How to Cook a Turkey

The biggest complaint people have about turkey is that it is usually dry.  If you follow these instructions, your turkey will come out beautifully roasted and juicy.

The best and safest way to defrost a turkey is in the refrigerator.  Here are some defrosting times:

8-12 lbs. – 2 to 3 days

13 – 16 lbs. – 3 to 4 days

17 – 20 lbs. – 4 to 5 days

21 – 24 lbs. – 5 to 6 days


When fully defrosted, have some olive oil ready (just enough to rub on the turkey), fresh sprigs of rosemary, thyme and sage, about 2 sprigs each (you can use dried, just don’t overdo it), 1 orange, 1 lemon and 1 onion.

Remove the neck and giblets before cooking.  Clean the turkey of excess feathers and fat.  Pre-heat the oven to 475 degrees.

Gently separate the skin and breast meat.  Place the sprigs in between the skin and breast meat.This makes a very nice seasoning.  Cut the orange, lemon and onion in halves or quarters and stuff in the cavity of the bird.  Rub the turkey with olive oil then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place the bird, BREAST SIDE DOWN, in a large roasting dish. This will cause the juices to flow down in through the breast making it very juicy.  Cover with an aluminum foil tent.  Cook in a 475 degree oven for 20 minutes. Baste.

Lower the oven to 250 degrees and cook about 20 minutes per pound, basting every hour.  After the first hour of cooking, carefully turn the bird over and continue cooking.  For the last 30 minutes, remove the foil and let the skin brown.


Time Chart for Cooking a Turkey


Turkey SizeTime at 475°FTime at 250°Resting TimeTotal Prep Time
10 lbs.20 minutes3 hrs. 20 mins.20 minutes4 hours
11 lbs.20 minutes3 hrs. 40 mins.20 minutes4 hrs. 20 mins.
12 lbs.20 minutes4 hours20 minutes4 hrs. 40 mins.
13 lbs.20 minutes4 hrs. 20 mins.20 minutes5 hours
14 lbs.20 minutes4 hrs. 40 mins.20 minutes5 hrs. 20 mins.
15 lbs.20 minutes5 hours20 minutes5 hrs. 40 mins.
16 lbs.20 minutes5 hrs. 20 mins.20 minutes6 hours
17 lbs.20 minutes5 hrs. 40 mins.20 minutes6 hrs. 20 mins.
18 lbs.20 minutes6 hours20 minutes6 hrs. 40 mins.
19 lbs.20 minutes6 hrs. 20 mins.20 minutes7 hours
20 lbs.20 minutes6 hrs. 40 mins.20 minutes7 hrs. 20 mins.


By Kitchen Revival