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Ultimate Turkey Cooking Time Calculator (Cheat Sheet)

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What is Thanksgiving without the turkey? Take the guesswork out of making your Thanksgiving bird with this handy free printable Ultimate Turkey Cooking Time Calculator. These turkey cooking tips are easy and will create a moist and tender perfect turkey every time! 

Turkey-Cheat-Sheet printable inside post

Cooking a turkey sounds a lot more complicated than it is in reality. In fact, it’s easy enough that anyone can do it. Follow a few easy guidelines, and you and your guests will be fighting for leftovers of your juicy and flavorful turkey. If you have this calculator cheat sheet handy, you’ll never over or undercook your bird again!

From figuring out how much turkey you need to how to properly brine a turkey, there is a guide for everything you need all in one accessible page, so you don’t have to try and flip through pages with your turkey-soaked fingers while cooking! You’ll love how easy and effective are these top turkey cooking tips. 

Why It Works

Flawless Holiday Meal –  Whether you are enjoying your roast turkey stuffed or unstuffed, the total time you’ll need really depends on the weight of your turkey. The larger the bird you’re cooking, the longer you’ll need to keep it in the oven. My printable Turkey Cheat Sheet teaches you how to brine and adequately cook your turkey, whether you leave the stuffing in or out of the bird.

Everything You Need on One Page – No need to flip through pages while you prep the turkey! This one-page printable makes it easy to glance over and figure out what you need to do, even if your hands are full. Never guess about turkey cook times again, and give you complete peace of mind! 

Learn How to Brine a Turkey – Brining a turkey is much easier than you think! I can’t wait to show you how to do it using this simple guide for the best turkey and the moistest meat you’ll ever taste.

How it Works

Step 1: Figure out how many guests are coming. Once you know how many people you’re serving, you can use my guide to help you figure out how large of a turkey you’ll need to feed everyone. If you have a few maybes on your list, leave some wiggle room and extra if you want leftovers.

Step 2: Make a brine using my homemade brine recipe or your own favorite herbs and spices. Let the bird marinate for between 6-12 hours.

Step 3: Cook the turkey!

Cheat sheet for cooking a turkey.

How Long Do You Need To Defrost A Frozen Turkey?

Defrost your turkey. This is a critical step often overlooked. A turkey needs 24 hours in the refrigerator for every 4-5 pounds of weight of the turkey. So, make sure you’ve calculated the defrosting time well in advance. 

For a better understanding, you can follow this simple rule:

  • For a turkey weighing 4 to 12 pounds, defrosting will take 1 to 3 days.
  • For a turkey weighing 12 to 16 pounds, defrosting will take 3 to 4 days.
  • For a turkey weighing 16 to 20 pounds, defrosting will take 4 to 5 days.
  • For a turkey weighing 20 to 24 pounds, defrosting will take 5 to 6 days. 

Turkey Cheat Sheet

Using this cheat sheet, you can ensure you get the right size turkey for your group. There is even an option to make sure you do or don’t have leftovers, depending on how much you want to serve!

Use one of the following simple calculations depending if you want some leftovers or not:

  • No Leftovers: #Of Guests x 1.25 = X Pound Turkey
  • Some Leftovers: #Of Guests x 1.5 Or 1.75 = X Pound Turkey
Turkey-Cheat-Sheet laying on wood board

How To Brine Your Turkey

Once you know how big your bird will be, you can make the brine. This is what will make your turkey flavorful and tender. It’s simple to learn how to cook a turkey in the oven to be moist! 

My basic turkey brine recipe is 

  • 1 gallon cold water + 1 cup salt + 1/2 cup sugar + 1 cup aromatics/flavorings

You can easily customize the brine to be your favorite spices or herbs and try out different combinations.

Lastly, use the turkey cooking times guide to cook your turkey based on the size and whether or not you choose a stuffed or unstuffed turkey.

Cooking Your Turkey

Once your turkey is brined, it’s time to prep it for the oven. 

Place the turkey on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. If you don’t have a rack, you can make one out of a bed of vegetables. This helps to elevate the turkey, allowing for even cooking and browning. 

Now, preheat the oven temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Brush your turkey with melted butter or oil. This will ensure a golden and crispy skin. Season the outside of the turkey with your choice of herbs and spices. Some popular options include rosemary, thyme, sage, salt, and pepper.

Finally, it’s time to roast your turkey. The general rule of thumb is 15 minutes of cooking time per pound of turkey when roasted uncovered at 325 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the actual cooking time may vary, so it’s best to use a meat thermometer. The temperature of the thickest part of the thigh needs to reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit for the turkey to be thoroughly cooked.

Remember to let the turkey rest for at least 20 minutes before carving to allow the cooking juices to redistribute. Don’t forget to save those juices for the gravy and allow the bird to rest for 20-30 minutes for the best texture!

Turkey Cooking Time Tips

  1. Thawing the Turkey – If your turkey is frozen, ensure it’s completely thawed before you start cooking. It typically takes about 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey to thaw in the refrigerator. 
  2. Temperature Check – To make sure your turkey is cooked properly, use a meat thermometer. The thickest part of the thigh, without touching the bone, should register 165°F as the ideal internal temperature.
  3. Resting Time – After removing the turkey from the oven, let it rest for at least 20-30 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute and makes the turkey easier to carve.
  4. Using the Calculator – Be precise while using the turkey calculator. Input the exact number of guests, and don’t forget to account for guests who might eat more than average or those who prefer smaller servings.
  5. Brining – While brining, ensure that the bird is fully submerged in the solution. If you need to, use a weight to keep it down. After brining, make sure to rinse the turkey thoroughly and pat it dry before roasting.

By using these tips and the turkey size calculator, you can easily navigate your way to a perfect and succulent Thanksgiving turkey!


Is it free to download these printables?

Yes, it is free to download and print any printable from our site. Just know this is for personal use only. You can not sell these printables as your own.

How do you make turkey skin crispy?

Adding oil to the outside of the turkey while it’s cooking will be the best way to make it golden brown and have a crispy outer skin. 

Do you have to rinse a turkey?

No, you don’t need to rinse a turkey, and it’s not really advisable to do. When you rinse raw meat, you’re risking the spread of those germs to other parts of your kitchen and sink area. 

Should turkey be at room temp before cooking?

You’ll get the best results having your turkey at room temperature prior to your cooking method. If you can put a whole turkey outside the fridge at least 60 minutes prior to cooking it, this would be great! 

Snag the Printable

Get ready for Thanksgiving with my free printable Turkey Cheat Sheet. All you have to do is click Ultimate Turkey Cooking Tips Cheat Sheet to open it up in a new tab and hit the download button! It’s really that simple. Keep this printable handy whenever you go to cook and buy your turkey.

Looking for more help with holiday meals?

Check out these printables and delicious recipes if you’re looking for even more holiday inspiration and help!

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