What Temperature to Cook Turkey

Say goodbye to serving a dry turkey on Thanksgiving. Use these tips to ensure you cook the bird perfectly on the big day.

Updated on October 17, 2023
How to Use a Meat Thermometer
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The best way to ensure that your Thanksgiving turkey stays delicious and moist is by cooking it at the right temperature and taking it out at the correct temperature.

What Temperature to Cook the Turkey?

Cook your turkey at 325 degrees F for most of the cook time; in the final 45 minutes, remove the cover or foil tent from the turkey, increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees F and baste the bird with butter.

The initial lower oven temperature cooks the turkey through evenly. Cranking the oven temperature up at the end when the foil is removed achieves crispy, golden skin.

Turkey Roasting in the Oven

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Learn what temperature to cook turkey

Photo by: GMVozd/Getty Images

GMVozd/Getty Images

What Temperature Is Turkey When It's Done?

Starting about 30 minutes earlier than your per-pound cooking calculations indicate, begin checking the internal temperature at regular intervals. To do so, carefully remove the roasting pan with the turkey from the oven and set it on the stovetop or counter. (Make sure to close the oven door behind you so the heat doesn't all escape!) Find the crease where the turkey leg attaches to the breast and insert your thermometer down into the meaty part of the thigh. If you feel the thermometer hit a bone, pull it out a little bit or readjust the position slightly so that it is no longer touching it, as it will give you a false reading. Hold the thermometer still until the numbers stop increasing. If it is not ready, return it to the oven.

According to the Department of Agriculture, a turkey must reach 165 degrees F to be safe, but you can take it out of the oven as low as 160 degrees F because the temperature will rise at it rests.

Tips for Taking a Turkey's Temperature

Get the best thermometer for the job: Use a digital, instant read thermometer for the most-accurate results.

Remove the turkey from the oven to take its temperature: Carefully take the turkey out of the oven and set it on the counter or stovetop, closing the oven door. Leaving the oven door open causes the temperature to drop and could prolong your cooking time.

Insert the thermometer into the right place: Hold the thermometer perpendicular to the bird and insert it into the crease where the leg and breast meet, deep into the center of the meatiest part of the thigh, making sure it is not touching the bone.

Read the thermometer correctly: Hold the thermometer still until the numbers stop. If the temperature is between 160 and 165 degrees F, the turkey is done.

How Long Should a Turkey Cook

While exact timing varies by size of bird and whether it's stuffed, plan to cook a turkey for about 20 minutes per pound. An 8- to 12-pound unstuffed turkey typically takes 2 3/4 to 3 hours to roast in a 325 degrees F oven.

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