A classic turkey recipe for making the best oven roasted Thanksgiving turkey ever! It starts with a brine, gets smothered in lemon herb butter, and ends with a perfectly roasted whole turkey to feed your Thanksgiving crowd!
I’ve done it all. Over cooked, undercooked, bland, you name it. Thanksgiving has always been a stitch lame to me because the turkey was absolutely never exciting, hence why I loved the leftover sandwiches the best!
Mmmmm, potato rolls, mayo, turkey and a little cheese! Or, lately I’ve been doing a little cream cheese, poppyseed dressing, cheese and turkey on a roll and oh my goodness it’s life-changing.
But back to the turkey, you guys I’m serious I have spent every year for the past 15 years trying to figure out a good turkey recipe and this is it. The secrets are for sure brining and proper herbs and rest time three things to make the perfect combo.
How to Roast a Whole Turkey
Roasting a whole turkey starts with a 24 hour brine. Head to our favorite turkey brine recipe for all the details of why to brine, how to brine and what goes into the brine.
After the turkey brines, remove the turkey from the brine, pat it dry with paper towels and put it on a baking sheet uncovered. Stick it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours to dry the skin the out. This helps it gets deliciously crispy when it roasts. You can let the turkey sit in the fridge for 2 days. Just turn the bird upside down and right side up every 12 hours.
When you are ready to start roasting the turkey, pull it out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature for an hour. Because turkeys are very large in size it can be difficult to properly cook them. To help with this we turned to a technique we use in our Best Prime Rib recipe. Allowing the turkey to sit out for a bit takes the chill off and allows an evenly cooked bird. Do not let it sit out for longer than an hour.
When the turkey has been sitting out close to an hour, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Then in the bottom of a large roasting pan, add the apple cider and enough cooking wine (or regular wine) to fill the pan to a 1/4-inch depth. Place half of the quartered onions, 6 garlic cloves and the bay leaves in the pan. Now your roasting pan is prepped for the bird.
Lemon Herb Butter
Melt the butter and add the lemon zest, garlic, sage, thyme and savory and mix everything together. Loosen the skin on the turkey and put a few tablespoons of butter directly onto the meat, under the skin and massage it around. Brush the turkey skin generously with remaining herbed melted butter.
Stick the remaining onion quarters, herb bunches and the lemon quarters not used in the bottom of the roasting pan into the turkey cavity. Place turkey, breast side up, on a roasting rack set inside the roasting pan. Transfer pan to the oven and roast 30 minutes at 450 degrees.
Open the oven and cover the turkey with aluminum foil. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a thigh (without touching bones) reaches a temperature of 160-165 degrees. It will take about 2-2 1/2 hours more. Transfer turkey to a cutting board and allow it to rest for 30 minutes before carving.
And just like that, you have a beautiful whole roasted Thanksgiving turkey. It looks fancy, complicated and like loads of work, but it’s really simple! You’ll never use another roasted turkey recipe again!
What to Eat with Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey
Let me just suggest a few of the best Thanksgiving sides you could ever want!
- Best Mashed Potatoes
- Potato Rolls
- Sweet Potato Souffle
- Green Bean Casserole
- Candied Pecan Bacon Brussel Sprouts
- Sausage Stuffing
- Pecan Pie
- Pumpkin Pie
- Razzleberry Pie
In fact, we have about a million Thanksgiving recipes and they can all be found here!
Do You Have To Brine a Turkey?
Well, you don’t technically have to do anything, but I highly recommend brining. It is a game -changer for roasting turkey. It tenderizes the meat, keeps it from drying out, packs it full of flavor, and really shouldn’t be skipped.
How Long Will a Fresh Turkey Keep in the Refrigerator?
A fresh, raw turkey should not be stored for anymore than 2 days in the refrigerator.
How Long Does It Take to Thaw a Turkey?
The safest way to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator. A frozen turkey requires about 24 hours in the refrigerator for every 5 pounds of turkey. I check it everyday to see how it is progressing. Sometimes it will need a little longer. If you find it is ready earlier than you want, get it brining. You have a day or so buffer with the brine and refrigerator resting time.
Do You Cover a Turkey When Roasting?
The answer is yes and no. For the first half hour, you roast the turkey uncovered at a high temperature. For the remaining time, you cover the turkey with aluminum foil and roast at a lower temperature until an internal temperature of 160-165 degrees is reached.
At What Temperature Is Turkey Done?
According to the USDA, a safe internal temperature for a whole turkey is 165 degrees. We like to pull it out between 160 and 165 degrees as it continues to cook after it is pulled out of the oven.
How Do You Keep Turkey From Drying Out?
If you follow this turkey recipe, you shouldn’t have any problem with dry turkey. Several things help prevent dryness – brining, lemon herb butter, covering while roasting at the appropriate time, and resting after the roasting is complete.
Can You Freeze Left-Over Turkey?
Turkey freezes very well. Remove it all from the bones and freeze in an airtight container. It lasts in the freezer for up to 3 months. We like to use leftover turkey in our Turkey Tetrazzini.
I have done all the leg work, all the testing, and all the tasting to know that this is the best oven roasted turkey recipe ever! Brine, rest, butter, roast, rest, carve and voila…your Thanksgiving turkey is ready! Now just serve up some green beans and potatoes in an instant pot and you’ve got dinner.
More Turkey Recipes You’ll Love:
- Deep Fried Turkey
- Turkey in a Bowl
- Herb Roasted Turkey Breast
- Turkey Pot Pie Soup
- The Ultimate Leftover Turkey Club
- Award Winning Instant Pot Turkey
- Thanksgiving Leftovers Turkey Tetrazzini
- Apple Pecan Smoked Turkey Breast
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The Best Oven Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey Ever
- 3/4 Cup Butter unsalted
- 1 Lemon zest
- 4 Cloves Garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon Sage fresh, chopped
- 1 teaspoon Thyme fresh, chopped
- 1 teaspoon Savory fresh, chopped *see note
- 12-14 pounds Turkey fresh
- 1 1/2 Cups Apple Cider
- White Cooking Wine or real wine
- Kosher Salt
- Black Pepper Freshly ground
- 6 Bay Leaves
- 6 Cloves Garlic
- 1 Bunch Thyme fresh
- 1 Bunch Sage fresh
- 1 Lemon quartered
- 3 Onions yellow, quartered
For The Brine
- Follow the instruction as written in My Favorite Turkey Brine Recipe (see link above)
For The Turkey
- Remove turkey from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Place turkey, uncovered, back on the baking sheet. Return to the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours to dry out the skin (this helps crisp it).
- When you are ready to cook the turkey, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature for one hour.
- Melt the butter and add the lemon zest, garlic, sage, thyme and savory
- Heat oven to 450 degrees. In the bottom of a large roasting pan, add the cider and enough cooking wine to fill the pan to a 1/4-inch depth. Add half the onions, 6 garlic cloves and the bay leaves. Stuff the remaining onion quarters, herb bunches and the lemon quarters into the turkey cavity. Loosen the skin on the turkey and put a few tablespoons of butter right on the meat, under the skin. Brush the turkey skin generously with remaining herbed melted butter.
- Place turkey, breast side up, on a roasting rack set inside the roasting pan. Transfer pan to the oven and roast 30 minutes. Pull the oven open and slide the turkey out. Cover breast with aluminum foil. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a thigh reaches a temperature of 160-165 degrees, about 2-2/12 hours more. Transfer turkey to a cutting board to rest for 30 minutes before carving.
- If you can't find savory at the grocery store, then equal parts thyme, marjoram and sage can be used instead.
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