How Long Should You Cook A Turkey? Here's What To Know About Roasting Your Thanksgiving Bird

If I'm being perfectly honest, I'm completely dreading the day when I need to host my own Thanksgiving dinner. I've always relied on others to whip together a delicious meal, meaning that I don't even have a clue how to make non-instant mashed potatoes, and up until very recently, didn't even know how long to cook a turkey to avoid making everyone sick. And, don't even get me started on pumpkin pie or green bean casserole. That just seems insanely complicated.

But, I suppose that I'm technically an adult now. So, it's pretty much assumed that I know at least a little something about preparing a Thanksgiving meal. And, there may even come a day when I need to do it all by myself — no matter how much I hope that doesn't happen.

Well, my fellow kitchen-challenged friends, I can only imagine that you're in the same boat as me when it comes to mastering the Thanksgiving meal. So, I figured we'd start with the basics. Every Thanksgiving dinner is built around the staple turkey, and it's crucial that you're able to cook the perfectly tender bird without making everyone around your dinner table turn green with food poisoning.

Luckily, I've rounded up everything you need to know about cooking a turkey right here. So, get out those oven mitts and a turkey baster, and get ready to own your first "adult" Thanksgiving!

Unfortunately, cooking a turkey isn't a one-size-fits-all type of scenario. Cooking time needs to be adjusted based on the type, number of pounds, and other characteristics that only serve to make this whole process more complicated. So, here are the questions you definitely need answers to.

1. Is your turkey fresh, or frozen?

As you might anticipate, whether or not you purchased your bird fresh or frozen is going to have a pretty big impact on how long you need to leave it in the oven. Luckily, since you bought the turkey, this is something you already know without much research. Of course, if you did purchase a frozen turkey, you'll need to have it thawed well before you cook it. The refrigerator is the safest place to do this, and be prepared to wait a while. It takes anywhere from four to five days for a 20-pound turkey to fully defrost in the fridge. So, plan ahead!

2. How big is your turkey?

Obviously, pounds will also alter the cook time of your turkey, as larger birds will take much longer to cook. So, make sure that you check the packaging for the poundage of your turkey.

3. So, how long should you cook it?

Now, let's get to the most important question. How long should you leave that turkey in the oven? The general rule of thumb is to plan on 20 minutes per pound in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for a defrosted turkey, and 10 to 15 minutes per pound for a fresh turkey.

4. How do you know when it's done and safe to eat?

As you might guess, the internal temperature of the bird matters more than the actual amount of time that it was in the oven. So, use a thermometer to ensure that your bird is at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit at the thigh.

5. Are there any other important tips you should know?

Of course, there are a few other things you'll want to keep in mind! First, you want to avoid densely stuffing your turkey, as that can cause the bird to cook unevenly. Secondly, resist the temptation to continuously open the oven door, and admire your hard work. If you want a moist, tender turkey instead of a dry bird, then you can't have the oven temperature fluctuating incessantly.

For more Thanksgiving ideas, check out Bustle on YouTube.

Bustle on YouTube

Images: tuchodi/Flickr; Giphy (2)