Turkey Cooking Times: Roasted Or Deep Fried, Here’s How To Defrost And Cook The Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

Whether you are roasting or deep-frying a Thanksgiving turkey for the first time or the 10th year in a row, cooking the perfect holiday bird always leads to one question: How many minutes per pound does it take to roast or fry a turkey?

Your friends and family probably won’t tell you that you overcooked your turkey last year, but there is no doubt they are hoping you will follow some tried-and-true instructions this time around because, otherwise, they may suggest eating turkey dinner at a restaurant next year.

Cooking times vary depending on the size of the bird, the cooking method you choose (oven roasted, deep-fried, and yes, microwaved), and whether you purchased it fresh or frozen. And keep in mind that if you rushed home from the grocery store with a frozen turkey, you may have to speed things up if you want it to be defrosted before you pop it in the oven or the deep-fryer on Thanksgiving morning.

In addition to cooking times for cooking a golden brown and juicy turkey, find some tips and tricks for properly thawing your bird, including some instructions for last-minute defrosting. And if you’re in search of recipes to perfect your side-dish game, check out the how-to videos below for easy mashed potatoes and other Thanksgiving side dishes.

If you opted for a frozen turkey instead of a fresh one, you will have a little more prep to do before you start the cooking process.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, if you bought a whopper of a turkey (20-plus pounds), you will need to thaw it in your refrigerator for five to six days or in a sink full of cold water for 10 to 12 hours. Bottom line, you will need 24 hours of thawing time for every four to five pounds of turkey or approximately 30 minutes per pound in cold water.

  • 4 to 12 pounds — 1 to 3 days in refrigerator (2-6 hours in cold water)
  • 12 to 16 pounds — 3 to 4 days in refrigerator (6-8 hours in cold water)
  • 16 to 20 pounds — 4 to 5 days in refrigerator (8-10 hours in cold water)
  • 20 to 24 pounds —5 to 6 days in refrigerator (10-12 hours in cold water)

Once you are ready to cook your Thanksgiving turkey, give yourself plenty of time because this bad boy may not fit in your microwave. Now, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done if you have a smaller bird. In fact, the folks at Mashable tried it out and said the bird was rather tasty, but it probably won’t have that picture-perfect golden skin that makes for an amazing Instagram pic.

“In a pinch, a microwave can actually save the day and deliver a turkey that is surprisingly edible. Just be sure you read your microwave’s manual to ensure it can handle a small turkey (8-10 pounds.)”

If you’re going to forgo the microwave and cook your bird in a more traditional way, here are the cooking times that will ensure that your bird cooked to perfection. And for those who are a bit more hip, head outside with the deep fryer and follow the instructions below.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it’s important to cook a whole turkey to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F in the breast or stuffing and 180°F in the thigh. That means you should run out and buy a food thermometer if you don’t have one.

Roasting: Cooking times vary depending on the weight of your turkey and whether or not you plan on stuffing your bird.

According to Butterball, a nine- to 18-pound turkey should roast in a 325-degree oven for three to 3.5 hours unstuffed or 3.75 to 4.5 hours stuffed with your favorite dressing (Check out the easy turkey stuffing recipe video below). The general rule of thumb is 20 minutes per pound, but it’s most important to use your thermometer as noted above to ensure you have a fully-cooked turkey.

Deep Frying: This is a popular way to cook a turkey quickly. Butterball states that the turkey must be completely thawed, and you can deep fry a turkey whole if it is 14 pounds or less.

Cook your stuffing separately — the turkey should be fried alone. Preheat the oil to 400°F, pat your turkey dry with paper towels, and season. Cook the turkey for approximately three to four minutes per pound.

Check out these basic safety rules for deep frying a turkey in the graphic below.

Will you be roasting, deep frying, or microwaving your turkey this Thanksgiving, or will you opt for a no-clean-up meal out at your favorite restaurant?

[Featured Image by Cookelma/iStock Photo]