How Long to Cook 12 Lb Turkey


Roasting a turkey is an ambitious endeavor. It’s not so much the cooking time that intimidates as it is the sheer size of the bird—and perhaps your lack of experience. That’s why we’re here to reassure you that with just a little prep work, you can turn out a beautiful and delicious roasted turkey. We’ll walk you through each step of the process, from preparing your turkey right down to carving it at the table. And don’t worry—we’ve included plenty of photos here too!

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Make sure that your turkey is thawed, dry, and at room temperature before placing it in the oven. Placing a frozen turkey in a hot oven can cause the skin to tear and steam from within will escape through small openings in the skin. This will result in an unevenly cooked bird with an unattractive appearance

Remove the giblets from the turkey, saving them for another use.

Remove the giblets from the turkey, saving them for another use. Giblets are the heart, liver and gizzard–use them to make gravy or stuffing or save them for a turkey broth.

Rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water.

Rinsing the turkey inside and out with cold water is an important step to remove any bacteria. You should use cold water because hot water will cook the meat, which means you’ll have to wait longer for it to finish cooking (and then you’ll have overcooked turkey). Don’t use soap or detergent; just rinse under running water until you can see no more blood coming from inside of your bird.

Dry the turkey thoroughly with paper towels, including inside the cavity and under the wings.


It’s important to dry your turkey thoroughly before cooking it, especially if you’re going to be roasting it in the oven. A wet bird will steam instead of roast, which means that its juices will end up on your oven floor instead of inside its meat.

That’s why we recommend using paper towels over cloth towels when drying off your bird–the former are easier to grab and use as a barrier between yourself and any messes that may arise during this part of preparation (e.g., “Don’t get turkey juice on me!”). To dry off both sides of your turkey:

  • Fold one side in half lengthwise so that there’s enough room for both hands under there; then grasp both ends firmly but gently with one hand while holding them together with the other hand (this way they won’t come apart). Use this technique throughout this process as needed so nothing falls into open spaces like cavities or wings! If they do fall off somewhere inconveniently located like inside a leg cavity hole then just poke them out later when no one else is looking…or maybe even leave them there because who cares about what other people think anyway? You do whatever works best for you!

Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan and insert an oven-safe meat thermometer into the thickest part of a thigh.

  • Make sure the meat thermometer is inserted into the thigh, not the breast.
  • Make sure it’s inserted through the skin and into the meat of your turkey, not just resting on top of it.
  • And most importantly: make sure you insert it into the thickest part of your bird’s thigh–not right next to or near bones!

Pour about 1/4 cup of water over the bottom of the pan. Cover loosely with foil, place in preheated oven, and roast until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees F in thigh or drumstick area.* This should take approximately 3-1/2 hours.

  • Put the turkey in a roasting pan, breast side up.
  • Cover loosely with foil and place in preheated oven.
  • Roast until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees F in thigh or drumstick area (see below for approximate times). This should take approximately 3-1/2 hours, depending on size of bird and degree of doneness desired.

You can do it!

You can do it!

You can cook a turkey. You just need to know how long to cook 12 lbs of turkey in the oven, and then you’ll be on your way. The trick is knowing what temperature to set your oven at, and how much time it takes for your bird to reach that temperature. Once you’ve got those down pat, you’ll be ready for whatever else comes along during Thanksgiving week!


Remember, it’s important to keep the turkey at a constant temperature. If you have a meat thermometer and use it correctly, you’ll know exactly when your turkey is ready to be pulled out of the oven! Happy Thanksgiving!

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