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Turkey cooking times -Updated

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By Jimmy Downs

Turkey cook time

On the Thanksgiving Day, many people are still wondering how long to cook their turkeys. The turkey cook time depends on the size of your turkey and your cooker or oven temperature and the latter is often pretty much fixed at 325 to 350 oF so the only determinant is the size of your turkey. To determine the turkey cook time per pound, you may use the following timetables recommended by the USDA:

Un-stuffed turkey

4 to 8 pounds (breast) 1½ to 3¼ hours
8 to 12 pounds 2¾ to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 to 3¾ hours
14 to 18 pounds 3¾ to 4¼ hours
18 to 20 pounds 4¼ to 4½ hours
20 to 24 pounds 4½ to 5 hours

Stuffed turkey

4 to 6 pounds (breast) Not usually applicable
6 to 8 pounds (breast) 2½ to 3½ hours
8 to 12 pounds 3 to 3½ hours
12 to 14 pounds 3½ to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds 4 to 4¼ hours
18 to 20 pounds 4¼ to 4¾ hours
20 to 24 pounds 4¾ to 5¼ hours

If you cook a frozen turkey directly, you will need to double the cooking time at the temperature. There is no turkey cook time calculator readily available, but the formulas given above should give you some good estimate.

The most important thing you need to do is monitor the turkey temperature or turkey cook temperature. So you will know when your turkey is done.

For the safety purpose, make sure that the temperature in the innermost part of the thigh or the breast or the stuffing if the turkey is stuffed, reaches a minimal of 165 oF although you can choose to cook your turkey at higher temperatures for whatever reasons.

When it comes to cooking a turkey, the turkey temperature is extremely important. The USDA says that "a whole turkey is safe when cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer."

But you need to know something about turkey thermometer placement or where you should put your thermometer in the turkey. If you insert your probe in a wrong place, you may get a temperature reading you may not want and your turkey may not be safe to eat.

The agency says a turkey temperature probe needs to be inserted into the thickest part of the thigh and wing and the breast. Often, turkey recipes specify that the thickest part of the breast or the thigh is the place where you should monitor the turkey temperature and stop cooking only when the turkey temperature probe shows the temperature of the innermost part of your turkey reaches 165 oF.

If your turkey is stuffed, your probe should be inserted in the stuffing and when the cooking is done, the stuffing needs to reach a safe minimum internal turkey temperature of 165 °F.

If you as a turkey consumer can't get enough help here, you may contact Butterball, the well known turkey provider, today the Thanksgiving Day. They are open today from 7 am to 7 pm EST to answer all questions you may have about how to cook your turkey. Here is the contact information.

Butterball
Turkey Talk-Line®
E-mail talkline@butterball.com now
Call: 1-800-BUTTERBALL
Weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
CST (Central Standard Time)

Related articles

Roasting a turkey for Thanksgiving Day

How long to cook a turkey per pound

Roasted Turkey Recipe for Thanksgiving

Turkey thermometer placement

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Subscribe to comments feed Comments (27 posted):

Jacque Bradley on 11/26/2009 20:38:20
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Thank you for the information. It was helpful.

Sincerely,
Jacque Bradley
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Loretta on 12/23/2009 10:18:51
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Just wish to let you know,how disappointing the stuffed butterball turkey was on Monday..After following instructions in cooking it,the temp on one side was not more appropriate,had to cook several more hours,still not done on one side..Finally,carved it & microwaved the parts..Needless to say,it spoil't our family dinner!!
Will not be buying a pre stuffed turkey again..Any comments?
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Stephen G on 12/25/2009 20:25:46
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Not a single mention of carryover! Get your bird out of the oven when it reaches 155 degrees or it will zoom past 165 with the built-up heat going on. My best turkey is at 160 to 165. I had one come out once with a 157 internal temperature that had a pink tint but tasted great.

The USDA keeps upping their recommended temperatures just to avoid a salmonella event. Last year it was 160, this year it's 165. If (when) Obama messes with it, we'll likely have to take our birds to a government kitchen before consumption.
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Stephen F on 12/30/2009 17:46:49
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@Loretta
Though I personally stay away from as much pre-made food as is practical, such as stuffing, is easy enough to make myself than buy pre-made with processing ingredients.

Though no oven heats completely even, it's more evident the longer the dish takes to cook, such as a 4 hour bird compared to 15 minute cookies. Did you rotate the bird while cooking? If it's not cooking evenly front to back or left to right, it just needs to be spun 180 degrees half-way into cooking or every quarter of cooking time. If it was uneven top to bottom, then you'll need to move it to a lower or higher rack in the oven.
Then of course it could have been that the turkey wasn't completely thawed and whatever side the bird was sitting on while thawing will be the most frozen.
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How long to cook a turkey doesn't have an precise answer. There is a range of times when it might be done. To help control some variables, use an oven thermometer to double check your oven's temperature.
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Though no oven heats completely even, it's more evident the longer the dish takes to cook, such as a 4 hour bird compared to 15 minute cookies
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