a table that you can follow as guidance.
|Weight of Turkey||Unstuffed||Stuffed|
|10 pounds||3 hours to 3 ½ hours||3 ¾ hours to 4 ½ hours|
|16 pounds||3 ¾ hours to 4 hours||4 ¼ hours to 4 ½ hours|
|22 pounds||4 hours to 4 ½ hours||5 hours to 5 ½ hours|
Best Turkey Cooking Tips
After you have calculated the time needed to cook your turkey, you need to follow some steps to make sure that it’s been cooked just the way you like it.
- Pick the size of the turkey based on the number of people you want to feed. A 10 to 18-pound turkey will be enough to feed 10 people. A 20 to 24- pound turkey will be enough for about 20 people. If you are entertaining more than 20 people, you need a bird that weighs between 24 and 29 pounds.
- Invest in an instant-read thermometer. Knowing the internal temperature of the turkey while it’s cooking will help you estimate the needed time before it’s ready to be served. Insert the thermometer between the thigh and the breast and make sure not to hit the bones. Your turkey will be ready when it reads 165ºF.
- How well you have cooked your stuffing will greatly affect the time needed to cook your turkey. You should also check the temperature of the stuffing. This also should read 165ºF.
- If you have no thermometer, you can use a knife to test the readiness of the turkey. Pierce the meat with the tip of the knife. If the juices that run are clear, your bird will be ready.
- If you’re adding vegetables in the roasting pan to give your turkey more flavor, add a cup of water to protect them from being burned. You don’t need to add water to the turkey while cooking if there are no veggies.
- Brining your turkey before cooking it will keep the meat moist. You can add your own unique spices and herbs to the traditional brine of water, salt, and sugar. Keep the turkey on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator for a few days. If you have no time for brining, you can rub the cavity between the meat and skin with salt, cover the turkey with a plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge for a day.
- Start cooking your turkey uncovered to give it a nice golden-brown color. After the color has changed, cover it with a piece of foil to cook the meat evenly. In the last 45 minutes of cooking, uncover the turkey to enhance the color.
- Let the turkey rest for 45 minutes before you start carving it. This will guarantee maximum juiciness.
Cooking a turkey for your loved ones takes time and effort but is extremely rewarding. Make sure that you have cooked your bird to perfection before serving it. Explore with different stuffing recipes and offer your family and friends a unique taste every time.