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Turkey Roasting Guide + Turkey Printable

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This post covers the basics for turkey roasting; from fresh vs. frozen turkey, how to thaw a frozen turkey, cooking and roasting times, how to cook a frozen (or partially frozen) turkey, cooking turkey in convection oven and finally how to rewarm turkey in the oven and in the crockpot. All in a handy printable turkey buying and roasting guide. 

Phew, that’s a lot of information, but if you are like me, every year I head to the internet to search specifics on roasting a turkey, so this year I wanted to provide you with a free turkey printable — one that you can print and tuck into your recipe box, or even better, print two and put one in your fall decoration boxes and the other in your Christmas decor boxes, that way, next year you will be prepared.

While this is not a recipe for how to roast turkey, try this simple tender roasted turkey. Plus you have to try my make-ahead Giblet Turkey Gravy — wowzers!

Roasted turkey on cutting board with man carving the turkey.

There is a LOT of information in this post for the turkey printable, I hope you use the below table of contents to make navigating a bit easier.

Turkey Printable

Before Thanksgiving I sent my subscribers this free Turkey Buying & Roasting Guide for them to print for their holiday turkey needs. There is a button to click to get the free turkey printable at the end of this post. But hang around and get the 411 on turkey buying and roasting. 

Turkey buying, thawing and roasting guide, free downloadable turkey printable.

Fresh vs. Frozen Turkey

The short answer is fresh is always best! A fresh turkey will actually last up to a month in the fridge. 

But if you are like me, I oftentimes will buy a small frozen turkey to roast at another time of the year, especially when they are so cheap. So the bottom line is fresh is best, but frozen turkey can and will still be delicious. 

Choose a Smaller Turkey vs. Giant Turkey

For years when we had a big gathering I would purchase a 20 plus pound turkey, not only do they take much longer to roast, but it is almost always more dry than a smaller turkey. Instead, for a much juicier bird, buy two smaller turkeys! If you need 20 lbs worth of turkey, then buy two 10 pound turkeys — it is so worth it in the long run, they are not harder to roast, but easier!

How much turkey per person?

Only you know your family and friends that you have invited, the general rule is 1-2 pounds per person, but here are a few more details:

  • Want Leftovers, plan on 2 pounds per person
  • Little leftovers, plan on 1 ½ pounds per person
  • No Leftovers, plan on 1 pound per person
Roasted turkey, resting.

How Long Does it take to Defrost a Turkey

Refrigerator Thawing

  • Allow at least one day (24 hours) of thawing for every 4 pounds of turkey; this is general rule, I can honestly say that my turkeys have always taken longer to thaw in the fridge. 
  • Thaw turkey breast side up in the original wrapper on a tray in the fridge. 
  • A fully thawed turkey is safe in the refrigerator 1-2 days before cooking. It may be refrozen, but you might lose some quality in the meat. 

Cold Water Thawing 

Allow about 30 minutes per pound. 

  • Place the turkey in a leak-proof plastic bag to prevent cross-contamination and to prevent the turkey from absorbing water, resulting in a watery bird. 
  • Submerge completely the wrapped turkey in cold tap water. 
  • Change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. 
  • Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed. 

Cold Water Thawing Times 

  • 4 to 12 pounds……..2 to 6 hours 
  • 12 to 16 pounds……6 to 8 hours 
  • 16 to 20 pounds……8 to 10 hours 
  • 20 to 24 pounds…..10 to 12 hours 

A turkey thawed by the cold water method should be cooked immediately. After cooking, meat from the turkey can be refrozen. (Source)

Turkey Roasting Guide | Conventional Oven

Move racks so that the turkey has plenty of room in the oven. Preheat oven to 450°F. When ready to roast your turkey, reduce heat to 350°F; roast according to below times:

  • Unstuffed | 13 minutes per pound
  • Stuffed | 15 minutes per pound
  • Turkey is done when it reaches 165°F when temperature taken in the thigh, without hitting the bone.
  • Remove turkey from oven and allow to rest 15-20 minutes, covered, before carving.

TFC PRO TIP | Invest in a good meat thermometer, instant read is the best! 

REMEMBER: Allow turkey to rest, covered 15-20 minutes BEFORE carving! This allows the juices to return to the meat instead of running out when carved. 

Cooking Turkey in Convection Oven

Move racks to the lower part of the oven, place the turkey in the center of the oven, ensuring it has plenty of room. Preheat oven to 350°F convection. 

Why cook a turkey in convection oven?

  1. Foods cook 25% faster than conventional ovens.
  2. Prevents hot spots from forming due to constant air and heat circulation.
  3. No need to baste the turkey when using convection oven setting, the heat that pours over the turkey sears it quickly, sealing in the juices. If a special sauce or marinade was used, baste in the last hour of roasting. 
  4. No need to cover the turkey, since the turkey will be done quicker, it will brown at a beautiful rate. If the legs and wings start browning too much, just cover those areas with foil. 

Convection Cooking Times

  • 12-15 pounds 1.5 – 2 hours
  • 15-20 pounds 2 – 2.5 hours
  • 20-25 pounds 2.5 – 3 hours

Remember, turkey should reach 165°F internally, when using a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh (without touching the bone). 

If the turkey has been stuffed, the stuffing should also reach 165°F. Adapted from the National Turkey Federation

REMEMBER: Allow turkey to rest, covered 15-20 minutes BEFORE carving! This allows the juices to return to the meat instead of running out when carved. 

Male hands, carving a turkey on a cutting board.

How to Cook a Frozen Turkey (or partially frozen)

Did you know that you can cook a frozen turkey? Good knews for those of us who have realized, YIKES, I totally forgot to thaw the turkey! Or yowza, my turkey is still partially frozen! 

I’ve got you covered!

Unwrap the turkey, remove the giblets, if included (should say on the packaging) they will be in the neck or the bottom cavity. Remove them and make that amazing giblet gravy of mine! (recipe linked at the top of the post)

Place frozen or partially frozen turkey on a roasting rack, then place in a roasting pan

TFC PRO TIP | No roasting rack? No problem. Using foil, coil the foil into a curled up snake like shape, and place turkey on top. You will need a decent amount of foil. You can also use a small cooling rack that is oven safe and if you don’t have foil, use thick sliced onions under the turkey. 

Roast turkey in a preheated 325°F oven; roasting until internal temps reach 165°F.

Roasting Times for Frozen Turkey

  • 8 – 12 pounds | 4 to 4.5 hours
  • 12 – 14 pounds | 4.5 to 5.75 hours
  • 14 – 18 pounds | 5.75 to 6.25 hours
  • 18 – 20 pounds | 6.25 to 6.75 hours
  • 20 to 24 pound | 6.75 to 7.5 hours

Slightly thawed turkey will take a little less time, just keep an eye on that internal temperature. 

REMEMBER: Allow turkey to rest, covered 15-20 minutes BEFORE carving! This allows the juices to return to the meat instead of running out when carved. 

A Note about Roasting a Frozen Turkey

Frozen turkeys roast from the outside in, once the outside is thawed, pull it out, brush with butter, rub with herbs, salt and pepper and start basting with juices. The legs and wings will cook quicker than the rest of the bird, so cover those loosely with foil if they get too browned. 

Basting a roasting turkey with turkey juices.

Reheating Turkey in the Oven (sliced)

Place slices of turkey in a covered baking dish, adding 1 cup of liquid (stock or broth) per every 2 cups of turkey, add a pat or two of butter over the top. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 20-45 minutes, depending on how much turkey and how cold it was to begin. 

Reheating a Whole Turkey

Preheat the oven to 275°F. 

Cover the entire turkey with foil and place back in the roasting pan, then place in the preheated oven. Heating for about 5 minutes per pound. For reference, a whole 10 pound turkey would take about 50 minutes to reheat. 

REMEMBER: Allow turkey to rest, covered 15-20 minutes BEFORE carving! This allows the juices to return to the meat instead of running out when carved. 

Sliced turkey breast and dark meat in a pan, for reheating in oven.

Reheating Turkey Using a Slow Cooker or Crockpot

This is one of my favorite ways and this year, I plan on roasting our turkey for the family dinner the day before, then reheat or warm up in the crockpot. 

If roasting turkey ahead of time, roast using one of the methods above; then allow to rest for 15-20 minutes before carving. Carve and place desired amount of turkey in crockpot or slow cooker. 

Add turkey slices to crockpot and pour turkey or chicken stock/broth over the top, 1 cup of liquid per 2 cups of turkey. Add 1-3 pats of butter to the top of the turkey, cover, and set the crockpot on low for 3-4 hours. Moist, juicy turkey and saved time and oven space.

Turkey Printable

To download the turkey printable, click the button below. It will have you sign up to receive my weekly newsletter always chock full of new recipes, tips and ideas, you may unsubscribe anytime. 

Button for free turkey printable.

These are my favorite tools for the best roast turkey!

Thanks for hanging out with me today, I hope you learned something — I sure did while researching this post! Don’t forget to download the free turkey printable! 

More Holiday Recipes

What to Make with Turkey Leftovers

Be sure to check out all of my holiday sides, holiday sweets and holiday drinks! I hope this turkey printable is something that you can use for years to come!

Happy turkey roasting!

Kathleen Pope, The Fresh Cooky.

About Kathleen Pope

Recipe Innovator | Food Photographer | Food Writer

Hi, I’m Kathleen Pope. Here at The Fresh Cooky you will find easy, mostly from-scratch, trusted recipes for all occasions. From speedy dinners to tasty desserts, with easy step-by-step instructions. I am here to help teach you how to make mouthwatering recipes without spending hours in the kitchen. Read more about Kathleen here.

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