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Tips and Times for cooking an unstuffed turkey

See our tips for cooking an unstuffed turkey plus turkey cooking times to have a moist roast turkey.   And how long to cook an unstuffed turkey plus we have included information on how to roast a turkey in a roaster and turkey cooking time per pound.

how to roast a turkey in a roaster, How long to cook a turkey
My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. This day is about being together as a family, thankful for the blessings received and plenty of great food.    And I am a traditionalist when he comes to Thanksgiving, the star of the table has to be a beautiful moist Roasted Turkey.  
It almost doesn’t need to be said the first step in planning your Thanksgiving feast is the number of persons.  If you are like us, you wish to make sure everyone has plenty and they is will leftovers for sandwiches and other recipes.  
Cooking an unstuffed turkey

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What Size Turkey Should You Buy:

They say to allow about 1 pound of turkey per person but if you wish have plenty of leftovers allow about 1 and a half person.  We always allow for a pound and 1/2 per guest.  We do like our turkey leftovers. 

  •  A 12-pound turkey feeds about 8 people
  •  A 15-pound turkey for 10 people
  • An 18-pound turkey for 12 people, 
  • A 20-pound turkey for 14 people

Using this turkey math you should have plenty of leftovers for all those amazing turkey leftover dishes, (scroll down for suggestions.)


What Equipment and/or Kitchen Tools do you need for a Moist roast Turkey:


How to Thaw Your Turkey:

One of the most important steps to cooking a roast turkey is thawing it in a safe manner.  There are two FDC approved methods to thaw a turkey that we have used.   Your turkey should be keep frozen after purchase until time to start thawing.   The time to start thawing depends on which method you decide to use. 

1) Refrigerator Method for thawing a turkey

  • Leave Turkey in the original wrapping
  • Place the turkey in a tray to prevent the juices from dripping on other foods.
  • Allow approximately 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds in a refrigerator set at 40 °F or below.

 Time Chart for thawing a turkey in the refrigerator:

  • 1 to 3 days for a turkey that is 4 to 12 pounds
  •  3 to 4 days for a turkey that is 12 to 16 pound
  • 4 to 5 days for a turkey that is 16 to 20 pound 
  • 5 to 6 days for a turkey that is 20 to 24 pound

You could keep a thawed turkey in a 40-degree refrigerator for 1 or 2 days before cooking. 

2) Cold Water method for thawing a turkey:

  • Leave turkey in the original wrapping if it is leakproof otherwise place it in a leakproof plastic bag to prevent cross-contamination. 
  • Submerge the turkey in cold water 
  • Change the cold water about every 30 minutes for best results
  • Allow about 30 minutes per pound

Time Chart for thawing a turkey in cold water:

  • 2 to 6 hours for a 4 to 12 pound turkey
  • 6 to 8 hours for a 12 to 16 pound turkey 
  • 8 to 10 hours for a 16 to 20 pound turkey
  • 10 to 12 hours for a 20 to 24 pound turkey 

NOTE: If you thaw your turkey using the cold water method, you need to cook it immediately!


Cooking an unstuffed turkey:

Cooking a perfect roast turkey is not that hard.  We have a few tricks up our sleeve to help you have a perfect roast turkey.   
  • Start preparing your bird by removing the giblets and neck from inside the turkey.  (Save these for giblet gravy is that is on your menu)  
  •  Fill the cavity with onions and celery and sprigs of rosemary and place on a roasting pan with a rack. 
  • Tie the legs with bakers twine for a prettier presentation. 
  • We use melted butter to brush over the entire turkey for a moist roast turkey.     
  • Generously salt and pepper and sprinkle with plenty of dried sage. (We love to use this Rubbed Dalamation sage)  
  • Place in a 325 degree F oven and tent with foil to prevent over-browning.

Times for cooking an unstuffed turkey (Turkey Cooking Time per pound)

These times are for an unstuffed turkey since that is what we make.  We always serve our cornbread dressing in a separate pan.  You will need to cook your turkey for about 15 minutes per pound to a temperature of 165 degrees.


How long to cook a turkey or times to cook an unstuffed turkey:

All these times for cooking an unstuffed turkey at 325 degrees F.  

  • 8 to 12 pound turkey will cook in about 2 hours 45 minutes to 3 hours
  • 12 to 14 pounds will be 3 hours to 3 hours 45 minutes
  • 14 to 18 pounds will take about 3 hours 45 minutes to 4 hours and 15 minutes
  • 18 to 20 pound turkey will cook in about 4 hours 15 minutes to 4 hours and 30 minutes
  • 20 to 24 pounds will take about 4 hours 30 minutes to 5 hours
Bake according to the timetable on the turkey or use the times above for how long to cook a turkey per pound.  Begin checking on the turkey 30 minutes prior to it being done using an instant-read thermometer.  Place your thermometer in the thickest part of the inner thigh and in the thickest part of the breast.  Be sure and check both locations to ensure your turkey is cooked to a safe temperature.  Remove the foil to brown.

How to roast a turkey in a roaster

Last year we roasted an additional turkey in a roaster and I have decided this is one of the easiest ways to cook a turkey.  It frees up your oven for all the other dishes and it’s trouble-free.  And if you are one that believes in basting, most of the roasters on the market have grooves on the top that catch condensation.   And then rains all those amazing flavors back on to the food for a moist turkey.   You don’t need to remove the lid to baste.    And you can use the same temperature as the oven but it will cook faster so your cook times will vary.    The best way to have a perfect roast turkey is to use a wire thermometer to check for times. These thermometers have a probe that is embedded into the meat but the dial sits outside in full view.  It is recommended to NOT open the lid since that lets out the heat and make it take longer.  

Times for how to roast a turkey in a roaster

Cooking an unstuffed turkey in a roaster takes about 6 to 8 minutes per pound at 325 degrees.   A 22-quart roaster oven can rost up to a 26-pound turkey.  See these approximate times on long to cook a turkey in a roaster.

  • 8 to 12 pound turkey only takes 1 to 1 1/2 hours
  • 12 to 14 pounds-1 1/2 hours to 2
  • 14 to 16 pounds only takes about 2 hours
  • 18 to 20 pounds – 21/2 hours to 3
  • 20 to 22 pounds -3 to 3 1/2 hours
Cooking an unstuffed turkey, turkey cooking times, moist roast turkey
Let your turkey rest for about 30 minutes prior to carving to allow the juices to redistribute.  Your turkey should be back in the refrigerator within 2 hours after removing it from the oven for safe handling practices. 


What to do with Turkey Leftovers:

And you must agree leftover Turkey, is a given.  I have been known to roast an entire turkey just for the leftovers.   After dinner, we always completely carve our turkey and remove all meat from the carcass and place it in airtight containers.  Then we have plenty of turkey leftovers to enjoy sandwiches and some of these other dishes. 


Click HERE to save this Moist roast Turkey recipe to Pinterest


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How to Cook a Turkey

See our tips for cooking an unstuffed turkey plus turkey cooking times to have a moist roast turkey.   And how long to cook an unstuffed turkey plus we have included information on how to roast a turkey in a roaster.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time4 hours
Total Time4 hours 15 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cooking an unstuffed turkey, How long to cook a turkey, How to Roast a Moist Turkey, Moist Roast Turkey, roast a turkey in a roaster., Turkey Cooking time per lb
Servings: 15
Calories: 514.15kcal
Author: Evelyn



  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.   Check that the bird is completely thawed out. 
  • Remove the neck and giblets (gizzard, liver, and heart) from the cavity of the bird.   Rinse the thawed turkey and pat dry with paper towels.
  • Place onions, celery, and rosemary in the cavity of the turkey.   Pull the legs of the turkey together and tie with kitchen twine.  Place turkey in a turkey roasting pan with rack
  • Melt butter on stovetop or low power in the microwave.  Brush the entire turkey with the melted butter, season with the dried sage, salt, and fresh ground pepper.  
  • Place the turkey in the preheated oven and roast according to the above chart. (Approximately 15 minutes per pound for an unstuffed Turkey).  Tent with foil to prevent the turkey from becoming overly brown.
  • Use an instant-read thermometer to check the temperature of your turkey about 30 minutes before being done. Continue to cook until the thickest part of the thigh is 185 degrees, and the breast is 170 degrees.
  • Remove from oven and let it rest at least 20 minutes to redistribute the juices before carving.


Calories: 514.15kcal | Carbohydrates: 0.7g | Protein: 74.45g | Fat: 22.41g | Saturated Fat: 6.94g | Cholesterol: 255.36mg | Sodium: 412.12mg | Potassium: 780.19mg | Fiber: 0.12g | Sugar: 0.53g | Vitamin A: 285.67IU | Vitamin C: 0.54mg | Calcium: 40.37mg | Iron: 2.97mg

Recipe Rating

Lois Christensen

Tuesday 15th of November 2016

Looks beautiful! And I'm sure very tasty!

Debi and Charly @ Adorned From Above

Tuesday 3rd of December 2013

Hi Evelyn,Your turkey looks beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing with Wednesday's Adorned From Above Link Party. Have a great week.Debi and Charly @ Adorned From Above


Tuesday 3rd of December 2013

Beautiful turkey!! Looks very flavorful and moist!

Clairejustine oxox

Sunday 1st of December 2013

Whoo looks so tasty, I can't't wait for our Turkey this year :)

Thanks for sharing at Creative Mondays,,,

cooking with curls

Wednesday 27th of November 2013

We are breaking with tradition this year, and celebrating ThanksChristmas instead. That means no turkey for us, at least not this week ;) I love your tip about baking it upside down, I will definitely give that a try!! Maybe I will do a full on Thanksgiving spread in the dead of winter, so I can be prepared to blog about it next October, lol Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Evelyn - Lisa xx