It’s on Thanksgiving eve and you’ve just finished preparing your turkey for baking.
However, just before you place this bird in the oven, you panic as you’re not aware of how much time it would take an entire 20lb turkey to cook.
So, how long do you cook a 20 pound turkey?
A 20-pound turkey takes between four and five hours to cook through.
That said, this duration may vary due to aspects like temperatures used and if the bird is stuffed or not.
Baking at 325F takes longer than at 350F.
On the other hand, a stuffed bird will cook for twenty-five more minutes.
This article answers the question ‘how long do I cook a 20lb turkey?’.
Additionally are tips on how to cook a twenty-pound turkey perfectly and the risks of ingesting an undercooked bird.
How long to cook a 20lb turkey
Cooking a 20-pound turkey at 325F will take about 4 ¼ to 5 ¼ hours to be done.
However, if your bird is stuffed, this time may increase by some minutes.
This is because the stuffing ingredients need to cook too.
On the other hand, at 350F, a 20lb turkey will cook at the rate of thirteen minutes per pound.
That said, the period for preparing this bird may vary due to the cooking method you use.
Smoking a 20lb turkey takes about twenty hours at 175F.
However, when deep frying, let the bird cook for three and a half minutes per pound at one hundred and seventy-five degrees.
In this regard, it’s advisable to use a meat thermometer to ensure that your chicken has cooked through.
A well-cooked turkey should have an internal temperature of about one hundred and sixty-five degrees.
The ideal temperature for cooking turkey
The safest temperature range for cooking this bird is between 320F and 400F.
Although higher temperatures will reduce the cooking time, they also increase your turkey’s likelihood of overcooking or burning.
Moreover, there’s nothing worse than an overcooked turkey, as no amount of gravy will be able to soften it; avoid high temperatures if you can.
In this regard, the ideal temperature for cooking a 20lb turkey is three hundred and twenty-five degrees, as you will be able to monitor the bird’s cooking.
That said, always preheat the oven before cooking to ensure that your bird cooks evenly.
Tips on cooking turkey
Although cooking a twenty-pound turkey may sound intimidating, following the steps below will simplify this process for you.
A thawed turkey will cook through more quickly than a frozen one.
In this regard, to avoid solid, raw parts, ensure your bird is fully defrosted before cooking.
A frozen turkey defrosts at the rate of four pounds per day; let this bird out to thaw six days before cooking.
The fridge is the safest way of defrosting a turkey as it avoids cross-contamination.
Place the 20lb turkey while still in its packaging on a refrigerator shelf and let it sit for the recommended amount of time.
You could also thaw your turkey in cold tap water.
However, avoid using hot water as the outer surface defrosts faster, leaving the insides cold and frozen.
It’s advisable to brine your turkey for three days before cooking.
Brining is essential as it moistens and tenderizes meat preventing it from drying during cooking.
Although most commercial birds are moist, brining is still vital, especially if a recipe calls for high temperatures, which may cause the bird to burn.
Basting involves moistening the turkey using butter before and during cooking.
Moreover, applying butter to your bird will give you crispy skin and prevents it from sticking to the baking sheet.
Basting also eases seasoning as the herbs will effortlessly stick to the bird.
You should always let your turkey rest for about ten minutes before carving or serving.
This is because it allows the juices to flow or spread through the flesh evenly, making it more flavorful and moist.
Cutting into the turkey immediately after cooking will make the juices sip out causing it to dry.
How to tell if my turkey is ready
Below are the different ways of ensuring your turkey is done.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the safe internal temperature for cooked poultry is 165F.
You could confirm this by sticking a meat thermometer into the following parts of the turkey.
- The closest wing to the center
- The section of the wing closest to the bird’s center
- The center of the stuffing in the bird
- The portion of the thigh closest to the center
This is the best way of checking if your turkey is done, especially when slow cooking.
This is because the bird’s internal temperatures will reach 165F fast.
Pierce the fork or any other metal skewer into the bird to check.
If it enters without any resistance, then your bird might be ready.
Pierce the cake tester into the turkey, then place it on your hand to check if the bird is ready.
If the tester is hot, your bird is ready.
However, it might need some more cooking if it’s cold or slightly warm.
What to do if your turkey is undercooked
Nothing’s worse than cutting into your turkey to find that it’s still raw and frozen inside.
In this regard, below are tips on salvaging your bird in such a situation.
- Slice off the entire breast and legs. You shouldn’t return the whole bird to the oven as it may take too long to be done.
- Place the turkey pieces on a baking sheet and slide it into the oven that’s preheated at 375F.
- Inspect the turkey every fifteen minutes until the juices run clear or the internal temperatures reach 165F, then serve.
Risks of eating undercooked turkey
Eating an undercooked turkey is not only unappetizing but could also make you sick.
This is because raw or undercooked poultry is rich in bacteria like salmonella, clostridium perfringens, and campylobacter, which cause food poisoning.
Below are some symptoms of this health condition.
- Runny poop
- Stomach upset
- Loss of appetite
Should I worry if my turkey is slightly pink?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture advises that you should check the internal temperatures to tell if your turkey is done.
This is because your turkey can remain pink even after cooking for several reasons.
- Nitrites – These naturally existing turkey compounds contribute to their pinkness. Moreover, nitrites are added to other foods like ham to make them pink, meaning they are safe for consumption.
- Cytochrome C – Turkeys have high amounts of this protein which also contributes to their pink flesh. In this regard, you shouldn’t overcook your turkey while waiting for it to change color.
- Chemical reactions – During cooking, oxygen in the oven combines with hemoglobin in the bird’s blood, causing the pink color.
Storing and reheating turkey
Cooked turkey can stay fresh in the refrigerator for three to five days.
On the other hand, storing this bird in the freezer will keep it safe for consumption for up to six months.
However, the bird’s flavor will start to deplete after three months.
That said, below are ways of reheating your leftover turkey.
- Oven – Preheat oven to 350F, wrap the turkey in foil then place it on a wire baking rack for even heating. This meat should take around fifteen minutes to heat up. You should also flip it when halfway cooked, so both sides get warm.
- Microwave – Place turkey on a microwavable plate, add some water or gravy then cover it. This takes around three minutes to be ready.
- Skillet – Place turkey in a large saucepan and let it reheat for ten minutes. Applying some butter and turning it every five minutes is advisable to prevent burning.
Frequently asked questions(FAQs)
How long do you cook a stuffed turkey at 325?
Turkey cooks for twenty pounds every twenty minutes at 325F.
In this regard, a larger turkey will take longer than its smaller counterparts.
Moreover, a stuffed turkey takes longer to cook than one that’s not.
How long do you cook a 15 pound turkey for?
Cooking a fifteen-pound turkey takes between three to four hours.
This duration may vary due to aspects like the temperatures used.
Cooking at 325 takes one more hour than at 425.
How long do I bake a 20 pound turkey?
Baking a twenty-pound turkey takes between four to five hours.
However, this period may vary due to the method of cooking.
For instance, pan frying takes a shorter time than baking.
How long do you cook a turkey at 350?
Turkey cooks for thirteen minutes per pound at 350F.
That said, a stuffed turkey will take approximately twenty-five more minutes to cook through.
How many people can eat a 20lb turkey?
A 20lb turkey is enough for twenty people.
This is because each person can comfortably eat one pound of turkey.
However, some people can eat more or less of this amount hence adjust accordingly.
Although the thought of preparing a whole 20lb turkey can be terrifying, the information above is enough to make it easier for you.
In this regard, don’t miss out on this wonderful Thanksgiving tradition.
- 1/4 pound unsalted butter.
- 1 lemon zested and juiced.
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves.
- 1 fresh turkey
- Kosher salt.
- Freshly ground black pepper.
- 1 large bunch fresh thyme.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan.
- Take the giblets out of the turkey and wash the turkey inside and out.
- Roast the turkey about 2 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh.
- Slice the turkey and serve.
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