How to Cook a Butterball Turkey

Your Butterball turkey has been purchased and you’re ready to host Thanksgiving dinner. Now what? This guide will help you learn how to cook a Butterball Turkey… Don’t worry, it’s easy!

Thank you to Butterball Turkey for sponsoring this post. As usual, all opinions are our own!

(this post was last updated October 2019)

We’ve been working with Butterball Turkey for several years now and I think it’s safe to say we’ve cooked a few Butterball turkeys in our time (at Butterball University, we learned 11 different ways to cook a turkey!). And since it seems like lots of people have lots of questions about cooking Butterball turkeys, we decided to write this post teaching you how to cook a Butterball turkey.

One thing you should know is that cooking a turkey is easy. But it can be scary. Mostly because you’re often cooking it for a crowd and because turkey has a reputation for often being dry and not so great. We know the feeling of being intimidated by cooking a turkey but after three fantastic years working with the people at Butterball, we feel so confident sharing this with you!

For this post, we decided to show you how to cook a very basic turkey. You can obviously go above and beyond with how you prepare your turkey, but we want to keep it simple here just for the sake of showing you just how easy it really is!


Step 1: If your turkey is frozen, you need to have a defrosting plan! Use this guide to learn how to thaw your Butterball turkey properly. Also note that thawing is the #1 question the Butterball ladies get on Thanksgiving from people who didn’t plan in advance. Remember you need days to fully thaw a frozen turkey!

For instance, a 16-pound turkey takes 4 days to thaw in the fridge.  If you didn’t plan enough thawing time for this, you can always do a cold water thaw. A 16-pound turkey takes 8 hours to thaw in cold water.

Step 2: To brine or not to brine? One of the awesome things about Butterball turkeys is that you don’t have to brine them. They’re already pre-brined with a salt solution! BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t brine them. We often brine our Butterball turkeys and my family swears by Alton Brown’s recipe. The brine or not brine debate is already so hot, so it’s really just up to personal preference and what you feel like doing.

Step 3: Decide how you want to cook your turkey. For the purposes of this post, we’re going to go with a simple oven roasting method. But at Butterball University, we learned to cook turkey 11 different ways. Yes, 11! That includes cooking a turkey in the microwave (yes, it can be done… But I don’t really recommend it).

Step 4: Decide if you want to stuff your turkey. We never stuff ours and simply serve the stuffing (dressing) on the side. But if you want to stuff it, do so now. Just be sure you read the note below on taking the temperature of the stuffing!

Step 5: For the traditional roasting method, pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees.  Remove the giblets and turkey neck and pat your turkey dry with paper towels. You may or may not be surprised to know another big problem the Butterball ladies hear about is people who forget to take the giblets and neck out of the turkey before putting it in the oven (very important since they’re in plastic packages!).

Step 6: Place turkey breast side up on a flat rack in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2½ inches deep.

Step 7: Turn the wings back to hold the neck skin in place, so your turkey will be stabilized in the pan and for carving. Brush the skin with a little bit of olive oil or cooking oil. Rub turkey with salt and pepper, too, if you didn’t brine it.

Step 8: Insert an oven-safe meat thermometer deep into the lower part of the thigh without touching the bone. The thigh is the thickest part of the turkey, so that’s where you need to make sure the turkey is up to temperature and safe to eat. BUT! If you stuffed your turkey, you’ll also need to make sure the stuffing is up to temperature. Lots of people forget to do this and it’s so, so important as the stuffing is actually what can make people sick. If you don’t have an oven safe thermometer, you can simply take the temperature yourself when the turkey is close to being done. I couldn’t live without my Thermapen for cooking meat!

Step 9: Cook turkey! See chart below to determine how long your turkey should roast depending on how much it weighs. When it’s about 2/3 of the way done, loosely cover the breast with foil so it doesn’t overcook (the breast will be done first, but the rest of the turkey needs more time!). You’ll know your turkey is done when the thigh  is 180 degrees and the breast and stuffing are 170 degrees.

Step 10: Remove your turkey to a platter and let stand for about 20 minutes before carving and serving! For help carving, check out this guide.

Yes, it’s that easy to cook a Butterball Turkey!


Cooking a Butterball turkey is easy, but it can be made even easier (and more delicious!) when you have the right tools at your disposal. Here are a few of the tools we like best (note some of the below are affiliate links):

  • Turkey Roasting Pan: A turkey roasting pan is key for cooking the perfect turkey. Yes, you can purchase the disposable ones at the grocery store, but I often find them difficult to maneuver and lift. Purchasing a stainless turkey roasting pan is a great investment as it should last forever and can be used to cooking chickens and roasts throughout the year. I linked to my favorite Le Creuset one above because I love it, but if you want to spend less money, this Cuisinart one is also a very good option. Whatever you purchase, make sure the pan comes with a rack and has handles.


  • Meat Thermometer: I highly recommend you have a meat thermometer on hand as temperature is the best way to determine when your turkey is done. I absolutely love my ThermaPen (linked above), but if you’re looking for a less expensive option, this meat thermometer has great reviews.


  • Turkey Lifters: There’s nothing worse than taking your turkey out of the oven and not knowing how you’re going to get it from the roasting pan to the cutting board so you can carve it. Turkey lifters are a great tool to have on hand so you can seamlessly move your turkey without burning your hands or making a huge mess.


  • Fat Separator: When it comes time to make the gravy, you’ll be happy to have a fat separator, so you can easily get to the fat without waiting for the liquid to cool. Even if you don’t make a lot of gravies, a fat separator can come in handy for healthier soups and stews, too.


  • Large Carving Board: Having a good cutting/carving board is key for turkey time. Make sure you have a cutting board that’s large enough to fit your turkey. I also highly recommend a cutting board that has a “juice groove” in in. Once you start carving, the turkey will release juices and the groove will really help keep your counters clean.


  • Carving Knife: You don’t need a carving knife to carve your turkey, but it will make your life a little easier and make for the prettiest turkey slices. You can also use it for carving pretty much any meat year-round. A carving fork will also help you keep the turkey steady while you carve.


  • Brining Bags: If you are planning to brine your Butterball turkey (remember, you don’t have to!), a brining bag will come in handy. Also make sure you have a container large enough to let your turkey brine in.


For your reference, here are turkey cooking times determined by the weight of your Butterball turkey.

4.5 – 7 lbs
Unstuffed: 2-2.5 hours
Stuffed: 2.25-2.75 hours
7-9 lbs:
Unstuffed: 2.5-3 hours
Stuffed: 2.75-4.5 hours
9-18 lbs:
Unstuffed: 3-3.5 hours
Stuffed: 3.75-4.5 hours
18-22 lbs:
Unstuffed: 3.5-4 hours
Stuffed: 4.5-5 hours
22-24 lbs:
Unstuffed: 4-4.5 hours
Stuffed: 5-5.5 hours
24-30 lbs:
Unstuffed: 4.5-5 hours
Stuffed: 5.5-6.25 hours.

For more information on how to cook a Butterball turkey, check out Butterball’s handy guides on:

How to Select a Turkey

How to Carve

How to Know When Your Turkey is Done

How to Stuff Your Turkey

And many other useful tutorials!

If you have any questions at all about preparing your turkey this Thanksgiving (or any time of year!) please feel free to ask us! And more importantly, the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line is officially taking calls for the season so call 1-800-BUTTERBALL for any and all turkey-related questions you have. These women are turkey geniuses, not to mention some of the sweetest people we’ve ever met, so don’t ever feel nervous to give them a ring! They’re here to help 🙂

Have you ever cooked a Butterball Turkey before?

If you’re looking for some great Thanksgiving side dishes to serve along with your Butterball turkey, check out the following WANM recipes:

Mojito Cranberry Sauce
Skillet Green Bean Casserole
Ginger Coconut Whipped Sweet Potatoes
Loaded Mashed Potatoes in Jars

And to make your Turkey cooking experience a bit more fun, enjoy my Pumpkin Pie Martinis!

17 Responses to "How to Cook a Butterball Turkey"

  1. Deanna says:

    LOL you guys are funny. My sister has selected the turkey that we’re using this year. I hope it comes out as tasty looking as yours!

  2. Susan says:

    Emailing this to everyone I know. And also demanding that I make the turkey next Thanksgiving.

  3. joyce says:

    I always purchase Butterball Turkeys for Thanksgiving and cook them )according to directions on packaging. I have always had a beautiful,tasty turkey. Not so this time! I bought a small 12 lb. turkey this time. It was a natural, hormone free ( sounded good to me) and was more expensive but I thought it would be well worth it. Ugh! It was tasteless, tough and dry!. I am so glad I wasn’t cooking for a crowd this year…I would have been embarassed! I guess the dog gets the leftovers…or at least some of them…My be ham for Thanksgiving next year….

  4. Erica says:

    Thanks girls! Your post helped me last Christmas as it was the first time I ever prepared or cooked a turkey, ever! It was a Butterball and it turned out perfect thanks to your instructions so thank goodness I found your video again and reviewed it to make sure my 2nd turkey turns out as well.

  5. V woolf says:

    Can I cook a butterball overnight. Do I add any seasonings. Salt?

  6. Sues says:

    Hi! I’ve never cooked a turkey overnight, but upon doing a little research, it looks like you can cook it low and slow. Here’s a good resource:

    I’d definitely season like you normally would- butter, salt, pepper, lemon, garlic, and thyme are my faves. Good luck!

  7. MaryAnn says:

    Married 45 years and have always cooked a butterball. , This year I have a 19 lb And a 6 1/2 butterball breast . More people want white meat
    Every time they are always delicious

    I always find them easy to make

  8. Marti says:

    Why is there such a large range for 10-18 pound turkeys, the other ranges for weight aren’t that broad

  9. Patsy says:

    Is it best to cook a turkey at 325 or 350? It weighs 17.78 lbs. it will be unstuffed

  10. Sues says:

    @Marti- I’m not totally sure why Butterball lays it out this way, but I would just make sure to be checking the temperature after 3 hours to make sure you’re at 180 degrees in the thigh and 170 degrees in the breast or stuffing- temperature is the best way to know when it’s done!

  11. Sues says:

    @Patsy- Butterball recommends 325 degrees. An almost 18-pound turkey will likely take about 3.5 hours, but make sure you’re checking the temperature with a meat thermometer to make sure you’re at 180 degrees in the thigh and 170 degrees in the breast- temperature is the best way to know when it’s done!

  12. Rob Brennan says:

    I’m going to use a oven bag and I’m going to stuff it with lemon and orange and onion any help

  13. Joe Henggeler says:

    I believe there is a typo error in the UNSTUFFED times (around the 7-9 lb range) “carving” times table.
    Good info videos on cooking implements, carving, etc.
    Happy Thanksgiving.

  14. Sues says:

    @Rob- I haven’t done the oven bag method in a long time, but I know it’s super easy! This is a great article with tips:
    I always remind everyone to use the cooking times as a guide and to be sure to pay attention to the temperature of the turkey to know when it’s done. Good luck and happy Thanksgiving!

  15. Sues says:

    @Joe- Thank you!! I just updated that… Hopefully it doesn’t take anyone that long to carve their turkey 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving!!

  16. Stacy says:

    I don’t have a pan with a rack. I just put the turkey directly on the bottom of the (yes, store-bought aluminum pan!). Is this OK?

  17. Sues says:

    @Stacy- You’ll want some sort of rack to help your turkey cook evenly and allow juices to drip instead of making the turkey soggy, but there are lots of easy fixes if you don’t have one! You can place your turkey on top of root vegetables like carrots and/or parsnips or even celery. Or you can roll up aluminum foil just to elevate your turkey out of the pan a bit. I hope this helps and I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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