How Long Does it Take to Cook the Perfect Turkey?

Wondering how long it takes to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving? Here's the answer.

Holiday cooking is upon us—happy Thanksgiving!—and everyone is wondering: How long does it take to cook a turkey?

Well, how long you should roast a turkey depends largely on how much it weighs, as well as whether you plan to stuff it. For an oven set to 325°F, recommends the following roasting times based on the weight of a fully thawed turkey:

4 to 6 pounds (breast) cooking time

1 1/2 to 2 1/4 hours

6 to 8 pounds (breast) cooking time

Unstuffed: 2 1/4 to 3 1/4 hours
Stuffed: 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours

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8 to 12 pound turkey cooking time

Unstuffed: 2 3/4 to 3 hours
Stuffed: 3 to 3 1/2 hours

12 to 14 pound turkey cooking time

Unstuffed: 3 to 3 3/4 hours
Stuffed: 3 1/2 to 4 hours

14 to 18 pound turkey cooking time

Unstuffed: 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
Stuffed: 4 to 4 1/4 hours

18 to 20 pound turkey cooking time

Unstuffed: 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours
Stuffed: 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours

20 to 24 pound turkey cooking time

Unstuffed: 4 1/2 to 5 hours
Stuffed: 4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours

Related: 101 Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes

How to know when a turkey is done

While the time estimates above offer a general idea of how long a turkey will take to cook, the absolute safest way to know if your turkey is done is to use a meat thermometer. If you are cooking a stuffed turkey, you must cook it until the internal temperature of the stuffing reaches a minimum of 165°F.

If the stuffing in your turkey has reached a temperature of 165°F, the temperature of the innermost part of the turkey's thigh is likely between 165°F to 185°F, at which point it is done. If you are cooking an unstuffed turkey, roast until a temperature reading of the innermost part of the thigh reaches 165°F.

How much turkey will you need per person for your holiday dinner?

For your dinner, you can estimate that each guest will eat about 1 1/2 pounds of turkey. Here’s a general guide for how much turkey you’ll need per person:
4 people – 6 pounds
6 people – 9 pounds
12 people – 18 pounds

If you are buying a smaller bird for a smaller party – 12 pounds or less – you should allow 2 pounds per person to account for the smaller meat-to-bone ratio. These guidelines apply to both fresh and frozen turkey—if you’re cooking a frozen turkey, be sure to allow at least 24 hours of thawing for every 4 pounds of your bird.

Don't forget about dessert! Check out 150+ Thanksgiving Desserts.