This juicy Roast Turkey is brined and then seasoned with a simple flavored herb butter and roasted until golden brown. This melt-in-your-mouth decadent roast turkey recipe is the perfect and the best turkey recipe to make during the holidays!
Herb Roasted Turkey is such a classic holiday meal but if you are looking for other holiday meal ideas, take a look at this easy to make Slow Cooker Turkey Breast with gravy, Slow Cooker Ham and this Prime Rib Roast Recipe.
This Roast Turkey is tender, juicy and succulent with the most beautiful golden crispy skin. Packed with the flavors of rich butter, fresh herbs and lemon, this easy to make, fool-proof oven roasted turkey always turns out perfect!
I will share with you my tips and step by step tutorial on how to cook turkey successfully every time. Impress your family and friends with the best, most delicious Thanksgiving turkey, completely stress-free.
The Best Turkey Recipe
When I want to roast a whole turkey, this is the recipe I always use. I’ve been making this exact turkey recipe for years for a good reason. This baked turkey recipe is very easy to make and mouthwatering delicious. The tender white and dark meat are perfectly seasoned and incredibly juicy.
The easy gravy is made from the pan drippings and makes a rich and velvety smooth turkey gravy that tastes a million times better than instant or canned gravy.
I can confidently say that this is the best roasted turkey recipe I’ve ever had. My family, friends and readers completely agree!
Holiday Roast Turkey Recipe Ingredients
- Water: Cold or room temperature water.
- Salt: Table salt, Kosher salt or sea salt can be used.
- Brown sugar: Although granulated sugar can be used, I like the rich molasses taste I get from brown sugar.
- Fruit: Oranges, lemons, apple.
- Herbs: Fresh thyme sprigs, fresh rosemary and dried bay leaves.
- Black peppercorns: Should not be substituted for ground black pepper.
Oven Roasted Turkey Ingredients:
- Turkey: Defrosted completely.
- Butter: I prefer to use unsalted butter so I have better control over the seasoning of the entire dish.
- Soy Sauce: Regular soy sauce or low sodium work well. If you are following a gluten free diet, use tamari.
- Onions, Carrots and Celery: These vegetables add flavor, especially to the pan drippings which will be used to make the pan gravy.
- Lemon: Lemon adds a nice citrus hint that pairs beautifully with the turkey. Don’t use bottled lemon juice.
- Garlic: Fresh garlic is a must for this recipe.
- Fresh Herbs: Rosemary, Thyme and Sage (optional). I am not a big fan of sage so I listed it as an optional ingredient. If you love sage, by all means use it.
- Broth: I baste the turkey with chicken broth. Turkey broth can be used but I prefer using chicken broth as I think it is tastier (especially if using store-bought broth.
- Salt and Ground Black Pepper: A turkey needs to be well seasoned. You are cooking at least 8 pounds of bone-in turkey. That requires proper seasoning!
Brining A Turkey
If you are always stressed out or feel intimidated about roasting a turkey for the holidays, one of the easiest and best things to do to guarantee a juicy turkey is to brine the turkey before roasting it.
- Why To Brine A Turkey?
Brining is a way to reduce the loss of moisture in lean meats like turkey, especially turkey breast which has very little fat. Brining enhances juiciness, tenderness and also flavor.
- What’s In A Brine?
The main brine ingredients are water and salt. Yes, it’s that simple. However, if you add a few aromatics, citrus, herbs or spices into the brine mix you ensure meat with deeper and more complex flavors, in other words a tastier turkey.
- How Long To Brine A Turkey?
I always prefer to brine a whole turkey overnight however, a minimum or 4 hours is a good amount of time for brining.
- What Do I Need To Brine A Turkey?
First, clear some space in the fridge as you will have to keep the brined turkey in the refrigerator. You will need a big container to keep your whole bird submerged at all times. Big soup pots, plastic storage containers and buckets work well. No lid? No worries! You can always use aluminum foil or sticky plastic wrap.
- What Is The Brine Ratio?
The ratio for a good brine is 1/2 cup of salt per gallon of water. A great chef I worked for taught me to also add sugar to my brine. For this recipe, I use 1/2 cup of salt + 1/2 cup sugar per gallon of water. Please, don’t stress about exact measurements. This is just a guideline.
How To Prepare A Turkey For Roasting
If you have a frozen turkey, the first thing to do is to completely defrost it. Thaw out the turkey in the refrigerator in the same plastic packaging it came in.
Place the turkey on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan to catch any dripping liquid and place it in the refrigerator until thawed out. It takes approximately 24 hours for every 4 -5 pounds of turkey to defrost.
Another way to defrost the turkey is to submerge it in cold water. This is a quicker way of thawing. Change the water every hour to keep the water cool but not overly cold. You will need approximately 30 minutes per pound of turkey.
Remove Neck And Giblets
Remove the neck and giblets and reserve to make the turkey broth. Remove any astray pin feathers. I always give the turkey a quick rinse under cold running water however, the FDA recommends not rinsing your turkey due to potentially contaminating your kitchen sink with harmful bacteria. I am a clean freak and I disinfect my sink after working with poultry or any meat. This step is up to you however, YOU MUST RINSE A BRINED TURKEY (see below).
Brine The Turkey
In a container big enough to hold the turkey comfortably, combine the brine ingredients and submerge the turkey. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight. Discard the brine mixture.
Rinse And Pat Dry
Remove the turkey from the brining solution. Rinse the turkey inside and out under cold running water. This is an important step as the brining solution is quite salty. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. This step helps to get golden crispy skin. Now you are ready to season and roast the turkey.
How to Roast a Turkey
- Preheat the oven: Preheat the oven and have a roasting pan ready.
- Make the Flavored Butter: In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and soy sauce and mix well.
- Stuff the Cavity: Place the turkey breast side up in a roasting pan (you don’t need a roasting rack). Season the cavity lightly with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with aromatics – lemons, thyme, rosemary and sage. Place the remaining aromatics around the turkey in the roasting pan.
- Truss: Loosely tie the turkey legs together with kitchen string. You can tuck the wings under the turkey to prevent the wing tips from getting too dark or burnt.
- Season the Turkey: Using your fingers, carefully loosen and separate the skin from the breast meat. With a spoon, pour some of the melted flavored butter under the skin, trying to get some around the leg/thigh area. You can discard the garlic cloves or place them under the skin or inside the cavity. Pour or brush the remaining flavored butter all over the turkey. Season the turkey lightly with salt and pepper.
- Roast the Turkey: Roast the turkey uncovered, breast side down for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and flip the bird so it roasts breast side up. Roast, basting the turkey every hour until an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit when inserted into the thickest section of the thigh.
- Rest Before Carving: Remove from the oven and rest for about 15 minutes before carving.
You have questions? We have answers!
Do I Have To Truss The Turkey?
No. Trussing by tying the turkey legs is not necessary. Oven heat actually circulates better when the turkey drumsticks are un-tied. Trussing however, helps the skin to get an even golden brown color around the thighs.
Can I Cook A Frozen Turkey?
No, to roast a turkey in the oven you must defrost the turkey fully. Baking a frozen turkey means a cold raw center with crispy skin.
How Long Can I Store A Thawed Or Fresh Turkey In The Refrigerator?
Once your turkey is thawed out or out of its original package, it should be used within 3 days. Same rule applies to fresh turkey.
Can I Prep The Turkey In Advance?
Yes, you can do all the prep and seasoning a day in advance. Keep the turkey in the fridge. Before roasting, allow it to come to room temperature for one hour.
How Much Roasted Turkey Do I Need Per Person?
I like to plan for about one pound of turkey per person (prior to cooking) which is about half a pound of edible meat after discarding inedible parts (like bones). If you have big eaters, plan for one and a quarter pound (1 1/4 pound) per person. If most of your diners only eat white meat, you may need to plan for more or consider making Turkey Breast.
How Long To Roast A Turkey?
This is by far the most asked question regarding cooking a turkey in the oven. How long it takes to cook a turkey depends on the size and weight of your turkey and the oven temperature. A general rule is to calculate 15 minutes of cooking time per pound of unstuffed turkey.
Here are some turkey cooking times according to FDA guidelines. Always make sure you check the internal temperature of the turkey with an instant-read thermometer before consuming. The safe temperature is 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- An unstuffed 10 to 14 pound turkey in a 325 or 350 degree oven should cook for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
- An unstuffed 15 to 22 pound turkey in a 325 or 350 degree oven should cook for about 3 1/4 to 4 hours.
- An unstuffed 23 to 25 pound turkey in a 325 degree oven should cook for about 4 hours.to 4/12 hours.
- An unstuffed 26 to 28 pound turkey in a 325 degree oven should cook for about 5 hours
Is It Better To Roast A Turkey Covered or Uncovered?
For best results, roast your turkey uncovered. If the bird is getting a little bit too brown too quickly, tent a piece of aluminum foil over the specific area.
What If My turkey Isn’t Fully Thawed?
For even cooking, your turkey should be completely thawed out before roasting it. The best method for thawing any meat or poultry is in the refrigerator. It takes approximately 24 hours for every 4 -5 pounds of turkey to defrost. If you are in a rush and need to defrost the turkey quickly, use this safe and quick thawing method:
- Place the turkey (in its original wrap) in a large mixing bowl.
- Fill the bowl with tap water. The water should be at room temperature or mildly warm (about 105 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Open the faucet and let the water run down. The water should be slightly cold. Keep the water running over the turkey. This will keep the water in the bowl from getting too cold.
If your turkey is too big for a mixing bowl you can:
- Place the turkey in a clean sink and close the drain. Fill the sink with tap water. The water should be at room temperature or mildly warm (about 105 degrees Fahrenheit). Try to keep the turkey submerge in the water as much as possible.
- Drain and change the water every 15 minutes. As the turkey thaws out, the water gets very cold. Chilled water won’t help defrost the turkey fast enough!
At What Oven Temperature Should I Roast A Turkey?
This roast turkey recipe cooks in a 325 degree oven. Turkeys up to 22 pounds can be roasted at 350 degrees oven also. For larger turkeys, temperature no higher than 325 degrees Farenheit is the best.
How Do You Know When The Roast Turkey Is Done?
To know when your turkey is done, you should always use an instant read thermometer to test the turkey for doneness. The turkey’s internal temperature should register 165 degrees Farenheit before its consumed.
For accuracy, insert the meat thermometer into the meatier, thickest part of the thigh. This is the part that cooks the slowest. When this part of the turkey is ready, the whole turkey will be ready. You can safely remove the turkey from the oven when the internal temperature checked on the thickest part reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit as the temperature will continue to rise while the turkey rests.
Do I Need A Fancy Expensive Roasting Pan And Rack To Cook A Turkey?
Absolutely not! The fancy roasting pans don’t do a better job than any aluminum roasting pan. I must confess. If I feel particularly lazy during the holidays, I usually use a disposable foil roasting pan. Now if you ask my husband, he will say that the best roasting pan is the one I already have at home (yes, although we are both frugal, I have a weak spot when it comes to buying kitchen stuff).
Homemade Turkey Gravy
There’s nothing quite as delicious as making your own gravy. Canned gravy or instant gravy just don’t measure up to a well seasoned turkey gravy made from the turkey drippings.
For this turkey gravy recipe, I make turkey broth from the neck and giblets. If you want to skip this step, use canned chicken broth instead (or turkey broth). Although the tasty browned bits and the turkey drippings are the main ingredient in this pan gravy, most likely you will need some extra broth to complete the 3 cups of liquid needed (you may not have 3 cups of turkey drippings).
Why Roast a Turkey Breast Side Down First?
Roasting the turkey breast side down for the first hour, pulls the turkey juices towards the turkey breast, which is the part of the turkey that dries up most easily.
I used to roast the turkey breast side down the entire cooking time before I started brining my turkey. The problem was that when the roasting was done, the breast looked unappealing and it wasn’t golden or crispy at all. Flipping a super hot turkey was also quite the ordeal!
To compromise, I now brine the turkey and flip it after an hour. The turkey is not hot inside, but the butter and seasoning had time to sit on the breast to make the meat more flavorful.
If you are cooking a big turkey (over 18 pounds) and you feel flipping the turkey will be too hard for you (I know my grandmother was not a big fan of this step), then simply cook it breast side up during the entire cooking time. There’s no need to stress over flipping a bird!
How To Carve a Roasted Turkey
First, allow the turkey to rest for 15 to 30 minutes before carving it. Then do as follows:
- Slice off the legs and thighs cutting through the skin between the leg and the breast. Pull and twist the leg to break the joint. Cut around the thighs and the legs to remove both pieces from the bird.
- Remove the breasts by slicing down on either side of the breast bone. When you hit the bottom, push the breast meat away from the bone and curving your knife, keep slicing underneath and out until the breast is remove. Repeat to remove the other side of the breast. Slice the breast
- Remove the wings by pulling them and slicing off and through the joint. You can remove the wing tips by cutting them off.
- At this point, you can separate the legs from the thighs if you wish, by cutting through the joint.
Tools needed to Brine and Roast a Turkey
- Large 5-gallon Food-Grade, Non-Reactive Container: For brining (preferably with lid).
- Large Roasting Pan: I don’t use a rack but you can, if you prefer. You can also put some aromatics under the turkey to lift it up.
- Instant Read Thermometer: Any good quality instant-read thermometer will work. You can also use an oven-safe digital thermometer (the kind that stays inside the turkey while it cooks) if you want.
- Kitchen Twine: Also known as butcher’s twine or kitchen string. You will need about 2 feet.
- Turkey Baster: I always get such cheap basters that I have to get a new one each year. Why? I wish I could tell you!
- Aluminum Foil: I prefer heavy duty aluminum foil for a special occasion turkey! It feels more special than regular aluminum foil. Like wearing a nice little black dress – yes, I know it makes no sense but that’s how it feels.
- Gravy Boat: For some odd reason, I spent my first 5 years of marriage not owning a gravy boat. I’m not kidding. Finally my mom gifted me one and I love it!
Juicy Turkey Recipe Tips
- When you roast a turkey, you should always plan for a minimum of 3 hours of cooking time, so if you are planning on serving dinner at 6 pm, don’t start the roasting at 4 pm! That won’t give you enough time.
- To make sure you don’t overcook the turkey, start checking the turkey’s internal temperature about 30 minutes earlier than your per-pound cooking calculations indicate.
- You can safely remove the turkey from the oven when the internal temperature checked in the thickest part reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit as the temperature will continue to rise while the turkey rests.
- If you prefer to roast the turkey breast side up the entire roasting time, it’s OK to do so (check details above).
- Things you should not stress about: I don’t use a rack inside my roasting pan, but if a rack makes you happy go ahead and use one).
More Thanksgiving Recipes That You’ll Love:
- Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon
- Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe
- Homemade Dinner Rolls
- Cauliflower Gratin
- Homemade Mac and Cheese
- Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes
- Maple Oven Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Follow me on social media for more recipe ideas & inspiration!
Juicy Roast Turkey Recipe
For the Brine
For the Turkey
- 1 (10-12 pounds) turkey, fresh or completely thawed out
- 6 tablespoons butter, unsalted
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lemon, quartered
- 1 large onion, quartered
- 2 carrots, cut into 1 inch chunks (peeled or unpeeled)
- 2 celery ribs, cut into 1 inch chunks
- 4 sprigs of thyme
- 4 sprigs of rosemary
- a few sage leaves (optional)
- 1 to 1 ½ cup turkey or chicken stock
Turkey Broth (optional)
- Reserved turkey neck and giblets
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 large carrot, chopped
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 1 small bay leaf
- 3 cups water
- 3 cups low salt chicken stock or broth (canned or homemade)
For The Gravy
- ½ cup white wine
- 3 cups turkey broth or chicken broth, plus more if needed
- ¼ cup flour
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Reserved cooked turkey neck meat and giblets if desired
For the Brine
- In a non-reactive container (like a clean bucket, big stock pot or a food grade plastic container) dissolve the salt and the sugar in 2 gallons of water. Add the rest of the brine ingredients. Mix to dissolve the sugar.
- Remove the neck and bag of giblets from the turkey cavity and discard or reserve for making the broth. Remove giblets from the bag they come in and place them with the turkey neck in a resealable bag or sealed container in the refrigerator until ready to use. Remove any plastic or wire holding the turkey legs together. Remove any astray pin feathers and give the turkey a quick rinse under cold running water (this last step is optional). Details on post above.
- Submerge the turkey into the brining liquid. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours (minimum) or overnight.
- Remove the turkey from the brining solution. RINSE the turkey under cold running water (do not skip this step or you run the risk of having an overly salty turkey). Pat dry the turkey with paper towels (especially the outside of the turkey so the skin crisps up). You can let the turkey air dry for about 30 minutes if time permits.
Seasoning and Roasting The Turkey
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
- To make the flavored butter, in a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic cloves and soy sauce and mix well. Remove from the heat.
- Place the turkey in a large roasting pan breast side up to season it (no roasting rack is needed).
- Start by seasoning inside the cavity lightly with salt and pepper. Stuff the turkey cavity with some of the onions, carrots, celery, lemon, thyme, rosemary and a few sage leaves. Place the remaining aromatics around the turkey in the roasting pan. It is a good idea to place the bigger pieces like carrots, onions and celery under the turkey before roasting.
- Using your fingers, carefully loosen and separate the skin from the breast meat. With a spoon, pour some of the melted flavored butter under the skin, trying to get some around the leg/thigh area. You can discard the garlic cloves or place them under the skin or inside the cavity for extra flavor. Don't place garlic directly on the roasting pan as it could burn.Slowly pour or brush the remaining flavored butter all over the turkey. Season with salt and ground black pepper.
- Loosely tie the turkey drumsticks together with kitchen string. Fold the wings under the turkey (optional). Carefully flip the turkey so the breast side is down.
- Roast the turkey uncovered, breast side down for 1 hour. (see Chef's Note #4). While the turkey is roasting for the first hour, make the turkey broth.
For the Turkey Broth
- In a heavy saucepan place the turkey neck and giblets (the liver should only be added during the last 15 minutes of cooking). Add the chopped onion, carrots, celery and bay leaf. Pour water and broth over and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to medium low and simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until reduced to about 4 cups. If using, add the turkey liver during the last 15 minutes of cooking. Strain the stock and reserve.
- If you like to add bits of turkey neck meat and/or giblets into your gravy, pull the meat from the turkey neck and chop the meat and giblets finely. Reserve.
- After the first hour of roasting, remove the turkey from the oven and carefully flip the bird, breast side up. Baste the turkey with chicken or turkey broth/stock (about 1/4 – 1/2 cup) and return to the oven.
- Continue roasting the turkey uncovered, breast side up for about 2 to 3 hours or until an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit when inserted into the thickest and meatiest part of the thigh (avoid hitting the bone). Baste the turkey with about ½ cup of turkey or chicken broth/stock every hour during the cooking time. See Chef's Note #6
- Remove from the oven and place the turkey on a serving platter or cutting board (if carving). Tent the roasted turkey with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 15 to 30 minutes before carving.
To Make the Gravy
- Discard any vegetables or herbs from the roasting pan and pour the turkey pan juices into a glass measuring cup. Skim off the fat.
- Place the roasting pan on 2 stovetop burners over medium heat. You can also use a saucepan if you prefer although you will be missing the brown bits stuck at the bottom of the roasting pan.
- Return the turkey pan juices into the roasting pan or saucepan. Add the wine and deglaze, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the roasting pan with a wooden spoon. Add 3 cups of the reserved turkey broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to low and simmer while making the roux. (You can use canned broth if you didn't make the turkey broth from scratch)
- In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium high heat. Whisk in the flour to make a roux. Cook this mixture for 2-3 minutes stirring constantly.
- Slowly, pour the simmering stock mixture from the roasting pan into the butter/flour mixture (roux) whisking constantly and vigorously to prevent any lumps. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring as needed until the gravy thickens. Keep in mind that the gravy will continue to get thicker as it sits. Add additional broth to thin it out if needed.
- You can add the reserved chopped neck meat and giblets, if desired. Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper and pour into a gravy boat.
Serving The Turkey
- You can serve the whole roast turkey on a platter, garnished with fresh herbs, sliced citrus and/or whole cranberries or you can carve the turkey before serving it.
- Arrange the carved roast turkey meat on a platter with garnishes. Serve alongside the homemade gravy.
- #1 If you have a very large turkey and need more brining solution, use ½ cup of salt + ½ brown sugar per each gallon of water.
- #2 Always rinse the turkey after removing it from the brining solution.
- #3 Pat dry the turkey with paper towels. You can also air dry the turkey at room temperature for 30 minutes or in the fridge for a couple of hours.
- #4 If your turkey is very large or you feel flipping the turkey breast side up after 1 hour of cooking is too hard, simply roast the turkey breast side up for the entire cooking time.
- #5 If the turkey breast skin is getting too dark, tent a piece of aluminum foil over it to prevent it from over browning.
- #6 It’s important to baste the turkey with broth, however you can use melted butter to baste the turkey the last hour of cooking. Butter will make the skin turn golden quicker, that’s why I only use it the last hour of cooking.
- #7 You can remove the turkey from the oven when an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh. The temperature will rise while the turkey rests reaching a safe-temp of 165 degrees.
This post was first published in 2016 and has been updated to provide the reader with additional information and better quality photos. The recipe remains the same.