How to Cook a Thanksgiving Turkey

Not sure how you should cook your turkey? Check out four ways to achieve turkey perfection this Thanksgiving.

Is this your first time cooking a turkey? Or do you simply need a refresher on the best ways to cook a turkey? We’ll explore several of the best turkey cooking methods to achieve turkey perfection this Thanksgiving and our best tips for cooking and roasting for a deliciously tender, juicy turkey and a hassle-free holiday.

Cooking a Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to gather your loved ones and enjoy delicious food and great company. However, cooking every dish and cleaning up afterward can be time-consuming. That’s why we’ve put together some helpful tips for cooking and roasting your turkey so that you can have a worry-free and tasteful holiday. Let’s begin by diving into the different approaches to cooking a Thanksgiving turkey and determining the best turkey cooking method for you.


turkey inside oven bag

Oven Bag

Cooking your holiday turkey in an oven bag will help to infuse the flavors and keep the meat moist.

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Turkey cooked using the foil tent method with green beans and cranberry sauce nearby

Foil Tent

Keep your turkey from over-bowning in the oven with a foil tent.

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Turkey cooked using the foil wrap method with green beans and cranberry sauce nearby

Foil Wrap

Speed up your turkey cooking times without drying out your meal by wrapping it in foil.

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Oven Bag vs. Foil: What Is the Best Turkey Cooking Method?

Ever wondered if you should cook a turkey covered or uncovered? What’s better—turkey oven bags vs. foil? Should I cover a turkey with foil when cooking? We’ll answer these questions and learn more about cooking a juicy and flavorful Thanksgiving turkey. The short answer to what’s the best turkey cooking method is oven bags and aluminum foil. They’re both great options to keep your turkey moist and delicious. Not only are they safe to use in the oven, but they also offer unique benefits that can enhance the cooking process. These benefits include adding extra moisture, reducing the risk of over-browning, and speeding up cooking times.

Let’s consider the best uses and benefits of oven bags vs. foil:

Oven Bags

Best for those who have never made a turkey before or an experienced cook who wants a foolproof way to roast a moist, tender, and flavorful turkey with lots of juices for making gravy. 

If you want to make an impression with an extra juicy and tasty turkey, oven bags are for you! They’ll give you a foolproof and delicious result every time, with easy prep and baking—just put it in the oven and walk away until it’s done.

Aluminum Foil

Best for those who enjoy cooking a traditional roasted turkey with crispy, baked skin, and moist and tender meat without having to baste the turkey during the cooking process. Foil is also great for folks who need to speed up their meal on Thanksgiving Day.

There are two ways to cook turkeys using aluminum foil: aluminum foil turkey tents and aluminum foil-wrapped turkeys. Both methods effectively trap steam and moisture, which helps prevent the turkey from drying out without frequent basting. Aluminum foil turkey tents help to prevent over-cooking, while foil-wrapped turkeys can help shorten the cooking time.

cooked turkey on top of oven bag inside a pan

1. Thanksgiving Turkey in Oven Bags: Foolproof and Extra Juicy

Oven bags trap moisture inside, which helps to baste the meat and creates rich and seasoned juices for making delicious gravy. Plus, oven bags can save you from messy spills and make cleaning up a snap after cooking your turkey.

  • Prep: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Then, simply add your turkey, seasonings, and ingredients to your oven bag and place in a roasting pan to cook. Infuse your turkey with delicious flavor by adding herbs, spices, and vegetables in the bag. 
  • Bake: Follow the turkey oven bag cooking times guide for more detailed instructions. Your turkey will cook up to one hour faster than when using traditional methods.
  • Results: The meat will be fall-off-the-bone tender and delicious, ready for everyone to devour the moist and tasty goodness of your turkey. In addition, cleanup is so easy, just toss the bag away when finished.

Read our detailed step-by-step guide for how to cook a turkey in an oven bag.

Our Favorite Oven Bag Turkey Recipes & Resources

2. Thanksgiving Foil Tent Turkey: Classic Golden-browned Roasted Turkey

If you enjoy a traditional, classic golden brown roasted turkey with tender and juicy meat, then this method is for you. There’s a simple trick to keep it from over-browning in the oven—tent it with aluminum foil! You can ensure it stays moist and delicious by placing a “tent” of Reynolds Wrap® Aluminum Foil over the turkey for the first hour. You can also use a new sheet of aluminum foil to cover your turkey after it is done to keep the meat warm until it’s time to carve.

  • Flavor: Season your turkey with your favorite herbs, spices, and vegetables to bring out the succulent, delicious flavor. Want an original take on a classic? Try our Roast Turkey with Cranberry and Pomegranate Glaze for a savory, sweet, and tangy twist to your holiday turkey. 
  • Prep: After you’ve added your seasoned turkey and other ingredients to a roasting pan, make a foil tent by folding an extra-long sheet of foil in the center. Then place it over the turkey, leaving a 1-inch gap between the top of the turkey and the foil tent for heat circulation. Then, attach the foil to the long sides of the pan. For complete instructions, download our foil tent cook times guide.
  • Bake: For the first hour of cooking, bake your turkey at 325°F with a foil tent on top. Remove the foil to give the turkey the desired rich golden color and crispy skin.  Be sure to bake the turkey until a meat thermometer reads at least 165°F or 180°F if you prefer a well-done turkey.
  • Results: A Thanksgiving turkey that is perfectly cooked with a beautiful golden-brown skin and tender, juicy meat.

Foil Tent Roasted Turkey Cooking Times

Here’s an at-a-glance chart of approximate cooking times for roasting a turkey with a foil tent. The cooking times are consistent with food safety guidelines for cooking poultry.


Cook until internal temp reaches 165°F in the breast and thigh in several places, not touching the bone
(If you prefer a well-done turkey with no pink juices, cook until 180°F in the thickest part of the thigh, not touching the bone)
Turkey WeightCooking Time @ 325°F
Whole Turkey, unstuffed
8-12 pounds2 1/2 to 3 hours
12-16 pounds3 to 3 1/2 hours
16-20 pounds3 1/2 to 4 hours
20-24 pounds4 to 5 hours
24-28 pounds5 to 6 1/2 hours
28-32 pounds6 1/2 to 7 hours
Whole Turkey, stuffed
(stuffing temperature should be 165°F)
8-12 pounds3 to 3 ½ hours
12-16 pounds3 1/2 to 4 hours
16-20 pounds4 to 4 1/2 hours
20-24 pounds4 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours
24-28 pounds5 1/2 to 7 hours
28-32 pounds7 to 7 1/2 hours

Our Favorite Foil Tent Turkey Recipes and Resources


Tear a large sheet of foil that is ample enough to fit over your turkey pan, plus several more inches. Fold the aluminum foil to create a “tent”. Place the foil over the turkey, allowing one inch of space between the top of the turkey and the foil tent for heat circulation. Then, crimp the foil onto the long sides of the pan.

Cover your turkey with a foil tent and place in a preheated 325° oven for the first hour of baking. Carefully remove the tent once the hour is complete.

3. Thanksgiving Foil-Wrapped Turkey: Turkey in a Hurry

Want to ensure your bird is juicy and delicious yet speeds up the cooking time so everyone can watch the game? Foil wrapping is the answer! This technique helps speed the cooking process and locks in the turkey’s natural juices. It helps prevent turkeys from drying out without basting, especially those over 24 pounds. Take a look at our helpful turkey cooking chart (to follow) and our easy foil-wrapped roasted turkey directions. With these helpful guides, you can serve a mouthwatering Thanksgiving dinner in no time!

  • Flavor: Enhance your turkey’s flavor with traditional spices or create unique seasonings and add-ins. Want to take ordinary to extraordinary? Liven up your Thanksgiving Day menu with our zesty Chili Cheese Turkey—inspired by one of the nation’s most indulgent flavor combinations, now adapted for a roasted turkey!
  • Prep: Wrap your seasoned and prepared turkey in a sheet of foil that is 2 ½ times longer than your turkey. Close the foil by overlapping the ends, but do not seal airtight. Place the turkey in the center of the roasting pan and turn up the short sides of the foil to hold in the juices. Follow our foil-wrapped roasted turkey guide for complete step-by-step directions. 
  • Bake: In a preheated 450°F oven, bake your prepared, foil-wrapped turkey in a roasting pan at least 2 inches deep. Roast the turkey until a meat thermometer reads at least 165°F, or 180°F if you prefer a well-done turkey. To brown your turkey, open and turn back the foil 30 minutes before the roasting is complete.
  • Results: Foil wrapping provides moist and tasty meat with rich, golden-brown skin in less time than the turkey package directions.

Cooking Times for Foil-Wrapped Turkey

Check out this chart for an easy reference for the approximate cooking times for foil-wrapped turkey. This chart is consistent with food safety guidelines for cooking poultry.


Cook until internal temp reaches 165°F in the breast and thigh in several places, not touching the bone.
(If you prefer a well-done turkey with no pink juices, cook until 180°F in the thickest part of the thigh, not touching the bone)
Turkey WeightCooking Time @ 450°F
Whole Turkey, unstuffed
8-12 pounds1 1/2 to 2 1/4 hours
12-16 pounds2 1/4 to 2 3/4 hours
16-20 pounds2 3/4 to 3 1/4 hours
20-24 pounds3 1/4 to 3 3/4 hours
24-28 pounds3 3/4 to 5 hours
28-32 pounds5 to 5 1/2 hours
Whole Turkey, stuffed
(stuffing temperature should be 165°F)
8-12 pounds2 to 2 3/4 hours
12-16 pounds2 3/4 to 3 1/4 hours
16-20 pounds3 1/4 to 3 3/4 hours
20-24 pounds3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
24-28 pounds4 1/4 hours to 5 1/2 hours
28-32 pounds5 1/2 to 6 hours

Our Favorite Foil-Wrapped Turkey Recipes and Resources


If you’ve loosely covered your turkey, you shouldn’t have any trouble with the foil sticking to your bird. However, if you want to ensure it doesn’t, there are several ways to keep your foil from sticking to the turkey:

  1. Baste your turkey with melted butter or oil.
  2. Coat the side of the foil that touches your turkey with butter.
  3. Use Reynolds Wrap® Non-Stick Foil, which has a non-stick coating.

For a nicely browned roasted turkey, open the foil and tuck the ends aside 30 minutes before the end of your baking time. If there is excess juice in the pan, remove it carefully with a ladle. Ensure you handle the turkey and pan with caution, to avoid burning yourself.

If you prefer a juicy and tender turkey with that signature smoke flavor, smoking your turkey is the way to go! We’ve got all the tips you need to master the art of smoking a turkey using butcher paper.

cooked turkey with vegetables in pan

4. Traditional Roast & Baste With Easy Cleanup

For those who swear by basting the turkey throughout the cooking time, we also have a solution for you—disposable aluminum roasting pans. You’ll have easy access to baste, and our disposable bakeware makes your Thanksgiving meal even more manageable with less mess. These heavy-duty pans are strong and sturdy, however, we still recommend you transport your disposable pans on a sturdy metal sheet pan so you can effortlessly carry the turkey from the oven to the countertop. The best part is that once dinner is done, you can toss the pan in the trash along with the turkey scraps. 

No roasting pan? No problem. Our disposable roasting pans work for a traditional baste and roast turkey, and they will pair perfectly with the other three cooking methods—oven bags, foil tents, and foil-wrapped, too.

Our Favorite Turkey Recipes Using Disposable Roasting Pans

Have Questions? We’re Here to Help!

We’ve got your back when you’re making the most mouthwatering, tender, and juicy turkey that your family loves this Thanksgiving. Here’s how you can contact us:

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Thanksgiving Week:
Monday, November 20, 2023, to Wednesday, November 22, 2023
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Thursday, November 23, 2023
9 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST

Friday, November 24, 2023
9 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST