How Long Does a Small Turkey Take to Cook? A Comprehensive Guide to Cooking a Small Turkey for Thanksgiving

Discover how to defrost, prepare, and roast a whole turkey by reading our in-depth guide to cooking turkey. We also offer helpful advice on where to get the greatest

Although it is the traditional Christmas bird, turkey is a year-round food that is typically only available in portions rather than whole. Use our guide to learn how to cook a turkey to feed a crowd, including brining and carving.

Turkey has all the nutritional benefits of chicken but with a slightly lower fat content. Although this is healthier for you, it does mean that the flesh may be a little dry. While more recent recipes recommend cooking the turkey quickly with dry brines, older ones still call for basting the bird often to keep the meat moist. Using the latter method, the turkey is seasoned with salt and aromatics and left for a maximum of 48 hours. This extracts moisture, which the turkey then reabsorbs, seasoning the meat and drying out the skin in preparation for an oven-baked crisp finish.

Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends, and of course, delicious food. But if you’re hosting a smaller gathering this year, you might be wondering how long to cook a small turkey.

Fear not, fellow turkey enthusiasts! This guide will answer all your questions about cooking a small turkey from choosing the right size to achieving perfectly juicy and flavorful meat.

Choosing the Right Size Turkey for Your Thanksgiving Feast

Before we dive into the cooking process, let’s first talk about choosing the right size turkey for your Thanksgiving feast.

Here’s a handy guide to help you decide:

  • 4 guests: 5 lbs.
  • 6 guests: 8 lbs.
  • 8 guests: 10 lbs.

Remember: If you’re hosting a vegetarian-leaning group or plan to serve other main dishes alongside the turkey, you might opt for a smaller bird even if you have more guests.

Pro Tip: Consider buying a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey. It’s a breeze to roast and typically weighs between 3-4 pounds, perfect for smaller gatherings.

Now, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of cooking your small turkey:

Cooking Time:

  • General Rule: A small turkey takes about 15-20 minutes per pound to cook, assuming it’s thawed and cool from the fridge.
  • Roasting Temperature: Set your oven to 325°F.
  • Internal Temperature: Use an instant-read thermometer to ensure the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 170°F to 175°F.

Here’s a more detailed timeline for cooking your small turkey:

  • 10-12 pound turkey: 2-3 hours
  • 14-16 pound turkey: 3-4 hours

Remember: These are just estimates, and the actual cooking time may vary depending on your oven and the size of your turkey. It’s always best to use a thermometer to check the internal temperature for accuracy.

Tips for Cooking a Juicy and Flavorful Small Turkey:

  • Brining: Brining your turkey before roasting is a great way to ensure it stays moist and flavorful.
  • Basting: Baste your turkey with butter or oil throughout the cooking process to keep the skin crispy and golden brown.
  • Resting: Let your turkey rest for 15-20 minutes after it comes out of the oven. This allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in a more tender and flavorful bird.

Where to Buy a Small Turkey:

  • Kroger: They carry a range of smaller turkeys, including some as small as 5 pounds.
  • Trader Joe’s: You might find turkeys as small as 12 pounds here. They also sell cooked, brined turkey breasts.
  • Whole Foods: They offer bone-in turkey breasts weighing around 6 pounds.
  • D’artagnan: This online source sells organic, free-range turkeys starting at 8 pounds.

No matter where you buy your small turkey, follow these tips and you’ll be sure to impress your guests with a delicious and perfectly cooked Thanksgiving feast.

Additional Resources:

Happy Thanksgiving!

How to cook a turkey

  • 1 free-range turkey (5kg will feed eight people)
  • 50g butter
  • seasoning
  • Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.
  • Cover the turkey with a thick layer of butter and season with salt and pepper.
  • Place the animal, breast-side up, in a roasting tin and roast for 40 minutes per kilogram for the first 4 kg, then 45 minutes for each additional kg of weight, or until the internal temperature of the meat thermometer reaches 65°C for the thickest part of the breast and 70°C for the thickest part of the thigh. This big of a turkey should take about three and a half hours to cook, but it might take less depending on the breed or if it has been dry-brined. To ensure that it doesn’t overcook, we advise starting to take its temperature after roughly the first two and a half hours. Keep in mind that the turkey will continue to cook and warm up during the resting period.
  • Take the turkey out of the oven and let it sit in a warm place for 30 to 45 minutes. If you carve it right away, the juices won’t be reabsorbed into the meat and will run out. If you want the skin to remain crisp, don’t cover the turkey too tightly, but make sure it stays warm.
  • Make sure the turkey is hot throughout before serving it, that the juices run clear when you cut into the thickest part of the meat, and that there is no visible pink meat.

When can I buy a Christmas turkey?

Turkey is available year-round, but in December, especially if you’re looking to make a centerpiece for Christmas Day, whole birds are at their best.

Your First Turkey! Easy Roast Turkey for Beginners for the Holidays!


Is it better to cook a turkey at 325 or 350?

It’s better to cook a turkey at 350°F after preheating the oven to 450°F. This makes the skin crispier and ensures the turkey will get cooked evenly.

Is a 10 lb turkey too small?

So how much turkey will you need for a small gathering? As a general rule, estimate about 1 pound for serving, give or take a little. This means a 10-pound turkey will serve about 8 to 10 people. If you want to go even smaller (say, if you’re cooking for one or two), you can always consider a turkey breast instead.

How long does it take to do a 7 pound turkey?

Roasting times for a turkey breast cooked in a 325 degrees F oven: Unstuffed, a 2 to 3-pound turkey will cook from 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Unstuffed, a 7 to 8-pound turkey will cook from 2 1/4 to 3 1/4 hours; if stuffed, it will cook in 3 to 4 hours.

How long does it take to cook a small Turkey?

Cooking a small turkey is no different than cooking a larger turkey, aside from the cooking time — learn how to cook a turkey here . The general rule for cooking a turkey is 20 minutes per pound. Refer to our turkey cooking time guide for more information. Here’s a quick breakdown of cooking times for turkeys under 14 pounds:

How long do you cook a 10 pound turkey?

Cook your small turkey for about 20 minutes per pound until the internal temperature is 165 F. Generally, a 6-10 pound turkey generally cooks for 2-3 hours, while a 10-14 pound turkey will take around 3-4 hours. Once you’ve cooked your little turkey to perfection, serve it with your favorite Thanksgiving sides.

How long does it take to cook a Turkey in the oven?

The turkey is ready when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (75°C). As for timing, a small turkey generally takes around 12-15 minutes per pound to cook in the oven at 350°F (175°C). Adjust the cooking time accordingly based on your selected cooking method and the specific weight of your turkey. 5. Resting and Carving

How long does it take to cook a Turkey at 325?

These times are based on cooking a room temperature turkey at 325 degrees F the entire time; plan on 10 to 12 minutes per pound. These times are based on starting a room temperature turkey at high temp (450 degrees F), then lowering it to 325 degrees F after 45 minutes to 1 hour (recommended for crispy skin).

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