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How Long It Takes to Cook a Turkey of Every Size

We consulted an executive chef who knows a thing or two about turkey to find out exact cooking times.
How Long It Takes to Cook a Turkey of Every Size

Can you confidently say that you know how long it takes to cook a turkey? If you don't, there's no need to panic, as it's actually quite simple. The trick is deciding which cooking method you want to go with.

We consulted Patrick Ochs, the corporate executive chef at Pubblica Italiana and Dalia at The Celino Hotel, to get insight on just how long you need to cook your turkey this Thanksgiving so that you don't serve a bird that's burnt on top and rubbery on the inside.

How do you go about choosing which size turkey to buy?

Ochs says that turkeys can range from 10 to 36 pounds.

"The best way to go about choosing which size to buy is truly dependent on the size of your party and how many people you're cooking for," he says. "An average 12-pound turkey can feed around 10 to 14 people. A 36-pound turkey can feed up to 24 people, with room for leftovers as well."

In another article about how to know what size turkey to buy, Principal Chef of HelloFresh Claudia Sidoti explained that you should aim to serve between 1 to 1.5 pounds of turkey t0 each person at the dinner table, so you'll want to factor that in when purchasing your bird.

How long does it take to cook a turkey of different sizes?

It depends on both the size and the cooking method of choice.

How long to cook a turkey in the oven

"The average rule of thumb for cooking a defrosted turkey is 15 minutes per pound at 325 degrees, oven-roasted," says Ochs.

So if you have a 12-pound turkey, expect it to take about three hours to cook.

How long to fry a turkey

If you're frying a turkey, you'll want to estimate about four minutes per pound at an oil temperature of 350 degrees.

No matter which method you go with, Ochs says to "always assure your turkey is cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees, and keep in mind that the turkey will continue to cook and carry over internal temperature even when removed from the oven or oil."

Then you'll want to let your turkey rest between 30 and 40 minutes, which the chef points out gives you ample time to prepare the gravy.

RELATED: These are the easy, at-home recipes that help you lose weight.

Any tips on how to best cook a turkey?

Ochs also gives a few tips on how to make sure you cook the best turkey.

  • It is always best to salt brine your turkey for 24 hours for a consistent seasoning and to maintain its juiciness.
  • Giving the turkey some time to rest after cooking allows it to soak up its natural juices.
  • Save the drippings and add it to your homemade gravy.
  • When oven-roasting a turkey, it's best to start at a lower temperature and right before removing the turkey, turn up the temperature, while keeping a very close eye on it. This helps to achieve a nice golden crispy skin.

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Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more
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