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.
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 dishes, scroll down for suggestions.
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.
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.
Times 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.
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
Times 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
If you thaw your turkey using the cold water method, you need to cook it immediately!
Cooking an unstuffed 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:
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 lb turkey will cook in about 2 hours 45 minutes to 3 hours
- 12 to 14lbs will be 3 hours to 3 hours 45 minutes
- 14 to 18 lbs will take about 3 hours 45 minutes to 4 hours and 15 minutes
- 18 to 20 lb turkey will cook in about 4 hours 15 minutes to 4 hours and 30 minutes
- 20 to 24 lbs will take about 4 hours 30 minutes to 5 hours
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 lb turkey only takes 1 to 1 1/2 hours
- 12 to 14lbs-1 1/2 hours to 2
- 14 to 16 lbs only takes about 2 hours
- 18 to 20 lb 21/2 hours to 3
- 20 to 22 lbs 3 to 3 1/2 hours
What to serve with your Moist Roast Turkey
What to do with Turkey Leftovers:
I don’t need to mention leftover Turkey, that’s 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.
How to Cook a Turkey
- 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.
- 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.