Cooked to a golden brown with flavorful and tender meat, this Perfect Roast Turkey recipe will be the star of the show on Thanksgiving!
THE PERFECT ROAST TURKEY RECIPE
The holidays are fast approaching and one thing that we always make for Thanksgiving is a turkey. Most of the time we fry our turkey but what if you don't have a fryer? This recipe for easy Roast Turkey is always my go-to recipe when roasting in an oven. Rubbed with a tasty herb butter and stuffed with onions, garlic, lemons and more herbs, there is no lack of flavor when it comes to this recipe! The meat is incredibly flavorful. No bland turkey allowed! Slice it up and serve with your favorite sides and you'll have the perfect Thanksgiving meal. So look no further for a turkey recipe, this is the one!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
I roast our turkey at 325F and the time it takes depends on pounds. I used a 15 pound turkey here which took almost 4 hours. The times for cooking turkey are as follows:
*8-12 pounds (2 ¾ - 3 hours)
*12-14 pounds (3 - 3 ¾ hours)
*14-18 pounds (3 ¾ - 4 ¼ hours)
*18-20 pounds (4 ¼ - 4 ½ hours)
*20-24 pounds (4 ½ - 5 hours)
Note: always take the internal temperature of the turkey to ensure doneness.
Nope. I watched a show on America's Test Kitchen once where they did a test with basting and not basting. The basted turkey ended up with really tough skin and actually slowed down the cooking process. So nope, don't baste. It's absolutely not necessary and does nothing for moistness.
This depends on the turkeys' size. If you have a turkey that is over 14 pounds you will want to roast it at 325F degrees and if it's under 14 pounds, you'll want to roast it at 350F degrees. Roasting at a higher temperature can make the turkey meat become dry, so having a kitchen thermometer is necessary because the turkey will be done when the center reaches about 165F degrees. Measure the thickest part of the meat without touching the bone.
Letting the turkey rest (tented with foil) after it is done cooking ensures that the turkey will be moist. We let our turkey rest for at least 30 minutes. This gives the meat time to redistribute the juices. If you cut into it right away, you'll notice a lot of the juices just pour out. Resting helps to keep those juices within the meat.
This is a cooks personal preference on how they want their turkey. Some cover the whole thing the full baking time, some cover it at the end, some don't cover it at all. We do not cover our turkey when we are roasting it. We do this to baste and to achieve the color that we want, which is a nice and golden skin. The only time we will cover or tent our turkey is if it is browning too quickly and then also after the turkey is done and is resting.
Frozen turkeys do not thaw as quickly as other meat. What you will want to do is place your turkey, while still in the packaging and breast side up, in the refrigerator. Thawing time will be 24 hours for every 4 pounds of turkey. So, for example, I had a 14 pound turkey here. It took me almost 4 full days for this turkey to completely thaw. Then set the turkey on the counter or in your sink to come to room temperature before you prepare it for roasting.
Also, see my post on HOW TO FRY A TURKEY as I give some tips on how to thaw your turkey quicker if you forgot to take your turkey out of the freezer in time.
This is where a kitchen thermometer comes in handy and is the best way to ensure your turkey isn't overcooked or undercooked. No one wants to cut into a turkey that still has pink meat or is crumbly and dry. Meat thermometers are so cheap and definitely worth getting!
Your turkey will be done once it is golden brown and the thermometer reads between 165-170 degrees F. Don't forget to insert your thermometer into the thickest part of the meat (without touching a bone). If you are touching a bone then you will get an inaccurate temperature because the bone will be hotter than the meat.
You absolutely can! You will just need a large enough container that will allow the turkey to be completely immersed in the brine. If you choose to brine your turkey, this will add extra moisture to the turkey and some extra flavor from the salt. If you choose to brine, you will want the turkey to brine for at least 8 hours. Keep in mind, the turkey has to be completely thawed before adding it to the brine or the brine won't be able to do its job.
The basic turkey brine recipe is 4 quarts of water mixed with 1 cup of kosher salt.
The best measurement for this is to plan for each person to have about 1-¼ pounds. This is also a great indicator on what size turkey you should buy.
Some ideas include: Green Bean Casserole, Stuffing, Corn Casserole, Mashed Potatoes, Sweet Potato Casserole and of course my famous Butter Dip Biscuits.
I feel that actually having a visual guide on carving a turkey is better than written instructions so you can view this video here on how to carve a turkey.
As long as it’s big enough and deep enough to hold the drippings. If you don’t mind your turkey roasting in the drippings then go ahead and use a pan that is big enough.
Note: You could also use a cooling rack (that you would use to cool baked goods) and place that into a deep casserole dish. This allows the air to circulate around the whole turkey and will create a beautiful golden color all the way around.
I prefer to use the giblets (which usually consists of the turkey neck bone, heart, gizzard and the kidneys) to make a deliciously rich turkey gravy. However, you do not need to keep them. Just make sure you take that bag out before roasting though.
Fresh herbs are really going to give you such an amazing flavor here so try to get the fresh. You could use dried if you have no other choice. For measurements, you would use about half of the dried herbs than you would with fresh.
After the turkey has been cooked and cooled completely, place into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Cooked turkey can also be frozen. Store in a freezer bag and it will keep for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight.
INGREDIENTS NEEDED: (FULL RECIPE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE POST)
- whole turkey
- yellow onions
- unsalted butter
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- kitchen twine (optional)
HOW TO MAKE ROAST TURKEY:
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Bring the top rack lower to allow the turkey to be put into the oven in the lower half of the oven. After your turkey has come close to room temperature, pat the entire turkey dry with a paper towel. The bird needs to be as dry as possible. Add turkey to a roasting pan with a rack. In a small mixing bowl, add the butter, olive oil, 2 chopped garlic cloves, zest and juice from 1 ½ lemons, parsley, two tablespoons of chopped sage leaves, 1 tablespoon of chopped rosemary leaves and one tablespoon of chopped thyme leaves. Mix ingredients well to create an herb butter.
Lift a little of the skin covering the breast and gently push your fingers under the skin of the turkey as far as you can without ripping the skin. It’s important to keep the skin from tearing. Some people use a wooden spoon handle for this part, this is up to you, I prefer to feel the skin come away from the breast. The person with the shortest nails in the family should do this part.
Take half of the herb butter and stuff under the skin. Evenly spread the butter underneath the skin (this is why it’s important to keep the skin intact, you want to keep the butter inside adding moisture).
After that, take the remaining butter and spread all over the outside of the turkey. Over the breasts, legs and wings.
Lift the bird and salt and pepper inside the cavity. Stuff the remaining lemon halves, onion halves, herbs and garlic cloves (peeled and smashed) inside the turkey.
Tie the two legs together with kitchen twine. This step is optional if you don’t have any. It just makes for a prettier presentation after roasting but is not absolutely necessary.
Insert an oven safe thermometer into the turkey. If you don't have a corded thermometer like this one. Just skip this step but use your handheld thermometer after the turkey has cooked for at least a couple of hours.
Put the turkey into the oven, uncovered, and roast for 3 ¾ - 4 ¼ hours. The turkey will be done when the thermometer reads between 165°F-170°F. Remove the turkey and make a tent out of foil to cover.
Allow the turkey to rest in its own steam for a minimum of 30 minutes. This is important to keep a nice moist turkey.
Carve, removing legs first, then the breasts (keeping them whole), then slicing after. Serve with my RECIPE FOR PERFECT TURKEY GRAVY.
WANT MORE HOLIDAY RECIPES?
Perfect Roast Turkey
- 15 pound whole turkey (save the gizzards to use for a gravy)
- 1 ½ cups unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 bulb garlic divided use
- 3 lemons divided use
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ cup fresh sage leaves divided use
- 3 sprigs fresh rosemary divided use
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme divided use
- salt and pepper
- 2 yellow onions chopped in half
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Bring the top rack lower to allow the turkey to be put into the oven in the lower half of the oven.
- After your turkey has come close to room temperature. Remove any gizzards inside the turkey cavity. Pat the entire turkey dry with a paper towel. The bird needs to be as dry as possible. Add turkey to a roasting pan with a rack.
- In a small mixing bowl, add the butter, olive oil, 2 chopped garlic cloves, zest and juice from 1 ½ lemons, parsley, 2 tablespoons chopped sage leaves, 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary leaves and 1 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves. Mix ingredients well to create an herb butter.
- Lift a little of the skin covering the breast and gently push your fingers under the skin of the turkey as far as you can without ripping the skin. It’s important to keep the skin from tearing so don't rush this step.
- Take half of the herb butter and stuff under the skin. Evenly spread the butter underneath the skin (this is why it’s important to keep the skin intact, you want to keep the butter inside adding moisture).
- After that, take the remaining butter and spread all over the outside of the turkey. Over the breasts, legs and wings.
- Lift the bird and salt and pepper inside the cavity. Stuff the remaining lemon halves, onion halves, the rest of the herbs and garlic cloves (peeled and smashed) inside the turkey.
- Tie the two legs together with kitchen twine. This step is optional if you don’t have any. It just makes for a prettier presentation after roasting but is not absolutely necessary.
- Put the turkey into the oven, uncovered, and roast for 3 ¾ - 4 ¼ hours. The turkey will be done when the thermometer reads an internal temperature between 165°F-170°F (remember to insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey without touching a bone).
- Remove the turkey and make a tent out of foil to cover.
- Allow the turkey to rest in its own steam for a minimum of 30 minutes. This is important to keep a nice moist turkey.
- Carve, removing legs first, then the breasts (keeping them whole), then slicing after.
- Serve with my favorite TURKEY GRAVY RECIPE.
- This can be frozen, see my tips above.
- Depending on the size of your turkey it will take different times to cook, see my measurements above.
- Make sure your turkey is fully defrosted, it can take 24 hours per 4 pounds of turkey to thaw.
- Do not forget to let your turkey rest and tent it after cooking. This helps to redistribute the juices.
“The Country Cook” is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, we recommend running the ingredients through whichever online nutritional calculator you prefer. Calories can vary quite a bit depending on which brands were used.
After letting the turkey rest for 30 min, isn't it cold when you serve it? Do you cook the stuffing separately? My mom always baked the turkey with stuffing in a Reynolds bag. I remember it was always so good. Is it better to cook it your way? Is cooking it in a Reynolds bag bad? Please help.
Brandie @ The Country Cook
To almost everyone, the way their Mom made something will always be the best way. I don’t use bags as they tend to steam the meat which isn’t a bad thing and cooking it in a bag isn’t a bad thing at all, but I like crispy skin and the golden brown color you get without a bag. I also don’t like the turkey sitting in its own juices since the bottom half of the turkey doesn’t get as crispy golden. But a lot of people like the bags and if it works for them then I say go for it. It’s really just about your preference and what you feel up to doing. There really isn’t a wrong way and there are as many variations as there are people in this world and you know what? Most of them turn out great even though they’re different (but they’ll all tell you it’s the ONLY way to do it right! LOL) I’ve made a million turkeys a million different ways. This is just one way to do it. 🙂 but if you loved how your Momma did it and how it tasted, you should definitely stick with what you love!
Also no the turkey isn’t cold. That’s why you’re covering it with foil. I would also serve with a nice, warm gravy. I have a gravy I’m posting tomorrow.
I always make stuffing separately. It’s a cross contamination worry for me. I don’t want salmonella poisoning on Thanksgiving. Plus the stuffing doesn’t give added flavor to the meat itself like it does when you stuff it with garlic & lemons & onions. It flavors from the inside out.
Thank you Brandie for your quick answer. I love your site and never miss reading it. I've tried many of your recipes and they have mostly all been a success for me. So I trust you. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Brandie @ The Country Cook
I'm always happy to help! Thank you so much for your sweet words. If you have any more questions between now and Thanksgiving, just ask! I'll be here except for Thanksgiving day since I take that day off. 🙂