When cooking, you want the simplest answer for how long it takes for a convection oven turkey, but it's complicated. A fresh turkey cooks faster than a previously frozen bird. Stuffed takes longer than unstuffed. To play things safe when planning to convection-roast turkey, put it in a little earlier rather than later because a well-rested bird is a juicy bird.
Why Is Convection Roasting Different?
Conventional oven cookery uses motionless air and a bottom-heating element to cook, which can make air at the back of the oven hotter and maybe cause hot spots. Convection cooking uses a fan to blow air in and creates hot wind moving in and around food.
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Talking turkey, this typically means a much crispier skin, and crispy skin can mean it's juicier. Plus, it cooks as much as 30 percent faster than old-school ovens. Be wary of high-temperature recipes with turkey at convection, as it's recommended to keep the temperature lower by 25 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent overly browning the skin.
Brining, Salting and Marinating
While some swear by not doing extra prep for convection turkeys, it's recommended because convection is by its very nature a dry method of cooking and is known to extract more juices. Extracting more juices is great for tasty gravy making but can pose problems with meat texture.
Brining or salting and even marinating a turkey can be extra work, but it's unlikely you'll ever regret the flavor insurance you gave yourself when you sit down to enjoy the meal. Be sure to still butter or oil and then salt the skin for cooking, as salt further removes moisture for crispiness. Pepper the inside but not the skin because it may burn over time.
Turkey Cook Time
These are approximations that should never substitute for watching the bird and checking with a thermometer. Remember, fresh cooks faster than previously frozen and younger birds faster than older birds. Cook your bird from room temperature so it cooks evenly throughout, especially with convection.
To get perfect crispy skin, heat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. These are estimated fresh turkey cook times.
- 10-14 lbs. | approximately 2 hours
- 14-18 lbs. | 2¼ – 2½ hours
- 18-22 lbs. | 2½ – 3 hours
- 10-14 lbs. | 2 – 2¼ hours
- 14-18 lbs. | 2½ – 3 hours
- 18-22 lbs. | 3 – 3½ hours
Trust Thermometers, Not Times
These guidelines are helpful to planning meal prep — what dishes need to be in the oven and when and how to stagger cooking. However, while you can fork-test potatoes, invest in a quality instant-read digital meat thermometer so you know your turkey is perfectly cooked before you take it out to rest.
The magic number is when the meaty part of the thigh registers at 165 degrees. Some recommend 170 degrees in the thigh for stuffed turkey and 180 degrees for unstuffed, but the turkey will continue cooking as you tent and rest it.
Rest the Turkey
If you don't rest the turkey, the juices will spill out when it's cut. The meal might still taste good, but leftover turkey will be far drier.
Instead, loosely tent the turkey with foil — that is, fold it over and loosely tuck it in so it's like a pup tent over the turkey. You may need two or three sheets of foil depending on your roast. Don't tuck it snugly, as it may keep cooking for far too long. Instead, give it space for air flow. Plan on around a half hour to rest while you finish cooking.