How Long Does It Take To Cook A Turkey A 20 Lb Turkey?

Thanksgiving is an event that brings families and friends together for a traditional turkey feast. However, cooking a turkey can be daunting, especially if you have never done it before. Knowing how long to cook a turkey is crucial to ensure that it is safe to eat and that it turns out perfectly moist and flavorful.

In this article, we will discuss how long it takes to cook a 20-pound turkey. We will also share some tips and tricks to help you prepare a delicious turkey without any fuss or stress. Whether you are a seasoned cook or a first-timer, this guide will help you cook the perfect Thanksgiving turkey.

Key Takeaway
It usually takes about 4-5 hours to cook a 20 lb turkey in a conventional oven at 325°F (162°C). It is recommended to use a meat thermometer to ensure the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) at the thickest part of the bird. It is also important to periodically baste the turkey to keep it moist and flavorful.

Prepping the Turkey: Steps to Follow Before Cooking

Preparing a turkey for cooking requires several important steps to ensure a moist and flavorful finished product. The first step is to ensure that the turkey is fully thawed. For a 20-pound turkey, it can take up to 5 days to thaw in the refrigerator, so be sure to plan ahead. Once the turkey is thawed, remove the neck and giblets from the cavity and rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water.

The next step is to season the turkey, both inside and out. Many people opt for a traditional blend of salt, pepper, and herbs like thyme and sage. You may also choose to add aromatics like garlic, onion, and lemon to the cavity. When seasoning the turkey, be sure to rub both the skin and the meat under the skin to infuse as much flavor as possible. Finally, truss the turkey and tuck the wings under the bird to ensure even cooking. With these steps completed, your turkey is now ready for cooking.

Oven Cooking vs. Other Methods: Pros and Cons

When it comes to cooking a 20 lb turkey, the most popular method is using an oven. However, there are other methods available, including deep-frying, smoking, and grilling. Each method has its own pros and cons that should be considered before choosing how to cook your turkey.

One of the biggest advantages of oven cooking is that it is a tried and true method that many people are familiar with. It is also a great option for those who have limited outdoor cooking space. On the other hand, other methods like deep-frying can result in a faster cooking time and produce a crispy skin that many people love. However, deep-frying requires special equipment and can be dangerous if not done properly. Ultimately, the method you choose will depend on your personal preferences and the resources available to you.

Ideal Internal Temperature: How to Ensure a Mouth-Watering Turkey

Achieving a perfect internal temperature is crucial to ensuring a tasty and safe turkey. The ideal internal temperature for a 20 lb turkey is 165°F in the thickest part of the thigh. You need a meat thermometer to check the turkey’s temperature while cooking. Insert it into the center of the turkey’s breast and the thickest part of the thigh. Do not touch the bone with the thermometer since it will give you a false reading.

When the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165°F, remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest for at least 15 minutes before carving. The resting time allows the juices to redistribute themselves throughout the turkey, making it juicy and flavorful. Follow these simple steps to ensure a mouth-watering turkey and impress your guests with a perfect Thanksgiving feast.

Basting the Turkey: Do’s and Don’ts for Juicy Meat

Basting the turkey involves using a basting liquid, typically made of melted butter or oil, to keep the turkey moist and add flavor to the meat. However, there are some important do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when basting your turkey to ensure optimal results.

Firstly, it’s crucial to baste the turkey sparingly. Basting too frequently or using too much liquid can actually cause the turkey skin to become soggy and prevent it from crisping up properly. Instead, aim to baste the turkey every 30-45 minutes, using a small amount of liquid each time. Additionally, be careful not to overbaste the turkey, as this can also lead to a rubbery texture. Finally, it’s important to avoid basting the turkey during the last 30 minutes of cooking, as this can cause the skin to become too dark and dry. By following these do’s and don’ts, you can create a juicy, flavorful turkey that will be the star of your holiday meal.

Time-Saving Tips: Tricks to Reduce Cooking Time without Compromising on Taste

Time-Saving Tips: Tricks to Reduce Cooking Time without Compromising on Taste

Roasting a turkey can be a time-consuming process, especially if you’re cooking for a large crowd. However, there are a few time-saving tips you can implement to reduce cooking time without compromising on taste. One of the most effective strategies is to spatchcock the turkey. This involves removing the backbone and flattening the bird out, which ensures the heat is distributed evenly and speeds up the cooking process. It’s also a great way to ensure that the turkey cooks evenly, preventing any dryness or chewiness in the meat.

Another great time-saving tip is to brine the turkey before cooking. This involves soaking the turkey in a mixture of salt, water, and other seasonings for several hours, which not only adds flavor to the meat but also cuts down on the cooking time. When the turkey is soaked in the brine, the salt and water penetrate the meat, making it juicier and more flavorful. Finally, you can also consider using a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the turkey regularly. This will help you determine when the turkey is fully cooked, preventing any overcooking and ensuring that the meat is moist and tender.

Serving Suggestions: Pairing Sides and Sauces to Complement the Turkey

When it comes to serving a 20 lb turkey, it’s essential to pair it with the right sides and sauces to create a perfect feast. Mashed potatoes, stuffing, and green beans are classic sides that go very well with turkey. You can also add roasted vegetables like carrots, turnips, and parsnips to add some color and crunch to your meal. Sweet potato casserole with marshmallows is another sweet side that complements the turkey perfectly.

As for the sauces, cranberry sauce is a must-have for Thanksgiving, but you can also prepare gravy ahead of time using the drippings of your turkey. You can add spices like sage or thyme to enhance the flavor. If you want to add a bit of spice to your meal, you can also try serving your turkey with a side of hot sauce or adding a smoky flavor to it with some barbecue sauce. Overall, choosing the right sides and sauces can elevate your turkey to an unforgettable feast, and you can experiment with different combinations to find what works best for you and your guests.

Leftover Management: Smart Ways to Use Excess Turkey Meat

After Thanksgiving, you might have tons of leftover turkey meat, but not a clue about what to do with it. Don’t let your turkey go to waste – here are some smart ways to use leftover turkey meat. One of the easiest things to do is to make turkey sandwiches. Slice the turkey meat and place it between two slices of bread with your favorite toppings. You could also make a turkey salad by mixing your chopped turkey meat with mayonnaise, celery, and onions. This makes a great lunch or light dinner.

Another idea is to use the turkey meat in a soup. You could make a classic turkey noodle soup or try something more exotic, like a curried turkey and rice soup. You could also use the leftover turkey in a stir-fry or as a topping for your pizza. Finally, don’t forget about casseroles – using leftover turkey in a casserole is a great way to use up extra meat and make a comforting meal for your family. By using these smart ideas, you can make the most of your leftover turkey and enjoy delicious meals for days after Thanksgiving.


Cooking a turkey is no small feat. It requires patience, time, and attention to detail. While the cooking time for a 20 lb turkey will vary depending on the method used, it’s important to remember that the internal temperature of the turkey should reach 165°F to ensure it’s safe to eat.

One of the best ways to ensure a perfectly cooked turkey is to invest in a meat thermometer. This will take the guesswork out of cooking and provide peace of mind that the turkey is cooked to perfection. So, whichever cooking method you choose, make sure to use a meat thermometer and remember that cooking times may vary, but the end result will always be worth it!

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