Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Shari Mason
The countdown to Thanksgiving is on, and the thrill of organizing a traditional feast is real. Naturally, the star of the show is a conventional roasted turkey. While some have their tried-and-true turkey recipes, others may be seeking the secret to cooking the ideal turkey.
But do you cook a turkey at 325 or 350 degrees? Continue scrolling to learn more.
Should You Cook Turkey At 325 Or 350 Degrees?
It depends on your personal preference. The cooking temperatures also depend on the turkey’s size. Turkey weighing 12-14 lbs should be cooked at 350 degrees in the oven. It will cook your meat faster and make for crispy skin. It will also make the meat taste meatier.
For smaller birds, cooking them at 325 degrees cooking temperature in the oven is best. This way, you’ll get more tender meat. It’s advisable to use a meat thermometer to help you measure the temperature of the thigh and breast meat.
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Ideal Cooking Temperature
A small turkey requires a lower temperature. For small turkeys, the ideal temperature is 325 degrees. This is for unstuffed turkeys. The thermometer should read 165°F to ensure it’s safe to eat. Once it reaches that mark, you can take it out of the heat.
Cooking 10-12 lbs turkeys for 2 3/4 to 3 hours in the oven will get you to that temperature. The general rule is to bake turkeys at 325 degrees for 15-20 minutes per pound. But how do you cook smoked turkey legs in the oven?
Higher temperatures are needed to cook a turkey that is large. A whole turkey that is unstuffed and is around 18-20 lbs requires higher temps.
In the oven, you can cook larger birds at 350 degrees for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Check the temperature of the turkey when you hit the 45-minute mark.
It’s essential to cook the meat until its temperature is 165°F to ensure it’s safe to eat. Insert the thermometer between the turkey’s breast and thigh meat to check the temperature. Ensure not to hit the bone as it may throw off the temperature.
For food safety reasons, USDA does not recommend stuffing a turkey. It can cause the turkey to be cooked unevenly.  It may be challenging to reach the 165°F mark, especially for stuffed large birds.
Stuffing a turkey will also require a longer time to cook. However, for a stuffed turkey, cooking it in the oven at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes per pound would be best. Also, make sure to remove the giblets first.
Cooking an unstuffed turkey depends on the bird’s size and the calibration of your oven. The approximate cooking time for an unstuffed bird is from 2 3/4 to 3 hours in the oven for birds weighing 8-12 lbs. For 12-14 lbs, you need 3 to 3 3/4 cooking time at 325 degrees.
Benefits Of Cooking Turkey At 350 Degrees
Cooking a turkey at 350 will produce a crisp skin without drying out the meat. The turkey will retain its moisture, and the skill will have a gorgeous golden brown color.
If you prefer cooking a turkey a little faster and making it taste meatier, then cooking at 350 degrees might be your best choice. It’s essential to check your thermometer at least twice to ensure you’re not overcooking the bird.
Can You Cook It At 400 Degrees?
Yes. You can cook a turkey at 400 degrees if the bird is about 18-20 lbs. However, it might cause the surface to burn and make the meat dry due to the high temperature. It will also cause the turkey meat to toughen, ruining the best qualities turkey has to offer.
It is best to use a meat thermometer to know the temperature of the bird when it is done. Cooking by temperature is one sure way to get the proper doneness of the bird.
The right temperature to hit to ensure the turkey is cooked is 165°F. Use your thermometer to know the internal temperature. But how can you tell if the ground turkey is done?
Tips For A Better Turkey
- Use your meat thermometer. The safe internal temperature is 165°F to ensure it’s cooked.
- Don’t baste the bird. Basting won’t help in making it moist. Brining or salting does. Every time you baste, the juices are not infused in the meat. 
- Check the turkey halfway to avoid overcooking.
- Do not stuff the turkey. It’s not advisable to stuff the turkey for safety reasons. It may result in an undercooked turkey as the outside cooks faster than the inside.
- For the first hour, cooking a turkey breast side down on the oven rack would be best. This will keep the turkey moist. Turn the turkey to the other side after the first hour.
- Skip the foil at the beginning, as it will prevent the skin from browning well. It’s best to tent the turkey with foil as it reaches 150°F to prevent it from overcooking.
How long should you cook a turkey at 325 degrees?
If the turkey is unstuffed, roasting it for 15 to 17 minutes at an oven temperature of 325 degrees is best. If it’s stuffed, the best cooking time is 20 to 22 minutes per pound of stuffed turkey.
How long do you cook a 20 lb turkey at 350?
You should cook a 20 lb turkey at an oven temperature of 350 degrees for 4 to 4 1/2 hours cooking time. To kill the bacteria, it’s best to cook the turkey to a minimum of 165°F before you take it out of the heat.
If you’re planning to set up a carving station for Thanksgiving, you might already have a foolproof recipe for a delicious and juicy turkey.
Cooking times and temperatures will depend on your liking and the size of the turkey. For small ones, 325 degrees is best. It yields tender meat. Larger birds require a higher temperature.
Whatever temperatures you decide on, it’s essential to roast a turkey until the internal temperature hits 165°F. It’s also essential to make your turkey rest before you carve it to make it juicier.
Whether serving a whole bird or dark meat, don’t forget to serve side dishes to complete your Thanksgiving feast.
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