Iva Carter
Published by Iva Carter
Last Updated On: April 10, 2023

I still remember cooking my first turkey, pulling it out of the oven, and carving it right away. Needless to say, I ended up with dry meat with juices running out.

Over the years, I experimented with different rest times and consulted professional chefs to get expert opinions until I finally perfected the resting time for turkey.

Here’s what you need to know.

Quick Summary

  • You should rest larger birds for 45 minutes so the juices have time to redistribute.
  • Don’t poke or carve the turkey during the resting period.
  • Don’t rest too long, or you’ll have a cold and tough turkey.

How Long to Let Turkey Rest?

Letting a turkey rest on a pan

Let roasted turkey rest for 45 minutes before you start carving. However, this depends on the size of the bird. You can rest smaller birds for 30 minutes or larger birds for over an hour.

A larger turkey needs a lot of time to redistribute the juices. If you have a particularly large bird, for example, above 20 pounds, you can rest for an hour or two.

Note: It’s possible to rest a turkey for too long. Turkey’s internal temperature should be 165 degrees [1].

If the temperature drops below 130 degrees, you’ll have a cold bird that won’t be as delicious as a warm one.

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How Long to Rest a Smoked Turkey?

Rest a smoked turkey for 15 to 30 minutes. A smoked turkey needs a shorter rest time because the heat leaves the resting meat more quickly.

Smoked turkey cools off faster than a roasted turkey, and you need to get it to the table faster. You can slow down the cooling process by covering the turkey with aluminum foil.

“Get your timings right. And don’t forget to leave time for your turkey to rest when it comes out of the oven. Turkeys between 4-6kg should be rested for 1½ hours, and ones from 6-10kg can rest for two hours.”
- Jamie Oliver, British Chef

How Long To Rest Turkey Breast?

Rest turkey breast for 15 to 20 minutes. This goes for both oven-baked and smoked turkey breasts.

Turkey breast is smaller than the whole bird, so it needs a shorter rest time.

You should wrap the turkey breast in foil to preserve the heat. You can remove the skin when you carve, but I believe the skin contributes to the flavor of lean breast meat.

How to Rest a Turkey

Checking the internal temperature of a resting turkey

Here’s how to rest a turkey:

  • Take it out at the right time — Check the turkey’s internal temperature to know when to take it out of the oven or smoker. The temperature needs to be just right, or the resting turkey will be uncooked or overcooked.
  • Leave on a cutting board — Place the turkey on the cutting board or a roasting pan to catch the juices, and don’t touch it. Don’t cut into it to check the color of the cooked meat or to check for running juices, or you risk losing the juices and ending up with dry meat.
  • Check the internal temperature — Leave the instant-read thermometer in the turkey during the cooking process and the resting time. You want to serve the turkey while it’s still hot (at least 130 degrees)

Here are some helpful tips on resting turkey:

  • Rest it with breasts down — Breasts tend to be drier because they cook faster than the dark parts of the bird. Put on heat-proof gloves and a towel to get a firm grip, and turn the turkey upside down. You can insert a wooden spoon into the cavity for better leverage. This will make all the juices go toward the breast, so you’ll have tender meat. You can get one or two people to help you turn the turkey, especially if it’s large.
  • Wrap the turkey — Whether you wrap it or not depends on how crispy you like the meat. Unwrapped turkey will have a crispy and crunchy texture, but if you want tender meat cover the turkey with aluminum foil or a kitchen towel during the resting time. Be careful not to wrap too tightly when covering the turkey, as this will make the turkey sweat. It’s best to tent loosely with aluminum foil.

Why It’s Important to Let Turkey Rest?

A top view of roasted turkey resting on a wooden board

It’s important to let the turkey rest before carving so the meat can reabsorb all the moisture and the turkey is more flavorful.

If you cut into the turkey and don’t let it rest, you’ll have the juices run out. This results in less flavor, which is the last thing you want when cooking Thanksgiving turkey.

Resting lets the juices redistribute into the meat’s fibers, giving you a richer flavor and a better holiday dinner.

Also, the turkey continues to cook when resting. This is why you should remove it from the oven a few degrees before it reaches 165 degrees and let it come to a temperature during the resting period.


Can You Let a Turkey Rest Too Long?

Yes, you can let a turkey rest too long. If you rest the turkey for too long, it’ll become dry and cold. Also, if you let the turkey sit on the Thanksgiving table too long, for example, over two hours, it can develop bacteria and become unsafe to eat.

What Is the Best Way to Rest a Turkey?

The best way to rest a turkey is to let it rest for around 45 minutes in a warm place. Don’t touch, poke, or carve the turkey during resting, and use a meat thermometer to check the internal temp so you have a perfectly cooked turkey.

How Do You Keep Turkey Warm While Resting?

You keep the turkey warm while resting by not letting it rest too long. You should place it in a warm place during the resting period, and you can cover it with a towel or foil.

How Do You Crisp Turkey Skin After Resting?

You crisp turkey skin after resting by letting it rest at room temperature without covering it. If you cover it, the skin will turn tender, but resting at ambient temperature lets it firm and crisp.

Can I Reheat Turkey After Resting?

Yes, you can reheat turkey after resting. Always reheat until the whole turkey is piping hot and not just warmed through. Make sure to reheat only once.

Resting Your Roast Turkey the Right Way

How long you should rest your turkey depends on the bird’s size. Generally, you should rest a turkey for 45 minutes. You can rest for longer if you have a very large bird, but never rest for over two hours, as this is unsafe.

While resting is an important step of the cooking process, it’s crucial to buy a quality turkey for the best results. ButcherBox sells poultry raised free-range.

The birds are allowed to roam free and aren’t given any antibiotics. Subscribing to this meat delivery service means you’ll get a free turkey on your first order for a limited time.


  1. https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2021/11/17/
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