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Turkey Basics: Safe Cooking

Roasting Instructions


Updated February 05, 2004

Turkey Basics: Safe Cooking

Roasting Instructions

Set the oven temperature no lower than 325 °F. Preheating the oven is not necessary.

Place turkey on a rack in a roasting pan.

For safety and uniform doneness of the turkey, cook stuffing separately in a casserole. Use a food thermometer to check that the internal temperature of the stuffing has reached 165 °F.

If you choose to stuff a turkey, you must use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey and the stuffing. The temperature of a whole turkey must reach 180 °F in the innermost part of the thigh and the center of the stuffing must reach 165 °F. If the stuffing has not reached 165 °F, continue cooking the turkey until the stuffing reaches 165 °F.

If the turkey has a "pop-up" temperature indicator, it is also recommended that a food thermometer be used to test in several places, including the innermost part of the thigh and the center of the stuffing.

When cooking only a turkey breast, the internal temperature should reach 170 °F.

Many factors can affect the roasting time of a whole turkey:

  • A frozen or partially frozen turkey takes longer to cook than a completely thawed turkey.

  • A turkey will cook faster in a dark roasting pan.

  • The depth and size of the pan can affect heat circulation to all areas of the turkey.

  • The use of a foil tent for the entire cooking time can slow cooking.

  • Putting a lid on the roasting pan speeds up cooking.

  • An oven cooking bag will shorten cooking time.

  • A stuffed turkey will take longer to cook than an unstuffed turkey.

  • Ovens may heat unevenly.

  • The oven rack position can have an effect on even cooking and heat circulation.

Optional steps:

  • Tuck wing tips back under shoulders of turkey.

  • Add 1/2 cup water to the bottom of the pan.

  • A tent of aluminum foil may be placed loosely over the turkey for the first 1 to 1 1/2 hours, then removed for browning. Or, a tent of foil may be placed over the turkey after the turkey reaches the desired golden brown.

  • For quality, you may choose to let the turkey stand 20 minutes before removing the stuffing and carving.

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