This simple recipe for roast turkey is tender, juicy, and packed with savory herb butter. Perfect for Thanksgiving or as the centerpiece of a home-cooked meal!
Roast turkey has to be one of the most controversial recipes of all time. I often find myself wondering why so many people are nervous to try their hand at making it. I think it’s important to keep in mind that you are basically dealing with a huge chicken. Patience is your only obstacle and the technique is quite similar.
Whether you’ve been put in charge of making the turkey for Thanksgiving (you got this!) or your just craving an elaborate home-cooked meal, this recipe is truly foolproof. After years of testing it in my own kitchen, I’m confident you’ll be a perfect turkey roasting master in no time. Just follow the step-by-step instructions and you’ll be golden.
First, a little handy guide on how to thaw a turkey properly…
Should I roast my turkey at 325°F or 350°F?
The sweet spot for roasting turkey is 325°F. Any higher, and you risk your bird drying out. Refer to the handy chart below to guide you
How to Roast a Moist Turkey
Making a moist, roast turkey is not as difficult as it’s made out to be. Below, find a quick hitter overview of the recipe before you dive in.
- Make the Herb Butter: Dice the herbs and add them to a mixing bowl. Press the garlic cloves into the bowl and season generously with salt and pepper. Add the softened butter to the bowl and stir until well-combined. Place about 70% of the butter into a plastic bag and form it into a log at the very bottom. Place the bag into the fridge to harden the butter.
- Prep the Roasting Pan: Dice the carrots and celery into big pieces and place them into the bottom of a roasting pan. Pour the broth on top of the veggies and insert the wire roasting rack.
- Prep the Turkey: Rinse the turkey in the sink, remove the giblets, and pat it dry of any excess moisture. Place the turkey on the wire roasting rack. Using your fingers, loosen the turkey skin from the flesh.
- Season the Turkey: Slice the herb butter into coins and evenly distribute them underneath the skin. Season the turkey liberally with kosher salt and black pepper. Tie the turkey legs together with twine. Next, stuff the turkey with the onion halves and spread the remaining butter all over the outer skin.
- Bake the Turkey: Bake the turkey uncovered at 350°F for 3-5 hours depending on the weight.
- Carve the Turkey: Allow the turkey to rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before carving it. You did it! Enjoy!
Tips & Tricks
Below, find a handful of helpful tips and tricks to help you make the best roast turkey.
- Be generous with the seasoning. You’re dealing with a big bird, so don’t skimp on the salt and pepper. Make sure the entire bird is covered in it. If you think you’ve added enough, add a couple more shakes of each.
- Mix and match your favorite herbs. Feel free to use whatever herbs you like for the butter. You truly can’t go wrong! Use one or a combination of fresh thyme, dill, cilantro, or parsley. Just make sure they’re fresh and not dried for maximum flavor.
- Cook the bird uncovered. There’s a lot of debate surrounding whether or not you should cook a turkey covered or uncovered. By pouring the broth into the bottom of your pan, you’ll create a steaming effect that will prevent your turkey from burning. Seriously, there’s no need to cover it!
- Allow the turkey to rest. Give the turkey at least 20 minutes to rest before you carve it. This will seal in all the juices and make it that much tastier.
- Save the turkey juices for gravy. All the lovely turkey drippings and melted butter at the bottom of the pan make for a wonderful gravy. Don’t waste them!
Hot Tip: Enlist the help of a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey. Pierce it into the thickest part of the bird (the breast) and make sure it reads 155°F before you remove it from the oven. The safe internal temperature is 165°F, but you can expect the turkey will cook the additional 10°F as it rests before carving.
Serving Roast Turkey
The beauty of roast turkey is that it can be served in so many different ways. For a classic Thanksgiving dinner or comfort meal, pair it with creamy mashed potatoes or the best cheesy scalloped potatoes, brussels sprouts with bacon, and no-knead bread. If you have a leftovers (which you will!), use them to make focaccia sandwiches.
Storing Leftover Turkey
- Refrigerator: Store leftover turkey in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will keep for 3-4 days.
- Freezer: If you have a ton of leftover roast turkey, freeze it! To do so, place the carved pieces in a freezer-safe bag and store them for up to 3 months. To thaw, place the bag in the refrigerator overnight.
Reheating Tip: To reheat leftover turkey, pop it in the microwave for a couple of minutes or reheat it in a skillet with butter. Alternatively, you can pop refrigerated or frozen turkey directly into a hot broth for an easy soup protein.
Do you cook a turkey covered or uncovered?
You should cook your turkey uncovered. The moisture at the bottom of the roasting pan will keep it from burning. If you don’t want super crispy skin, feel free to cover the turkey in the last hour of cooking.
How long does it take to roast a turkey?
It takes a turkey 3-5 hours to roast at 350°F depending on the size. As a general thumb, you should allow for 13 minutes per pound.
Do you put water in the bottom of the roasting pan when cooking a turkey?
You should put broth at the bottom of the roasting pan versus water. Broth will give the turkey such a nice flavor, while also making for an amazing base for gravy.
Should a turkey be washed before roasting?
Yes, a turkey should always be washed before roasting. All you need to do is run it under cool water in your sink. Then, pat it dry of any excess moisture with a paper towel.
At what temperature do you roast a turkey?
The perfect temperature to roast turkey at is 350°F.
Other Turkey Recipes
- Turkey Necks Recipe – Slow-roasted turkey necks
- How To Make A Smoked Turkey – Easy smoked turkey
- Turkey Neck Soup – Heartwarming turkey and potato soup
- Ground Turkey Stuffed Bell Peppers – Italian turkey stuffed peppers
- 1 turkey about 12-14lb
- 1/2 bunch herbs dill, parsley, cilantro
- 1/2 head of garlic
- 3 sticks of unsalted butter
- 5 medium carrots
- 1 bunch celery
- 1 qt broth beef, turkey or chicken
- 1 tbsp salt adjust to taste
- 1/2 tbsp ground black pepper adjust to taste
- Chop the herbs and add them to a medium-sized mixing bowl. Press the garlic cloves into the bowl. Season generously with salt and pepper.
- Add the softened butter into the herb mixture.
- Place about 70% of the herb butter into a plastic storage bag. Press it towards the bottom of the bag, forming a log shape. Place the bag in the refrigerator to harden.
- Dice the carrots and celery into large chunks. Place the veggies into the bottom of a large roasting dish with a detachable roasting rack. Pour the broth directly over the veggies. Place the wire roasting rack inside the dish.
- Rinse the turkey in the sink, remove the giblets, and pat it dry with paper towels. Place the turkey inside the roasting dish on top of the wire roasting rack. Carefully, use your fingers to loosen the skin away from the flesh, being extra careful not to rip it.
- Slice the herb butter into 1/4-inch thick coins. Lift the skin and evenly distribute the butter coins underneath it. Season the outer turkey skin very generously with salt and pepper. Tie the turkey legs together with twine.
- Remove the skin from the two onions and cut them in half. Stuff the onion pieces inside the cavity of the turkey. Spread the leftover butter on top of the turkey. Bake the turkey uncovered at 350°F for 3-5 hours depending on the weight. Note: A 12-14 pound turkey will take about 3-3.5 hours to bake. Tack on an extra 13 minutes per pound if your turkey is heavier.
- Allow the turkey to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes before carving it. Save all the drippings and broth at the bottom of the roasting pan for gravy. Slice and enjoy!
What is your opinion of baking turkey in a bag?
Hi Nadia, I don't see anything wrong with it, I love that the turkey comes out super juicy! Have a happy thanksgiving!
Great Turkey recipe - easy to make and so juicy and delicious!
Thank you, Melissa! So glad you found this recipe both simple and tasty - that's what we're all about.
This is such an easy and delicious recipe!! LOVE it!
Hello Jennifer, I am so glad you found the recipe easy to follow, thank you for taking the time to comment!
this is perfect, thank you so much!
Hi Tiff, I am so glad you loved this recipe, thank you for taking the time to comment your feedback!
Hi Natasha! I'm going to be cooking a turkey for the very first time in my life this year and decided on your recipe. Thank you! If one doesn't have a wire rack to place into the roasting pan, what would be the next best thing? Placing the turkey directly into the bullion probably wouldn't be a good idea I think.
Hey!! Thanks for choosing my recipe! It would be good to lift the turkey a bit, you want the heat to travel all around. I seen people place ramekins upside down or balls of aluminum foil. If you google for "DIY Roasting Rack for turkey" you will se some neat options. 🙂 Hope this helps!
Natasha what would be a cooking time for 19lbs turkey? Can't find the notes
If you are baking it at 350f, it should be in the oven for 4-5 hours.
I can't wait to try this recipe 🙂 is there anything I can substitute the celery for?
You can skip on celery if you dont like it. Personally I dont like celery, but when it cooks it adds great flavors so I dont mind it.
I love that you put the butter in disks under the skin; it must make it a whole lot easier to get it under there without getting it all over your hands. I think I need to buy myself a roasting pan. I've been borrowing my mom's for years 🙂 Good thing she lives just 5 minutes away! What kind of pan are you using?
Yes, the little coin butter is easy to just stick under the skin. I had to apply some butter on the outside, it was a mess 😉
I am also using my moms, I hate clutter so at any cost I avoid buying kitchen tools. But I have seen some nice turkey pans at TJ Maxx and Marshalls, great price too.
Umm... once again, LOOOOVE the light colored background and large vertical picture as the preview!
and your turkey? Yum, yum, yum! Delicious!
Thank you dear! It's a great compliment to receive form a pro like you! Yeah, the turkey is pretty delicious.
Looks amazing. Thank you for the recipe.
Hi Natasha, thank you very much! It a very delicious turkey recipe. I hope it makes your Thanksgiving a bit more perfect on Thanksgiving 🙂