How long does it take to cook a turkey at 250 degrees?A Step-by-Step Guide to a Delicious and Tender Bird

A whole turkey is covered in a homemade spice rub and slowly smoked to tender and juicy perfection in this smoked turkey recipe. An impressive holiday main dish that is incredibly simple to prepare and requires no oven space!

This smoked turkey is an exceptional and show-stopping Thanksgiving meal, but it’s straightforward enough that even a novice cook can produce a beautiful and delicious end product.

I enjoy cooking a turkey for the holidays, but I dislike how it fills up my entire oven on the big day for hours and hours. I’ve started smoking my turkey instead of roasting it, and the results are nothing short of amazing.

Cooking Time:

The short answer is: 20 minutes per pound at 250 degrees Fahrenheit. However, this is just a starting point. Several factors can influence the cooking time, such as the size of your turkey, whether it is fresh or frozen, and your desired level of doneness.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown:

  • Thawed Turkey:
    • 12-14 lb: 4 hours + 45 minutes for heat spiking and crisping the skin.
    • 15-17 lb: 4 hours + 1 hour for heat spiking and crisping the skin.
    • 18-20 lb: 4 hours + 1 hour 15 minutes for heat spiking and crisping the skin.
  • Frozen Turkey:
    • 12-14 lb: 5 hours 45 minutes + 45 minutes for heat spiking and crisping the skin.
    • 15-17 lb: 6 hours 15 minutes + 1 hour for heat spiking and crisping the skin.
    • 18-20 lb: 6 hours 45 minutes + 1 hour 15 minutes for heat spiking and crisping the skin.

Image of a steak


  • 1 Turkey
  • Stuffing (homemade or store-bought)
  • 1.5-2 cups softened butter
  • 1/2 lemon or 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Rosemary
  • Parsley
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 onion
  • Roasting pan (preferably with a grate)
  • Tin foil (if your roaster has no cover)
  • Baster or ladle
  • Paper towel
  • Meat thermometer



  1. Thaw the turkey: If your turkey is frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator for several days, allowing one day for every 4 pounds of turkey. Alternatively, you can thaw it in cold water or on the counter, but these methods are not recommended due to the risk of bacterial growth.
  2. Preheat the oven: Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. This initial high temperature helps kill any bacteria that might be present.
  3. Prepare the turkey: Rinse the turkey thoroughly and remove the giblets and neck. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels.
  4. Stuff the turkey: If using homemade stuffing, prepare it according to the recipe. If using store-bought stuffing, follow the package instructions. Stuff the cavity of the turkey loosely.
  5. Season the turkey: Rub the softened butter all over the turkey, including under the skin. Season generously with salt, pepper, rosemary, and parsley.
  6. Prepare the roasting pan: Place the onion and garlic cloves in the bottom of the roasting pan. Add the turkey neck if desired.


  1. Roast at high heat: Place the turkey in the roasting pan and cover it with tin foil. Roast at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
  2. Reduce heat and continue roasting: After 30 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Continue roasting for the calculated time based on the weight of your turkey.
  3. Baste the turkey: Every 1.5 hours, baste the turkey with the pan juices using a baster or ladle. This helps keep the turkey moist and flavorful.
  4. Check the internal temperature: Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey. The breast meat should reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit, and the thigh meat should reach 175 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Heat spike and crisp the skin: Once the turkey reaches the desired internal temperature, increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Baste the turkey one last time and roast for an additional 15-30 minutes, or until the skin is golden brown and crispy.

Resting and Carving:

  1. Rest the turkey: Once the turkey is cooked, remove it from the oven and let it rest for 30 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in a more tender and flavorful turkey.
  2. Carve the turkey: Carve the turkey according to your preference. Serve with your favorite sides and enjoy!

What’s the Best Internal Temp for Turkey?

The majority of seasoned chefs concur that the ideal internal temperature for turkey is 150 degrees. You’ll get a “perfect turkey” at this temperature with moist white meat. But is it safe? If you comprehend the following, the answer is yes.

Salmonella can survive at 150 degrees for up to 3.7 minutes. So, as long as your turkey spends 3.8 minutes or more at 150 degrees F, it is safe to eat. This time span is easily met during the resting period for turkey!

So long as you allow your turkey to rest for the recommended amount of time and the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees, it is safe to eat.

It is important to keep in mind that after you take the turkey out of the oven, it will continue to cook and increase in internal temperature. Therefore, even if you remove it at 150 degrees, the internal temperature may increase by 5 to 10 degrees.

How Long Should Turkey Rest Before Carving?

Resting is a crucial part of the cooking process. It allows the juices to be reabsorbed and redistributed. If you carve too early, these juices will spill out. So, despite the length of time, you should let the turkey rest for 20 to 45 minutes, depending on its size.

You should let a 15-pound turkey rest after cooking it for at least 30 to 45 minutes. Resting time for a 20-pound turkey should be at least 45 minutes.

By the way, the resting time is considerably reduced if you smoke your turkey. A smoked turkey of average size only needs to rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

Baking and cooking a 16 lb turkey all night on 250 degrees


Is it safe to slow cook turkey at 250 degrees?

It is not safe to cook any meat or poultry in an oven set lower than 325 °F. At lower temperatures, meat stays in the Danger Zone (between 40 °F and 140°F for too long.

Is it better to cook a turkey at 325 or 250?

Techniques for cooking a turkey vary. Some cooks swear by starting the bird off at 450°F to get a crispy skin. We like a steady temperature the whole time, and 325°F is the ideal turkey roasting temperature in our books. You can also find more information on

What is the lowest safe temperature to cook a turkey?

The minimum oven temperature to use when cooking poultry is 325 °F (162.8 °C). Using a food thermometer is the only sure way of knowing if your food has reached a high enough temperature to destroy foodborne bacteria.

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