Turkeys – Preparing & Serving

The turkey is a large bird native to North America. Domestication of the turkey probably began in Mexico. The Spanish carried the bird to Europe in the 16th century, and the Pilgrims brought several domesticated turkeys with them to America in 1620. The turkey was probably not on the menu at the first Thanksgiving dinner. The meals at the celebration, which lasted several days, usually featured venison as the main meat item.

Roasting Timetable

Because turkey body shapes differ, these cooking times are approximate. The times are based on open-pan roasting of a chilled turkey (with a starting internal temperature of 40°F) in a 325°F oven.

Weight Unstuffed Stuffed
8 – 12 lbs. 2¾ to 3 hrs. 3 to 3½ hrs.
12 – 14 lbs. 3 to 3¾ hrs. 3½ to 4 hrs.
14 – 18 lbs. 3¾ to 4¼ hrs. 4 to 4¼ hrs.
18 – 20 lbs. 4¼ to 4½ hrs. 4½ to 43⁄4 hrs.
20 – 24 lbs. 4½ to 5 hrs. 4¾ to 5¼ hrs

Roasting times based on new (1995) recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture

For approximate roasting times, take a look at the chart above. Unstuffed turkeys take less time to cook. Your turkey is cooked when a meat thermometer inserted into the breast reads 170°F. If you’re not using a meat thermometer, the turkey is cooked when the thigh can be easily pulled away from the carcass at the joint.

Other Types of Poultry

Poultry Cooking and Roasting Times

Poultry Size Temperature Time
Capon 5 – 7 lbs. 325° 1¾ to 2½ hours
Cornish Game Hen 1 – 11⁄2 lbs. 375° 1 to 1¼ hours
Duckling 3 – 5 lbs. 375° 1¾ to 2¼ hours
Goose 7 – 8 lbs. 350° 2 to 2½ hours
Goose 8 – 10 lbs. 350° 2½ to 3 hours

Geese & Duck:

Drain excess fat/grease. Occasionally prick skin to let fat out/dry. Cook for 1/2 hour at 500°F – then reduce to 300°F for remainder of time. Orange goes well with duck. Make sauce with orange juice and/or rind. Serve with orange slices. Apples are very tasty with duck also.