Christmas 🎄 is here, which means it’s time to eat 🍗 , or at least time to talk about it if you need a little assistance in these final few hours before the ritual feasting begins. If you’re a newbie, or just need a refresher, we have everything you need to know about how to cook a Christmas 🎄turkey 🍗 — with tips on what size turkey you should buy (if there are any left at the grocery store), how long it’ll take to cook and when you should defrost it (plus what to do if you forget).
you need to pull the whole thing off and what to do if you mess it up — because, hey, it happens. Of course, there are countless methods for roasting a Christmas 🍗 (and that’s before you even get into smoked turkey and deep fried turkey), but we’re going with one of the most basic because it always works.
What size turkey do you need?
A fairly standard 12-15 pound turkey will feed between six and eight people as part of a meal, so scale up or down as needed. Generally, you should budget one pound per person, or up to two pounds per person if you want to have leftover turkey
How and when to thaw a turkey
Don’t forget this step! Unless you buy a fresh heritage bird, your turkey will come frozen solid. Thawing a turkey will take anywhere from one to six days, so plan accordingly, and see our full guide on how to thaw turkey (with times, methods and what to do if you forget — you can cook it from frozen, but it will take even longer and is not ideal).
You can keep the turkey in the fridge for another two days once it’s thawed, so feel free to start a day earlier than you think you need to, and plan for another day of resting before you actually plan to cook (you’ll see why below).
How long to cook a turkey
Total cooking time depends, of course, on the size of your bird, and a meat thermometer will always be your best friend when it comes to being certain it’s cooked to the proper temperature (165-170 degrees F). That said, here are some general guidelines based on an oven temperature of 350 degrees, our preferred temperature to roast turkey. (We recommend you start checking a bit sooner than the full time listed, to ensure it doesn’t dry out.)
How long to cook a 12-14 pound turkey: About 3 hours at 350 degrees
How long to cook a 15-18 pound turkey: About 3.5 to 4 hours at 350 degrees
How long to cook an 18-20 pound turkey: About 4 to 4.5 hours at 350 degrees
How long to cook a 21-24 pound turkey: About 4.5 to 5 hours at 350 degrees. If you prefer a higher heat method, it will obviously take less time, but you run the risk of burning the skin; that holds true with the “start high, then lower the heat” method too. but generally prefer to keep the oven at the same temperature throughout because it’s the least fussy method,
We do start it upside down in an effort to get a totally moist turkey, but you don’t necessarily have to do that; see more below.