Always cook your turkey at 325 F – this may lengthen the cooking time but you can guarantee perfect turkey.
Shortly after graduating from culinary school, I found my friends bombarding me with the right way to cook a turkey. A common complaint was that there bird was always dry no matter what they did. This is when I discovered that some of my friends were cooking the bird at temperatures as high as 400 F! I had to intervene.
In this post, I will answer the question do you cook a turkey at 325 or 350 and will provide you with all the tips to get the perfect roasted turkey!
Do you cook a turkey at 325 or 350?
It is far better to roast cook a turkey at 325 F, then at 350 F. The reason for this is that turkey meat doesn’t contain much moisture to begin with. So, if you cook it at a higher temperature, there is a greater risk of the meat drying out.
I have found that cooking a whole turkey at a lower temperature is the way to go. It is one of the top ways to guarantee tender meat.
To add to this, the white meat on turkey – the turkey breast meat and wings – cooks faster than the dark meat – legs and thigh meat. Cooking at a lower temperature helps to even things out.
Seriously, if you have ever eaten dry turkey meat, chances are that the bird was cooked at too high of a temperature.
Well, no I wouldn’t go so far as to say that 350 F was too high for cooking turkey. It is just that there is a higher chance of the turkey roasting too quickly.
This is especially true for a smaller turkeys. If you are short on time and want to turn the heat up when you cook turkey, I suggest that you only do this with a bigger bird.
There are some people who prefer the turkey when it is cooked at 350 F. They find that the flavor is more pronounced and that the skin crisps up better.
If you do decide to cook your turkey at 350, I would advise you to keep a very close eye on the internal temperature of the turkey. This way, you will be able to tell when it is close to being done and prevent the turkey from overcooking.
You should cook a Butterball turkey at 325 F, just like any other kind of turkey.
At 325, a turkey should cook at a rate of 15 minutes per pound. If you are cooking a stuffed turkey, then calculate about 20 minutes per pound of turkey.
If you take the oven temperature up to 350, then the turkey will cook at a rate of about 13 minutes per pound unstuffed and 15 minutes per pound for stuffed turkey.
I do want to mention that you should never cook turkey according to cooking time alone.
This is because there are so many factors at play here. From the temperature of the cooking chamber to the ambient temperature and the size of the turkey, there is just too much to keep track of. It is difficult to accurately tell when your turkey is done based on just cooking time.
This is why you need to track the internal temperature of the turkey as well. It is the most reliable option and will get you more tender meat each and every time.
As for the cooking time, just use it as a guide to know when to check the turkey.
If you are smoking a whole turkey, then the temperature guide is a bit different. Here, it is all about smoking the turkey low and slow.
Therefore, it is best to smoke the turkey at 225 or 250 F at most.
As with roasting a turkey, some people are tempted to kick up the temperature to 275 F so that the meat will cook faster. Once again, you risk drying out your turkey.
If you want to keep your turkey moist, delicious, and perfect, then follow these guidelines to the lender. You will get the most tender, juicy meat you can imagine!
If you are using frozen turkey, make sure that the bird is completely defrosted beforehand. I would suggest leaving the turkey in the refrigerator for a few days. On average, a turkey will thaw at a rate of 4 to 5 pounds per day.
Calculate and decide how early you need to start thawing out the bird. I always like to leave an extra day, just to be on the safe side.
I get it, presenting a whole bird, completely with garnishes really makes the meal, especially Thanksgiving dinner.
Still, I would suggest butterflying the turkey before cooking it. This is where you remove the backbone of the turkey so that it can lay flat, splayed out.
The benefit of doing this is that it allows the turkey to cook more evenly all over. As a result, you don’t have to worry about certain parts of the turkey cooking before the others.
One of the best things that you can do before cooking turkey is to brine it ahead of time. Brining is a great way to ensure that the turkey doesn’t dry out in the oven or the smoker.
While some people recommend a wet brine, I have found that a dry brine is far more effective and efficient.
See, the reason that your turkey dries out in the oven or smoker is because the tissues in the meat contract, pushing liquid out. The salt in the brine, however, works to break down these tissues, allowing them to be more absorbent.
The other perk of brining the turkey is that the salt mixes with the juices on the surface of the turkey and is more readily absorbed into the meat. So, the flavor is able to penetrate deeper.
Brining the turkey is really simple. Simply sprinkle kosher salt over the entire bird. Make sure to get it under the skin too. This gets you crispy skin.
Then, place the turkey in the refrigerator, uncovered for up to 24 hours for small turkeys and up to 48 hours for big ones.
Stuffing a turkey may be a common trend, but it is time to give this one up. This is because the stuffing can mess with the rate at which the turkey cooks.
With an unstuffed turkey, the meat cooks at a steadier rate, allowing to keep track of the internal temperature better and prevent the meat from drying out.
In particular, you should never stuff a brined turkey as all that salt can get into it and make it too salty.
If you are using an oven, then check that the oven temperature is set to 325 F. If you are cooking a large bird, then you can move the oven temperature up to 350 F, but not more than this.
If you are using a grill or a smoker, then set the temperature to 225 F or 250 F at most.
I would invest in a hood thermometer or a thermometer that you can stick inside or outside your oven.
This way, you will be able to track the real cooking temperature inside the cooking chamber, rather than just relying on what is displayed on the oven dial. In doing so, you will be able to determine whether your turkey is cooking at the right temperature and then alter the temp accordingly.
Place the turkey on the middle oven rack. Also, place the turkey breast side facing away from the heat source. This way, the meat doesn’t get direct heat and will be less likely to burn or dry out as a result.
Do the same thing if you are cooking the turkey in a smoker.
One of the biggest pieces of advice that I can give you is to use a reliable meat thermometer when roasting or smoking turkey.
This way, you will be easily keep track of the internal temp.
I like to use ones that can be kept inside the turkey for the entire cook. Look for ones that have Bluetooth and can be synced to your app on the phone. Then, you don’t have to keep opening the door or lid to keep track of the turkey.
Place the meat in the turkey’s breast as this section cooks much faster than dark meat.
When inserting the meat thermometer, make sure to keep it at least an inch away from any bone. Keeping the thermometer to close to the bone can cause a false reading.
As I said, only use the cooking time as a way to know when to check the temperature of the bird.
Always rely on the thermometer to know when the meat is done. A safe internal temperature for your smoked and roasted turkey is 155 F.
Technically, the turkey is done when the breast is 165 F and the thigh meat is 170 F. However, if you take it out at this point, it is going to be too dry.
If you want more tender meat, then wait until the breast meat is 155 F. When you take it out at this internal temp, the meat will continue to cook outside of the oven.
It is important to let the turkey rest for about 20 minutes. This gives the bird time to reabsorb all the juices it has lost. In turn, you get a juicy turkey.
If you were wondering do you cook a turkey at 325 or 350 – you now have your answer. All that is left for you to do is actually follow these instructions and whip up the perfect dinner!