Thanksgiving Turkey Cooking Tips


By: Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources

The turkey is the star of the Thanksgiving dinner. Use these helpful turkey cooking tips and food safety precautions to make sure you wow your dinner guests!

Fresh or Frozen?

Fresh Turkeys

  • Allow 1 pound of turkey per person
  • Buy your turkey only 1-2 days before you plan to use it
  • Keep it stored in the refrigerator until ready to cook it. Place it on a tray or pan to catch any juices that may drip

Frozen Turkeys

  • Allow 1 pound of turkey per person
  • Keep frozen until ready to thaw
  • Turkeys can be kept frozen in the freezer

2 Preferred Methods for Thawing Your Turkey

Refrigerator Thawing Method:

4 to 12 pounds . . . . . . 1 to 3 days                          12 to 16 pounds . . . . . . 3 to 4 days

16 to 20 pounds . . . . . . 4 to 5 days                        20 to 24 pounds . . . . . . 5 to 6 days


Keep the turkey in the original wrapper. Place it on a tray or in a pan to catch any juices that may drip. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days.

Cold Water Thawing Method:

Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound

4 to 12 pounds . . . . . . 2 to 6 hours                        12 to 16 pounds . . . . .6 to 8 hours

16 to 20 pounds . . . . ..8 to 10 hours                      20 to 24 pounds . . . . .10 to 12 hours


Wrap your turkey securely, making sure the water is not able to penetrate the wrapping. Submerge your wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed.

Roasting Your Turkey

  • Set your oven temperature no lower than 325° F.
  • Place your turkey on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.
  • Stuffing a turkey is not recommended.
  • A whole turkey 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.
  • Do not rely solely on the “pop-up” indicator that comes with most turkeys, they are not always accurate.
  • Let the turkey rest for 20 minutes before carving to allow juices to redistribute. The turkey will carve more easily.

Timetables for Turkey Roasting

Use the timetables below to determine how long to cook your turkey. These times are approximate. Always use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of your turkey.


325° F oven temperature

4 to 8 pounds 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 4¼ to 5 hours


Optional Cooking Tips

  1. Tuck wing tips under the shoulders of the bird for more even cooking.
  2. Add ½ cup of water to the bottom of the pan.
  3. If your roasting pan does not have a lid, you may place a tent of heavy-duty aluminum foil over the turkey for the first 1 to 1½ hours. To prevent overbrowning, foil may also be placed over the turkey until it reaches the desired color.
  4. If using an oven-proof food thermometer, place it in the turkey at the start of the cooking cycle, in the thickest part of the thigh. It will allow you to check the internal temperature of the turkey while it is cooking.
  5. If using an oven cooking bag, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.


Stanton Insurance Agency would like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! We are so thankful for our valued customers.

As an independent insurance agency, we can meet all of your insurance needs with the companies we represent, providing personal and business solutions under one roof! Head over to our website or give us a call to learn more. Stanton Insurance Agency, Inc.  (781) 893-3200


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