How to Cook Two Small Turkeys in One Oven, According to a Restaurant Chef

Instead of roasting a giant turkey, try cooking two smaller birds at the same time — not only is it faster, but the end result may be more delicious.
Image Credit: Thomas Barwick/DigitalVision/GettyImages

If you've got a big crowd coming over and want to serve a lot of turkey, you can make a giant bird. But there's another option: Cook two smaller birds in the oven at the same time.

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"For a juicier, tender product that you can fit in your oven, two birds might be a better choice," King Phojanakong, a chef at the Institute of Culinary Education, tells LIVESTRONG.com. A larger and older turkey is more likely to have tough meat, Phojanakong says.

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You may also find two smaller birds easier to handle — just think about the relative ease of lifting up a roasting pan with a 12-pound turkey versus a roasting pan full of a blazing hot 24-pound bird. With two birds in play, you can also use different seasonings. Plus, you'll cut down on cook time: Two small turkeys cook faster than a single super-sized one.

But if you're going to cook two turkeys at once, you'll need to do some advance planning. Here's what you need to know, and the exact steps you'll take to cook two turkeys at once in the oven.

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Plan Ahead Before Cooking Two Turkeys at the Same Time

Keep these considerations in mind if you're cooking two turkeys together.

1. Choose the Right Size Turkeys

You'll want to make sure there's room for both birds in your oven.

Consider their size to make timing easier: "It's best to look for two birds that are as close to the same size as possible so they'll cook at similar rates," Phojanakong says.

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2. Make Sure Your Oven Is Large Enough

You'll need to fit the two turkeys — and their two roasting pans — in the oven. But you'll also need the air in the oven to be able to circulate around a bit, according to the USDA. If your oven will have a clown car-like appearance with two turkeys inside it, cooking two birds at once might not work for you.

"It's best to use separate roasting pans," Phojanakong says. That's for safety reasons, as having two turkeys in a roasting pan can be unwieldy and heavy, he says. Plus, the air can't circulate easily if both turkeys are crammed in a single roasting pan, Phojanakong says.

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To that end, you'll want to place the roasting pans in different corners of the oven, per guidance from the National Turkey Federation (NTF).

Tip

Another way to promote circulation: Elevate the turkey on either a roasting rack or a bed of root vegetables, Phojanakong recommends. “This will create some more space for the heat to circulate.”

3. Think About Timing

The timing will be based on the size of each individual bird, according to the USDA.

That is, if you're cooking two 10-pound turkeys, you'll want to go by the cook time for a 10-pound turkey, not a 20-pound one. If the two birds are slightly different sizes, use the weight of the smaller turkey to determine timing, per Kansas State University.

Adding stuffing leads to a longer cook time. If you stuff one bird, but not the other, the unstuffed bird will be done sooner.

4. Plan to Clean Your Food Thermometer

A food thermometer is the only way to know when a turkey is fully cooked. Even when the outside of poultry is a delightful golden-brown color, it's still possible that the inside is undercooked, which can lead to foodborne illness.

Cleaning the thermometer probe between uses is required to avoid cross-contamination, per Michigan State University. Use soapy water to clean it, per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

If you're feeling very cautious, you can have two food thermometers — one for each turkey — on hand. That'll save you some washing time if you're checking on the temperatures of both turkeys.

Considering the birds are the same size, they'll cook at the same rate, so it's fine to check the temperature on just one bird throughout the cooking process, Phojanakong says. Do check the temperature on both turkeys at the final stage to determine if they're done.

5. Fully Cook Both Turkeys

Turkey should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

You'll want to check the turkey's temperature in three spots, per the USDA:

  • the thickest part of the breast
  • the innermost part of the wing
  • the innermost part of the thigh

How to Cook Two Turkeys at Once

Before you can cook the turkeys, you'll need to thaw them. While you can cook turkeys that are frozen or partially frozen, it will add to your cooking time.

There are only three safe ways to thaw your turkey, per the USDA. The top recommendation is to thaw turkey in the refrigerator — this takes about 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey. You can also thaw turkeys in cold water or in the microwave — these methods are speedier but more cumbersome. If you opt to thaw your turkey in the microwave or cold water, you'll need to cook the bird immediately after it's thawed.

If you wish, brine the turkeys the day before cooking them. Brining leads to a moister bird.

To brine, mix together 1 cup of kosher salt per 1 gallon of water in a large container. Place the turkey in the food-safe container. It should be fully submerged in the liquid. Refrigerate the turkey in the brine for at least 8 hours or overnight, according to the NTF.

Brine each bird separately — do not use one container for both birds.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 small turkeys (10 to 14 pounds each), thawed

  • Paper towels

  • 2 wire racks

  • Root vegetables (optional)

  • Stuffing (optional)

  • 2 roasting pans

  • 1 cup water

  • Timer

  • Food thermometer ($13, Amazon.com)

  • Oven

Step 1:​ Select two turkeys that are approximately the same weight. This allows you to use the same basic preparations and cooking temperature so the cooking time is also about the same.

Step 2:​ Preheat the oven temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 3:​ Dry each turkey with paper towels and place breast-side up on separate wire racks inside separate roasting pans.

If you don't have a wire rack, chop up root vegetables and use them as a bed for the turkey, Phojanakong recommends.

Step 4:​ Tuck the wing tips under the shoulder of each bird. This helps to cook the turkeys evenly, as well as conserve space inside the oven.

Step 5:​ Fill the bottom of each roasting pan with 1/2 cup of water and place both pans in the oven.

Step 6:​ Rotate the position of the turkeys every 30 minutes to an hour. Doing this "promotes even cooking as there can be hot spots in many ovens," Phojanakong notes.

Step 7:​ Cook the turkeys until they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Check the internal temperature of each turkey by inserting a thermometer probe into the deepest portion of the thigh. Make sure the probe is in the middle of the meat and not touching any bones. You should also check the temperature in the breast and the innermost part of the wing, per the USDA.

The cooking time will vary depending on your oven and the size of the two turkeys. Use the chart below to gauge the cooking time of the birds. Start checking the temperature at the 2-hour mark.

Step 8:​ If one turkey needs a bit longer to cook, keep it in the oven until it's done. Remove each turkey once it reaches the internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 9:​ Let the turkeys rest for at least 15 minutes before carving so that the natural juices settle into the meat (and make it more tender).

What About Stuffing?

The safest bet is to cook your stuffing separately, per the USDA. Phojanakong recommends against stuffing the bird because cooking stuffing fully means that you'll overcook the turkey.

If you want to stuff the bird despite this, do so before step 4 — here's how: Spoon in moist stuffing into the bird's cavity. Use about 3/4 cup stuffing for every pound of turkey, according to the USDA.

At step 7, check the temperature of the stuffing — that needs to reach 165 degrees as well.

How Long to Cook Two Turkeys at Once

The cook time for two small-sized turkeys is about the same as it is for a single small-sized turkey. That is, if you have one 10-pound turkey in the oven, it'll take the same amount of time as two 10-pound turkeys.

Here are guidelines via the USDA for the required baking time of smaller turkeys by size at 325 degrees F — you'll need about the same amount of time if you've got two birds in the oven.

Turkey Weight

Cooking Time (Unstuffed)

Cooking Time (Stuffed)

8-12 pounds

2 hrs. 45 mins. - 3 hrs.

3 hrs. - 3 hrs. 30 mins.

12-14 pounds

3 hrs. - 3 hrs. 45 mins.

3 hrs. 30 mins. - 4 hrs.

Source: USDA

Once a turkey tops 14 pounds, it's likely impossible to fit a second bird of the same size in the oven.

Cooking Two Turkeys Separately

If you discover that two turkeys won't fit in your oven, you could opt to cook one the day before Thanksgiving and the other day of the big meal.

Keep in mind that if you do this, you will need to cut the cooked turkey into smaller pieces before placing it in the fridge, per the USDA. While the legs and wings can be left whole, the breast must be sliced.

You should not place a whole roasted turkey in the refrigerator.

When you reheat this precooked turkey — in the microwave or in the oven — it will need to reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Other Ways to Cook Two Turkeys

The oven may be the most common place to cook a turkey, but it's not the only option. If you're looking to experiment with one of the turkeys, you can bake one and cook the other turkey in one of the following methods:

  • Stovetop:​ Once you break down a turkey, you can use several strategies — including braising and sautéing — to cook a turkey on the stovetop.
  • Slow cooker:​ You can cook a turkey breast in a slow cooker. You can also cook a ​whole​ turkey in the slow cooker, but make sure to cut it up first, per the USDA.
  • Gas grill:​ You can also go outside and take advantage of your grill — if you're cooking a turkey on a gas grill, you'll want to use indirect heat.
  • Deep fryer:​ This method is only appropriate for a turkey that's 12 pounds or smaller, according to the USDA, which lays out the steps involved in the process.
  • Microwave:​ You can also microwave a small turkey (up to 14 pounds), either whole or in parts, according to the USDA.

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