Turkey Tips

“How much turkey do I need for my holiday dinner?”

“How long should I cook my turkey?”

If you’re asking yourself those questions above, there’s a good chance you’re hosting your first Christmas dinner. First of all, congratulations on taking on both a challenging and rewarding experience! And don’t worry if you’re feeling overwhelmed, that’s completely normal, we promise.

We can’t come to your house to cook your turkey for you (wouldn’t that be awesome if we could!?) so instead w e are here to help alleviate some of that stress with some holiday cooking tips!

Even if you’ve cooked a turkey before, you may find these tips and this guide useful.

Need help figuring out how big a turkey you need?

Of course appetites vary widely from person to person, but as a rough guide you can, in general, plan for:

12-14 lb turkey for 10-12 people

15-19 lb turkey for 12-16 people

20-22 lb turkey for 16-22 people

You can always opt for a slightly larger bird if you want to make sure you have leftovers! Remember, cooked turkey leftovers are good for 3-4 days in your fridge and 2-3 months in the freezer.

Turkey Cooking Times

Now that you’ve picked the size of turkey, it’s time to get cookin’! So how long do you have to cook your turkey for, and how do you know when it’s done?

Cooking turkey isn’t an exact science as no bird is created equal, and the same could be said for most ovens. So it’s not as easy as setting a temperature and time and walking away, unfortunately. (You can use our cooking guide at the bottom of this post as an approximate on cooking length, depending on size and whether your turkey is stuffed or unstuffed.)

You’ll want to keep an eye on the turkey as it cooks. Set your oven to 350 degrees F, and cook the turkey until the skin is a light golden color, and then cover loosely with a foil tent. During the last 45 minutes of baking, remove the foil tent to brown the skin. Basting is not necessary, but will promote even browning.

IMPORTANT: The most important indicator for determining when your turkey is done, is the internal temperature. The only true test for doneness is the temperature of the meat, not the color of the skin:

  • The turkey is done when the thigh meat reaches an internal temperature of 180 degrees F. To get an accurate reading, be sure that your thermometer is not touching the bone.
  • If your turkey has been stuffed, it is important to check the temperature of the dressing (stuffing); it should be 165 degrees F (75 degrees C).
  • When the turkey is done, remove from the oven and allow to stand for 20-30 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, and makes for easier carving.

These times are based on placing the whole turkey on a rack in a roasting pan, and into a preheated 350 degree F (175 degrees C) oven.

Oven roasting at 350 degrees F

Weight (lbs.)







Time in hours unstuffed







Time in hours if stuffed







Last updated byLawrence Weiss