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!

Simple Roast Turkey on a serving tray

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…

Image with thaw instructions

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.

FAQ

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.

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About Author

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Natalya Drozhzhin

Natalya founded Momsdish to demonstrate that placing a homemade meal on the table is not hard at all. Natalya makes cooking easier and approachable, by simplifying the ingredients, while still producing the same great taste.