HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Prolong cooking time for large turkey?

We will be having a rather large turkey this Thanksgiving (around 23 pounds) We have some visiting we must do during the time the bird is in the oven. We need to cook it longer than the recommended time, but we do not want to dry it out. Any suggestions? All help will be appreciated.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Will you stuff it or leave it unstuffed? I'd figure about 18 minutes per pound at 325 degrees (which would be nearly seven hours for a 23 pound bird) and begin checking it's internal temperature (both breast and thigh) at the 5 hour mark. I like to cover my bird for the last couple of hours and remove it from the oven at 165 degrees breast, 175 degrees thigh, and let it rest while the internal temperature rises and the juices settle down.
    I've heard claims that cooking it longer at a lower temperature produces a moister bird but I've never found any difference. Lower temperature simply means longer cooking time IMHO. That said, I wouldn't cook it at a higher temp than 325 because I prefer even browning rather than a moist bird that has blackened skin.

    1. cook it breast side down for 2/3 of the cooking time.

      1. Can't you do two smaller birds instead? Or have you already purchased the big guy? Large birds tend to be toms and tough from the outset.

        1. I suppose you could roast it for 5 hours at 250 degrees, then raise it to 400 degrees for some unknown period. But I've never seen a recipe for that. Anyway, here's the official word on the bird:


          1. We just had a 29 lb. turkey for Canadian Thanksgiving. I roasted it for about 5 hours at 350, sometimes 325. It was stuffed.

            First of all, I have to say it's not true that a large turkey is generally tough. This one was tender and juicy. The trick - in my world - is to NOT OVERCOOK IT. I think I took it out of the oven when it was 165 in the thigh and let it rest for about 10 to 15 minutes. The stuffing was scooped out immediately and it was hot right through. The breast meat was juicy and perfect. The thigh was completely cooked right to the bone.

            I suspect that if you lower the temperature on that bird to 300 or so, you could stretch out the cooking time to accommodate your needs. You'll probably have to crank it up, though, when you get home from your visiting if it's not going to be done in time, though.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Nyleve

              Nyleve, you are absouletly right there is no difference between a large tom or a smaller hen like there used to be 30 or 40 years ago but the myth keeps living on. Also very little difference from fresh or frozen, we did many that were in our freezer for over a year and still flavorful and tender. But the "Yuppies" like to brag about paying a lot - all fools1

              1. re: malibumike

                We always do a fresh bird because we live out in the country and have access to reasonably priced fresh turkeys. If I lived in the city, there's no way I'd pay what people are paying for those things. In the off-season (i.e. not Thanksgiving) I get frozen ones and it's always fine. I think the biggest thing is to NOT OVERCOOK (as I said above). Once people slather it with all that gravy and cranberry sauce, I wonder how many folks really can taste the subtlety of an heirloom turkey anyway.

            2. Thank you everyone for your input.

              1. I would NOT stuff it, even though Nyleve's bird came out to their liking. Stuffing will drastically increase the cooking time and will more often than not result in a drier bird. I can only plead with you to purchase a probe thermometer. They are so very easy to use and they virtually eliminate any possibility of overcooking. Remember one thing: a dark, richly brown skin is wonderful. It is not burnt! Brown = flavor.

                1. This reply comes quite some time after the original posting, and it does not necessarily address the question. But we just had GREAT LUCK with a LARGE TURKEY - and I thought I would share what we did:
                  We bought a fresh 35 lb turkey and stuffed it. Using Nyleve's 10/27/08 posting as guidance, we set the oven for 350, placed the turkey on a rack, rubbed 1/2 stick of butter over top, poured 3 c water into the pan, covered the whole turkey (& PAN) TIGHTLY in foil and baked for 6.5 hours. We opened twice to replace water (to avoid burning, so that we could use the drippings for gravy). No basting/brushing. After 6.5 hrs, we removed the foil, raised the temp to 450, and cooked for an additional hour. The turkey was perfectly done and a lovely color (like a mag cover!). Breast was tender & very MOIST, thigh/etc cooked through. Easy.