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How Long to Cook a Fresh Turkey

Most times, we depend on frozen turkey for our recipes, as they’re the most accessible options. But we may worry that the cooking procedures will differ when dealing with fresh ones. Luckily, fresh turkey is just as easy to prepare if you’ve mastered the various techniques. And the cooking time isn’t as hard to plan as you may have wondered.

How Long to Cook a Fresh Turkey

Turkey Nutrition Facts

How Long to Cook a Fresh Turkey

Cooking Fresh Turkey- Steps

You’ll find only a small prep difference between fresh and frozen turkey. And keeping the steps in mind helps you produce mouth-watering results every time.


Because the bird is fresh, you won’t have to bother with thawing. So, it can be taken from the bag and cleaned out before cooking. Start by emptying the cavity of the giblets and neck, then set it aside (you can use it for gravy). Then, rinse the cavity under running water to wash the blood out and blot it with paper towels to remove leftover water. Fresh turkey also carries flaps of skin around the cavity and neck, and these areas are rich in fat. You can cook the bird this way, or cut it off if you desire.


You can combine numerous herbs, spices, and aromatics to cook a fresh turkey. Options like marjoram, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage can be used in both dried and fresh forms. You can also employ garlic salt, onion powder, ginger powder, brown sugar, Italian seasoning, or poultry seasoning. And options for aromatics include fresh onions, garlic cloves, celery sticks, fresh ginger, apples, lemons, and carrots.

The way the turkey is seasoned depends on how you plan to cook it, but the general methods include bringing or a dry marinade. You can either wet or dry-brine the bird before cooking, or rub it with a dry or wet spice mix and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Regardless, both methods involve letting the flavors seep into the meat before cooking. And in some cases, butter or seasoning is applied under the breast and drumstick skin to enhance the seasoning effect in these areas.

Cooking Fresh Turkey

After seasoning, you can prepare your fresh turkey using any of the methods below. And each type determines how long the bird will be allowed to cook.

In the Oven

Because the oven can take any turkey size, it’s important to note the difference in duration. We’ll stick to an oven temperature of 325F to make the distinctions clearer;

  • 8 to 12 pounds – 4 hours
  • 12 to 14 pounds – 3¾ hours
  • 16 pounds – 4 hours
  • 18 to 20 pounds – 4¼ hours
  • 21 to 22 pounds – 5 hours

Note that larger birds take longer to cook, which explains why some prefer to use a higher temperature for such.

On the Grill

Season the turkey with a spice mix, and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Then, place it directly from the fridge on a 375F grill and cover to cook for two and a half hours. The temperature must reach 180F before the turkey can be set down.

In an Instant Pot

You should only use a turkey that fits the instant pot, and most times, the limit is 10 pounds. Rub the exterior with the dry spice mix and make a vegetable bed inside the cooker. Then, add water to the bed, put the turkey in, then close the lid and seal the valve. Cook at six minutes per pound, followed by a natural release time of 10 minutes for the pressure cooker.

In a Slow Cooker

The slow cooker is great for smaller-sized turkeys (e.g., 10 pounds), and it’s important to only use it for a bird that fits. First, season the bird with a dry spice mix after cleaning, and then make a bed of veggies and aromatics in the slow cooker. Put the turkey on the veggie bed, cover, and cook on LOW for six to eight hours. At this rate, a 10-pounder will be ready in six and a half hours. Afterward, give it a five-minute broil in the oven to brown the breast and skin.

More Tips

  • The unstuffed turkey cooks faster than stuffed ones. If you must stuff your turkey, use aromatics instead.
  • Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness, as the turkey must cook to at least 165F before serving.
  • Save the giblets for gravy if you’re making any.
  • Always rest turkey for at least 30 minutes before serving.
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How Long to Cook a Fresh Turkey

Grilled Whole Turkey (12 Servings)

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  • One whole turkey; fresh, 12 pounds
  • Three tablespoons of brown sugar
  • Two tablespoons of smoked paprika
  • One tablespoon of kosher salt
  • Two teaspoons of dried sage
  • Two teaspoons of dry mustard
  • One teaspoon of dried cilantro
  • One teaspoon of dried thyme
  • Two teaspoons of dried oregano


  1. Empty the turkey cavity of the giblets and neck, then rinse it out with cold water. If you prefer your turkey without excess fat, trim the flaps around the neck and large cavities, then dry with paper towels.
  2. Insert your fingers between the skin and the breast, and gently separate the two surfaces. Repeat the process for the drumsticks. Ensure to do this carefully so you don’t break the skin.
  3. Combine the herbs, spices, and seasonings in a bowl, and rub it generously over the turkey. Do the same for the skin slits at the breast and drumsticks. Then, loosely tent the bird with foil and keep it overnight in the fridge.
  4. When it’s time to cook, set the grill to preheat to 375F, and grease the rack. Then, transfer the turkey from the fridge to the grill and cover the rack. Leave it undisturbed for two and a half hours, or until the probe thermometer hits 180F.
  5. Take the bird down and let it rest for 10 to 20 minutes, then serve as desired.

For more directions, watch this video.

  • Author: Bobby