In most households across America, an oven roasted turkey is on the menu for Thanksgiving Day. Roasting a turkey is a fairly straightforward process, and can be done by even the most novice cook. Follow these turkey roasting tips, and you’ll be well on your way to preparing a delicious Thanksgiving turkey for your family.

The trick to a successful Thanksgiving meal is proper planning. Don’t expect to run to the store the day prior to Thanksgiving to gather the things you need to prepare a 15 lb oven roasted turkey. Here’s a schedule to follow to ensure your Thanksgiving gathering is a success.

How to Plan for Thanksgiving Oven Roasted Turkey

2-4 Weeks Prior to Thanksgiving (GATHER)

Roasting a Thanksgiving turkey isn’t a last minute affair. You need the right equipment and ingredients, which can take some time to locate, especially during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. You may be surprised by just how quickly supplies fly off the shelf as everyone scurries to get ready for the big day.

At least 2 weeks before the holiday, be sure you have gathered the following kitchen equipment:

1-2 Weeks Prior to Thanksgiving (THAW!)

We recommend deciding on a recipe and purchasing the ingredients at least 1 week prior to the holiday. It is important to give yourself enough time to thaw the turkey. It takes about 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds of turkey, and be sure to calculate any time you need for brining or marinating in the number of days you allow yourself for the thaw. You don’t want a frozen turkey on Thanksgiving Day.thaw a turkey

  • 4 to 12 pounds: allow 1-3 days
  • 12 to 16 pounds: allow 3-4 days
  • 16 to 20 pounds: allow 4 to 5 days
  • 20 to 24 pounds: allow 5 to 6 days

Once the turkey is thawed, it will last in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.

When choosing a recipe, be sure to consider any food allergies or aversions that may be prevalent in your family. In other words, don’t use peanut oil if your nephew is allergic to peanuts and skip a rosemary rub if your mom hates the flavor of rosemary. This may seem like simple advice, but it’s easy to forget the small details when planning such a large, important meal.

12-24 Hours Prior to Thanksgiving (PREP)

If your recipe requires the turkey to be brined or marinated, ensure you give the turkey ample time to soak. You may also want to do the majority of your prep work the day prior (like prepping side dishes and appetizers) so you’re not too overwhelmed on Thanksgiving Day.

Thanksgiving Day (COOK)

A turkey will generally cook in the oven at 325 °F. Cook time will depend on the size of your bird. The following guidelines will ensure you start the turkey early enough for an afternoon dinner, but be sure to check the temperature with a thermometer for doneness. When the meatiest part of the turkey thigh reaches 165 °F, your turkey is done.

  • 8 to 12 pounds: Cook 2½ to 3 hours
  • 12 to 14 pounds: Cook 3 to 3½ hours
  • 14 to 18 pounds: Cook 3½ to 4½ hours
  • 20 to 24 pounds: Cook 4½ to 5+ hours

As you can see, cooking a Thanksgiving Turkey in the oven is a big task! The steps aren’t too complicated, but a successful Thanksgiving meal takes a lot of planning. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!