Dealing with a 20-pound turkey means you’ve got a crowd coming over for dinner. It may be a special occasion, like Thanksgiving or Christmas, so you’ve got a lot of expectant mouths to feed. But if you’re doing it for the first time, cooking a bird of such a size can be overwhelming. And because you’ve read the holiday horror stories of ‘pink meat,’ you may be worried about ruining the recipe.
So, before proceeding, the first thing you must do is ensure enough cooking time. And to answer it, a few points come to mind.
Factors to Consider
Certain factors must be considered to know how long it’ll take to cook a 20-pound turkey. The size alone isn’t the only determent of the recipe’s time, as other conditions also come into play.
Thawed or Frozen?
Normally, you’re expected to thaw a turkey before cooking, regardless of its size. And it’s why most recipes around include this step. The bird sits in our freezer most times, waiting to be cooked. And the longer it’s stored there, the more frozen-solid it becomes.
As such, any suggested cooking time can only be met if the turkey is first defrosted. But if you decide to cook a frozen bird for some reason, expect to push the cooking time by an extra hour. But if you don’t want that, consider defrosting it in the fridge for at least five to six days.
Stuffed or Unstuffed?
We’ve all been there, combining ingredients to make a filling for the bird’s cavity. And we’ve been on this method our whole lives, as stuffing turkey is practically a tradition. But note that it’s also why most turkeys take forever in the oven, so if you’re doing it, know that it’ll considerably extend the cooking time.
But when the turkey is prepared unstuffed, it roasts faster, as you won’t need extra time for leaving the stuffing to cook. Plus, it allows even doneness within and outside the bird. But, of course, the decision rests with you, but note that both methods influence how long the bird cooks.
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Most of us are used to a medium-high oven temperature for turkeys, and it’s why the oven takes a long time to cook. But some prefer an even lower temperature, meaning it’ll even take longer. To summarize, a 20-pound turkey will cook faster if the oven is hotter, but this fact is subjective. The reason is at 20 pounds; it’s easy to overcook the exterior, leaving the insides and thickest parts undone.
So, to prevent this, certain temperature ranges are suggested for turkey recipes. And the previous rule still applies, but now, you’ll have a safe temperature zone to implement it.
Because of its large size, the oven and grill are the two most logical methods of cooking a 20-pound turkey. The bird won’t fit into most crockpots, and pressure cookers have a ten quartz maximum size- hardly enough to fit such a massive bird.
The oven and grill both have their rules for properly cooking turkey. And in both situations, the factors mentioned above are still respected. But you also need to monitor the internal doneness temperature and ensure the bird safely cooks to 165F.
In the Oven
As it’s the most popularly used method for cooking turkey, we’re talking the oven first. Plus, it has the most flexible cooking time, as it’s where many can stick to a certain temperature for cooking. In the oven, you can cook your bird to the proper doneness using these parameters;
- 325°F for 4¼ hours
- 350°F for 4 hours
- 400°F for 3¾ hours,
- 425°F for 3½ hours
And if the bird is used frozen, you’ll need to extend the cooking by half the time, regardless of the temperature.
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On a Grill
Some prefer the smoky flavor that comes with grilling foods, and it’s why grilled turkey is fast becoming a popular appeal in holidays today. And for the grill, a 20-pound turkey will need about two-and-a-half to three hours max to reach full doneness. But there’s a recommended temperature, so consider heating the grill to about 425F to 450F.Print
- Leave the turkey at room temperature for an hour, then set the oven rack, so it’s at the center. Prep the oven to 325F, and while waiting, combine the butter with herbs.
- Clean out the turkey, save the giblets for gravy, then loosen and lift the skin on the breasts with your fingers. Put some tablespoons of the butter mixture under the skin, then sprinkle the cavity with salt and pepper.
- Next, stuff it with the quartered apple, lemon, and onion. You can also put a few sprinkles of dried herbs. Then, tuck the turkey’s wings, place it on the pan, heat the butter mixture, and brush it all over the bird.
- Bake the turkey for 13 to 15 minutes per pound, watching the temperature on a meat thermometer. Check it at half the time, and if the skin has gotten brown, cover the breast with foil and keep cooking. Take it out when it reads 160F, tent it with foil, and let it rest for 30 minutes until the temperature rises to 165F.
You can save the pan juice for gravy, which you’ll make with the giblets. And if you’d like more suggestions, please watch this video.