How to Cook Turkey Overnight

Slow roasting to cook turkey overnight is a great way to make the perfect turkey and it frees up the cooks time to spend with friends and family. The principle behind cooking your turkey slowly is that it doesn’t have the opportunity to overcook. If your oven never gets above 185F your turkey doesn’t dry out and it stays moist and juicy.

Slow roasting to cook turkey overnight has been done for decades with no incidents that I know of, but keep in mind that the food and drug administration recommend that turkeys be cooked at a temperature no lower than 325F and be cooked to an internal temperature of 185F.

Here’s why, if the turkey cooks too slowly there is a chance for toxins to develop in the turkey before any bacteria has had a chance to be killed off by the proper temperature. A higher temperature ensures that bacteria will have as short a time as possible to multiply and the bacteria are killed quickly before toxins can be produced. So, you must draw your own conclusion. If you decide that you want to slow cook turkey overnight, then, here’s how.

Thaw – One of the most important steps is properly thawing your bird.

A turkey that isn’t properly and completely thawed provides the greatest risk for the growth of bacteria. So, thaw your bird, in the refrigerator, using the following guidelines.

8 to 12 lbs. thaw 2 to 3 days

12+ to 16 lbs thaw 3 to 4 days

16+ to 20 lbs thaw 4 to 5 days

20+ to 24 lbs thaw 5 to 6 days

Prepare – Remove the package that contains the neck and giblets and rinse the turkey well. Dry the turkey by patting with a towel. I use a regular dish towel because I find that paper towels tend to stick and leave residue.

Stuff the turkey with your favorite stuffing, you can find a nice recipe at

After it’s stuffed, place the turkey on a roasting rack, in a roasting pan with the breast down.

Rub the entire turkey with unsalted butter. Melt 2 Tbs. and rub it in to keep the turkey moist while cooking.

Insert a “leave in” meat thermometer into the thickest part of a breast ensuring that the thermometer doesn’t touch the bone.

Cook – Preheat the oven to 350F 24 hours before you plan to serve dinner. Cook the turkey for an hour at this temperature. This will seal the bird so your turkey stays juicy.

After an hour, reduce the temperature to 185F. After another hour has passed, check the temperature of the oven using an oven thermometer. It’s very important that your oven maintains 185F so don’t trust the oven’s temperature setting. Keep checking and adjust the temperature accordingly and then cook turkey overnight and get some sleep.

The Big Day – A couple of hours prior to serving dinner check your temperatures. You’re looking for the breast temperature to be 185F. Check the stuffing temperature as well. You want it to be no less than 165F. If you have these temperatures, just leave the turkey to cook until serving time. If these temperatures haven’t been reached, then increase the temperature to 225F to cook a little faster.

Serving – Remove the turkey from the oven and place it breast up on a carving board. Let it rest uncovered for at least 20 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute making it juicy and easy to carve. You’ll find that when you cook turkey overnight, this method will produce a delicious, juicy, memorable turkey that will bring showers of complements.