University of Illinois Extension

Cooking Techniques - The Good Method

Traditional Roast Turkey (unstuffed)

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Check the wrapper to see how much the turkey weighs and determine approximate cooking time (see chart below). Remove the giblet bag and the neck from the turkey cavity. Wash the turkey inside and out and pat skin dry with paper towels.

2. Place turkey breast side up on a rack in a shallow (about 2 inches deep) roasting pan. Insert meat thermometer in thigh. Add 1/2 cup water to the bottom of pan, if desired.

3. Cover turkey loosely with a tent of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Roast the turkey until temperature in the innermost part of the thigh reaches 165°F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the wing and the thickest part of the breast. You may choose to cook the turkey to higher temperatures. Cooking time will vary. For example, a 20 pound turkey will take 4 1/4 to 5 hours to cook, check the temperature on the thermometer after 4 1/4 hours.

4. Meanwhile, mix the stuffing or dressing. Place in a casserole and pop it into the oven during the last hour or so of roasting time.

5. Remove the foil tent after 1 to 1 1/2 hours of cooking time to brown the skin. Brush with vegetable oil to enhance browning, if desired.

6. A whole turkey (and turkey parts) is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook turkey to higher temperatures.

7. Allow the turkey to set 20 to 30 minutes before carving to allow juices to saturate the meat evenly.

Note: Cooking times do vary. Why? There are many reasons - oven temperature may not be completely accurate, the turkey may be very cold or partially frozen, and/or the roasting pan may be too small which inhibits the flow of heat. The USDA highly recommends use of a meat thermometer to determine doneness of turkey.

USDA Roasting Timetable for Fresh or Thawed Turkey at 325°F.

These times are approximate and should always be used in conjunction with a properly placed thermometer.

Unstuffed
8 to 12 pounds 2 3/4 to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 to 3 3/4 hours
14 to 18 pounds 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours
20 to 24 pounds 4 1/2 to 5 hours
Stuffed
8 to 12 pounds 3 to 3 1/2 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 1/2 to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds 4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours
20 to 24 pounds 4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours

The USDA does not recommend cooking turkey in an oven set lower than 325°F.