Making a perfect Thanksgiving turkey doesn’t have to be difficult! Try this Easy Roast Turkey Recipe with butter, fresh herbs, and garlic for a holiday meal everyone will love.
An Easy Recipe for Perfect Roast Turkey
Roasting a turkey is like baking a chocolate cake. There are a million ways to do it, and it can be very intimidating to sort through all the “must-do” tips and fancy techniques out there! But, chocolate cake doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious, and neither does roast turkey! In fact, I could go out on a limb and say that roasting a turkey with this simple recipe is actually less complicated than baking a cake.
This recipe brings it back to the basics. To make sure the turkey is flavorful, plenty of fresh aromatic herbs are added, along with real butter and fresh garlic. To keep the meat moist and juicy, the turkey gets a salt water brine for 12 to 24 hours beforehand, and that’s it! That’s the secret! There’s no need for adding extra ingredients, more steps, or more time. This Thanksgiving turkey is tasty, juicy, and easy-peasy.
Ingredients and Equipment
The ingredients for this basic recipe are quite simple, and the equipment is minimal. Also, it is important to keep in mind that your turkey should be thawed before you brine and roast it. Here’s what you’ll need:
For the Brine
- Water: A few quarts, to cover the turkey.
- Salt: I use kosher salt. Sea salt would also be good.
For the Turkey
- Whole Turkey: An 8 to 10 pound turkey, thawed.
- Onion: Cut a yellow onion (or any kind of onion) into quarters.
- Garlic: Cut the head of garlic in half.
- Herbs: You will need sprigs of fresh thyme, rosemary, sage, and parsley. You’ll also need a couple of bay leaves.
- Butter: A stick of butter, melted and divided.
- Roasting Pan and Rack: You’ll need a big roasting pan, large enough to comfortably hold the turkey, and a roasting rack that fits inside the pan.
- Foil: For tenting the turkey while it bakes.
- Meat Thermometer: To check for doneness.
How to Make a Perfect Roast Turkey
The main thing to keep in mind with this recipe is to give yourself enough time. The turkey should be thawed, and then chill in the brine for 12 to 24 hours, before you start roasting. And since ovens vary, you may need extra roasting time, as well. Basically, it pays to budget more time than you think you’ll need – that way you won’t have to worry about a time crunch.
- Make the Brine. A whole day before you are planning to roast the turkey, set a saucepan on the stove and warm up 4 cups of water. Take it off the heat, and stir in the salt until it dissolves.
- Brine the Turkey. Remove the giblets from the turkey, and place the turkey in a clean bucket or container that is large enough to hold the turkey and the brine. Pour the salt water brine over the turkey, and then pour in the remaining 3 quarts of water. Make sure the turkey is fully submerged in the brine. If necessary, use a heavy plate to weigh it down. I use my husband’s workout bumper plates. 😆
- Cover the bucket and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
- Rinse. When you’re ready to cook, take the turkey out of the brine and rinse it under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels, inside and out.
- Arrange the Turkey for Roasting. Place a rack in the lowest position of your oven, and set your oven to preheat to 325˚F. Stuff the onion wedges, garlic, herbs, and bay leaves into the turkey’s cavity, and then place the turkey breast-side-up on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. Brush the turkey all over with half of the melted butter, and tent with foil.
- Roast. Roast for 2 hours, and then uncover the turkey. Baste it with the rest of the melted butter, turn up the oven temperature to 425˚F, and roast for about 45 more minutes, or until the internal temperature of the turkey thigh registers at 165˚F.
- Rest. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and let the turkey rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Enjoy! Carve the turkey and serve.
How Long Does It Take to Roast a Turkey?
What if you cook a larger turkey? In general, it should take about 13 to 15 minutes per pound for a turkey to cook through. Make sure you let the turkey roast until the thigh registers at 165˚F, for food safety. Use an Instant Read Meat Thermometer to check for doneness.
Is It Better to Roast a Turkey Covered or Uncovered?
I think it works best to roast covered at first, to keep the meat from drying out as it cooks. Then, roast uncovered so the skin can have a chance to crisp up and turn golden brown. Keep in mind that in this case, “covered” means loosely tented with foil, not tightly covered!
Tips for Success
These helpful tips and pointers are good rules of thumb to keep in mind when you are making roast turkey. Read on, and enjoy!
- Skip the Brine: If necessary, you can skip the brining part of this recipe. However, I highly recommend not skipping it, because the brine makes the turkey so much juicier and more tender.
- When Is Turkey Done? The safest way to test for doneness is to use a meat thermometer. Test in the thickest part of the thigh. If it doesn’t reach 165˚F, keep roasting!
- Rest Time: I get it – if anyone deserves a rest, it’s the cook, right? Well, when cooking turkey (and most other meats), letting it rest before you carve it makes it easier to carve. It also helps the meat stay juicy.
What to Serve with Roast Turkey
Serve this impressive dish with all your favorite holiday side dishes! These are just a few ideas to get you started:
- Cranberry Sauce: This Slow Cooker Spiced Cranberry Sauce is full of the flavors of the season, and its gorgeous red color truly adds beauty to the table.
- Green Bean Casserole: Is a holiday meal complete without it? Try this classic Green Bean Casserole Recipe for a from-scratch, healthy version of everyone’s favorite side.
- Stuffing: Turkey and stuffing are a match made in heaven, especially when the stuffing is this Cheesy Italian Sausage Stuffing! It’s loaded with flavor and easy to make.
How to Store and Reheat the Leftovers
- Leftover roast turkey should be taken off of the bone, and refrigerated in an airtight container, or in zip-top bags. It will keep for 3 to 4 days.
- Reheat the leftover turkey in the oven, microwave, or in a covered skillet over low heat. Add some juices or gravy when reheating to help keep the turkey moist.
- To freeze, let the turkey cool down and take the meat off of the bone. Pack into freezer bags, and mark the bags with the date.
- Freeze for up to 3 months, and always thaw in the refrigerator before reheating and serving.
Easy Roast Turkey Recipe
- 4 quarts water
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 8 to 10 pound whole turkey, thawed
- 1 yellow onion, quartered
- 1 whole garlic bulb, halved
- sprigs of thyme, rosemary, sage, and parsley
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 tablespoons butter, melted and divided
- In a saucepan, warm up 1 quart (4 cups) water.
- Remove from heat and stir in the salt until dissolved.
- Grab a bucket large enough to hold the turkey and the liquid.
- Remove giblets from the turkey, set those aside or discard, and transfer the turkey to the bucket.
- Pour the prepared salt water (brine) over the turkey.
- Then, pour in the remaining 3 quarts of water. Make sure the turkey is submerged; if needed, weigh it down with a heavy plate or stone.
- Cover and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours. NO more than 24 hours.
- When ready to cook, remove the turkey from the brine and rinse under cold water.
- Pat dry the turkey with paper towels, inside and out.
- Adjust a rack in the lowest position of your oven.
- Preheat the oven to 325˚F.
- Stuff the turkey cavity with the onion wedges, garlic halves, herbs, and bay leaves.
- Set the turkey breast-side-up on a roast rack set in a roasting pan.
- Brush the turkey with half of the melted butter.
- Tent with foil and roast for 2 hours.
- Remove the foil and baste the turkey with the rest of the melted butter.
- Increase oven temperature to 425˚F and continue to roast for about 45 more minutes, or until the internal temperature of the turkey thigh registers at 165˚F. Baste every 15 minutes with the juices inside the roasting pan.
- Remove from oven and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving.
- Carve and serve.
- Size of Turkey: You should consider about 1-pound of turkey per person.
- Thawed Turkey: You should consider thawing out the turkey because it can take a lot longer to cook if frozen. Keep in mind that the bigger the turkey, the more time it will need to defrost. You could be talking about 2 to 4 days for just thawing. Yes, you can cook a frozen turkey, but remember that you will need to estimate around 50% longer cooking time.
- Cooking Time for Turkey: A larger, 12 to 14-pound turkey will need up to 4.5 hours in the oven, but a smaller 8 to 10 pound turkey will be done in about 3 hours.
Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.
9 comments on “Easy Roast Turkey Recipe”
This seemed so daunting before. Thanks for this recipe!
I hope you enjoy it! Thank YOU! 🙂
Such an easy dish for the holidays
Please enjoy! Thank YOU! 🙂
This makes me hungry even though I just ate!!
Please enjoy! Thank YOU! 🙂
No doubt, this is really amazing! Definitely a must try!
I will definitely be trying this recipe out this year. Thank you!
This recipe looks really good and easy to follow! Can’t wait to try it!