You have your bird, but how long, exactly, are you supposed to cook it? Here’s a handy guide.

By Real Simple Editors
Updated August 28, 2020
Credit: Getty Images

No Thanksgiving guest is more important than the turkey. But you might have a late arrival on your hands if you don’t get it in the oven on time. Planning a 3 p.m. meal? You’ll need to have a 20-pound bird (sans stuffing) cooking by around 10:30 a.m. Don’t stress about the math—just follow our easy chart for how long to cook a turkey, with recommendations from the USDA. Just remember: Even with this turkey cooking chart, the safest way to cook a turkey and make sure it is fully cooked is to use a meat thermometer and to learn how to take a turkey’s temperature.

Chart: How long to cook a turkey

Credit: Katie Field

How long to cook an unstuffed turkey

  • 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

How long to cook a stuffed turkey

  • 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

Note: For safety reasons, the USDA recommends cooking stuffing outside of the turkey to guarantee uniform doneness. If you do choose to stuff it, check the temp of the center of the stuffing to make sure it, too, reaches the safe 165 degrees F (otherwise bacteria could contaminate your cooked turkey). Keep wet stuffing ingredients refrigerated ahead of time, and separate from dry ingredients until just before mixing, stuffing loosely and cooking. Sticking with a casserole dish? You should still cook the stuffing to 165 degrees F. If you’re caught without a thermometer, don’t stress: There’s a way to take a turkey’s temperature without a thermometer, too.

For more turkey and stuffing safety and cooking tips, check out the USDA’s site.