Turkey Roasting Guide

This is a great guide we found in the November 2008 issue of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine. Print this out and live by it- surely this will help you to a successful holiday cooking season!


Allow 1 and 1/2 pounds of turkey per person. That amount will leave enough for leftovers, too. Be sure to allow plenty of time and space to that a frozen turkey in the refrigerator.

Find the giblets (heart, liver and gizzard) tucked inside the neck or body cavity and remove. Discard, if you're not using them, or cook and add to stuffing or gravy. If you are stuffing, plan about 3/4 cup per stuffing per pound of poultry. Do not stuff until just before roasting. Loosely spoon stuffing into the neck and body cavities allowing room for expansion. If stuffing is packed in it will not reach a safe eating temperature by the time the turkey is done. Pull neck skin over stuffing and use a long skewer to hold it in place. Tuck drumsticks under band of skin near the tail and tie legs together with kitchen string. Twist wing tips up and under the bird's back. If not stuffing the bird, bake stuffing in a casserole dish.

Use the roasting chart below to determine proper cooking times. While oven is preheating to 325 degrees F, place turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Pans with sides higher than 2 inches will act as a heat shield and prevent turkey thighs from cooking evenly. Brush bird with cooking oil. Cover loosely with foil and roast. After 2/3 of cooking time, cut string between drumsticks. Remove foil during the last 30-45 minutes of cooking to create a crisp, golden skin. According to the USDA, all turkey meat and stuffing is safe to eat when a meat thermometer reaches 165 degrees F. However, for best flavor and ease in carving, thigh meat should be cooked to 180 degrees F. For an accurate reading, be sure thermometer does not touch bone when inserted in meat.





8-12 pounds

2 & 3/4-3 Hours

3-3 & 1/2 Hours

12-14 pounds

3-3 & 3/4 Hours

3 & 1/2-4 Hours

14-18 pounds

3 & 3/4-4 & 1/4 Hours

4-4 & 1/4 Hours

18-20 pounds

4 & 1/4-4 & 1/2 Hours

4¼-4 & 3/4 Hours

20-24 pounds

4 & 1/2-5 Hours

4 & 3/4-5 & 1/4 Hours


Start with a sharp knife and a cutting board with a groove to capture juices.

Hold the end of the drumstick and cut through meat between thigh and body. Pull drumstick away from body and remove by cutting through joint where thigh connects to body. Separate thigh from drumstick by cutting through joints that hold them together.

Steady the bird with a carving fork and cut horizontally into the breast just above the wing. Remove the entire breast by cutting from the top of the bird down to the horizontal cut, using the breast bone as a guide for your knife.

Put the breast on a cutting board and slice meat in even pieces. Carve the thigh and drumstick in slices, if desired. Arrange turkey slices on a serving platter.


  • Fresh or frozen? It all comes down to personal preference. Some people like the flavor of fresh turkey. Others don't notice a flavor difference. Fresh birds don't need to be thawed, but may be pricier. Frozen birds can be purchased in advance, but need up to 1 week to thaw in the refrigerator.
  • When should I start thawing the turkey? Thawing the bird in the refrigerator is our favorite method. Allow 24 hours thawing time for every 4 pounds of bird. That means a 12-pound turkey takes 3 days to thaw, but we recommend allowing an extra day to make sure it thaws completely. It's safe to keep a thawed bird in the fridge a day or two before roasting. If you find your turkey is still frozen Thanksgiving morning, place it in a clean sink filled with cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. Do not thaw the bird at room temperature or in warm water.
  • Can I roast the turkey in advance? Yes. Roast and carve per directions in this guide, then cover and refrigerate up to 2 days. For moist, make-ahead turkey, pour turkey or chicken broth over slices then cover and refrigerate. Before serving, reheat, covered, in the microwave.
  • How long can I keep leftovers? First step is to cover and refrigerate meat within 2 hours of cooking. Then eat it within 2 days. Otherwise freeze it for up to 6 months.
  • What if I have more questions? Fear not. Trusted resources are just a mouse click or phone call away. For specific instructions for roasting a whole bird, or just a turkey breast or drumsticks, visit the Interactive Roasting Guide at www.BHG.com/roastingguide. Or visit www.eatturkey.com, the National Turkey Federation's site, or www.butterball.com. You may also call the Butterball Turkey Talk Line at (800)288-8372 or the USDA Meat and Poultry Hot Line at (888)674-6854


  • Neat rows of sliced turkey, artfully arranged, sets up your bird as the luscious star of the table. Keep the platter decoration simple and perch a bowl of roasted fruit or herbs to one side and call it done.
  • Give it a rest! When you take the turkey out of the oven, tent it with foil and let it stand for 15-20 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to be absorbed into the meat, making for juicier turkey.
  • Stay safe! To keep your cutting board from slipping while carving, place a dampened paper towel or thin kitchen towel under the board. Use a cutting board with grooves to catch juices.
  • Sharpen your knife! A sharp knife is a must. You can tell if your knife is sharp by using it to cut paper. It should slice, not tear the paper. If it's not sharp, use a sharpener to produce an edge that's better than the alternative.
  • Saw, don't rip! Carve with long, light strokes. Bearing down will shred meat rather than cutting it cleanly.