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How Long to Cook a Turkey On A Pellet Grill

How Long to Cook a Turkey On A Pellet Grill

When it comes to cooking a turkey, you don’t want to play guessing games.

If you cook your turkey for too short a time, you’ll end up with an undercooked bird that could make your loved ones sick. If you cook your bird for too long, you’ll recreate the famous dry turkey scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. There’s not enough gravy in the world to fix that!

Unfortunately, the answer to “How long does it take to cook a turkey?” doesn’t have a quick answer. Your timing is going to depend on several factors, including weight, stuffing, and cooking method.But don’t worry because we’ve rounded up all the answers you need for a crash course in cook times that’ll help you make sure the bird comes out picture-perfect on Turkey Day.

Let’s get started.

What Is the Best Temperature to Cook a Turkey?

To Roast: The best temperature to cook a turkey is 325 degrees Fahrenheit. This consistent temperature will cook the interior of the bird while the outside crisps nicely. At higher temperatures, the exterior of the bird can start to burn before the interior is cooked.

To Smoke: One very low-and-slow method of cooking a turkey is smoking. If you smoke a turkey, cooking at 225 to 275 degrees Fahrenheit for the start of the cook will deliver the best results.

How Long Do You Cook a 20-Pound Turkey at 325 Degrees?

If you’re cooking a 20-pound turkey at 325 degrees Fahrenheit, you should plan for a cooking time from 4 ½ hours to 4 ¾ hours. The exact length of time you’ll need to cook your bird depends on whether it’s stuffed, though.

An unstuffed 20-pound turkey will naturally cook faster, so it will take around 4 ½ hours. By stuffing your bird, you’re adding that extra 15 minutes onto your wait for a cooking time of closer to 4 ¾ hours.

To be clear, these cooking times are approximate, and they’ll vary a little bit based on your cooking method. That’s why you should always use a food thermometer and check the internal temperature of your turkey before calling time. It's best to plan an hour of extra cooking time into your day, just in case.

For turkey, the USDA recommends an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit in the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing, and the thickest part of the breast. Hit that temp, and your bird is properly roasted.

How Long Do You Cook a 15-Pound Turkey at 325 Degrees?

You should cook a 15-pound turkey at 325 degrees Fahrenheit anywhere from 3 ½ to 4 ½ hours. Bear in mind this time range is for a bird of between 14 and 18 pounds, and the exact timing will (again) depend on whether your turkey is stuffed.1

An unstuffed bird of 15 pounds will likely finish at around the 4-hour mark (or just before). A stuffed turkey will take at least 4 hours to cook, and typically takes an extra 15 minutes until you’ve hit that desired internal temperature.

But no matter what method you’ve used, the same USDA rules on inner temperature apply for a 15-pound turkey. Don’t stop cooking your bird until your thermometer reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit in the thickest part of the thigh, wing, and breast.

How Long Do You Cook a 12-Pound Turkey at 325 Degrees?

You should cook a 12-pound turkey at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 to 3 ½ hours. If you want to break down those times and get more precise, it will all depend on whether your turkey is stuffed or unstuffed (see a pattern here?).

An unstuffed 12-pound turkey will take around 3 hours to cook at 325 degrees. Meanwhile, a stuffed 12-pound bird will take closer to 3 ½ hours. The exact timing is going to vary depending on cooking method, your oven, and other factors, but this is a pretty good range.

Just like other turkey sizes, knowing when your 12-pound turkey is cooked is based on internal temperature. When in doubt, stick with the USDA guidelines: 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to gauge your temps in the thickest part of the thigh, wing, and breast to be sure you’re not misreading.

Traditional Turkey Recipe

Now that we’ve covered cooking times and all of your basic methods, it’s time to fire up your Traeger and get started down the path to Thanksgiving glory. And if you need a traditional turkey recipe, we’ve got you covered.

Our Traditional Thanksgiving Turkey recipe is absolutely foolproof. It calls for simple spices and only takes 15 minutes of actual prep work. Best of all, your bird will soak up all those primal, wood-fired autumnal flavors with an extra kick from natural, hardwood cherry pellets. Traeger is your recipe for success, and this recipe will not disappoint.

Start by combining butter with minced garlic, thyme, rosemary, black pepper, and kosher salt in a bowl. Then, get the turkey ready by separating the skin from the breast in order to create a pocket. That pocket is where you’ll need to stuff all that lovely butter-herb mixture you’ve made. Cover the turkey breast with one-quarter inch of the butter mixture, too.

Next, season the entire bird with salt and black pepper, and stuff your turkey cavity with our Traditional Stuffing (if that’s the route you want to go).

Preheat your Traeger to 300 degrees Fahrenheit with the lid closed for 15 minutes, place your turkey on the grill, and let that bird roast for 3 to 4 hours.

This next bit’s important, so pay attention. Once you have an internal temperature of 175 degrees around your thigh bone and 160 degrees in the breast, take the bird off the grill. Because the bones are a bit hotter than the meat, your turkey will continue to cook a tiny bit off the grill and reach the USDA recommended final temp of 165 degrees without any further heat.

Let the turkey rest for 10 to 15 minutes, carve, and enjoy. It’s that simple.

When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, timing is everything. Knowing beforehand exactly how long it’s going to take to cook your turkey means a better chance of everything coming together at exactly the right time, and it means you won’t have any hangry guests.

Looking for more Thanksgiving tips? Check out our collection of Turkey Day recipes and get inspired with all sorts of weird, wonderful, and downright delicious sides, gravies, desserts, and cocktails that will make your holiday totally epic.

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