On average, an unstuffed turkey should cook for approximately 15 to 20 minutes per pound. Add a half hour to cooking time if the turkey is stuffed. Because of the variances in temperatures of ovens, as well as how often a turkey is basted, the amount of time it takes to cook a fresh turkey varies.
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Reach inside the turkey and remove the giblets, which are in a bag. Wash the turkey inside and out with warm water and pat dry with paper toweling. Season the cavity first, then the outside, lifting the skin of the breast to season underneath it. Stuff the turkey, if desired. (Note: the USDA recommends not stuffing a turkey because bacteria can grow in the stuffing if it's not cooked to the appropriate temperature.) Place the turkey breast side up in a roasting pan or oven bag or wrap in tin foil.
Preheat the Oven
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. (Oven-bag turkeys should have an oven temp of 350 degrees F.) Place the turkey in the oven and cover loosely with tin foil.
Cooking the Turkey
An unstuffed turkey should cook for approximately 15 to 20 minutes per pound. That means an eight-pound turkey could take as little as two hours to roast correctly or as much as two hours and 40 minutes. Add a half hour to cooking time if the turkey is stuffed. Because of oven temperatures vary, the amount of time it takes to cook a fresh turkey varies. The best method for checking doneness is to use a meat thermometer. Check the breast, thigh and stuffing to make sure it is all at least 165 degrees F. This is the temperature, according to the USDA, at which food-borne illnesses are eliminated. Check the turkey about a half hour before its expected completion time.
Once your turkey is done, pull it out of the oven and let it sit for at least 20 minutes before carving. This will allow the juices to be reabsorbed and will help make the turkey juicy and tender instead of dry.