When I was a kid, I remember being fascinated with my mom’s whole roast turkey recipe. Learning how to cook a whole turkey seemed intimidating but it always came out perfectly moist and tender. My first attempt at cooking a whole turkey was a total fail, but I learned what to do to make it savory, moist, and absolutely delightful, and now you can too. Here is the best Thanksgiving turkey recipe that we share every year!
How to cook a whole Turkey (Best Turkey Recipe)
Cooking a whole turkey might seem like a big challenge since it’s usually the centerpiece to a special meal, particularly during the holidays. But this is the best turkey recipe because it uses simple ingredient that bring about beautiful results in presentation and flavor.
Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey Ingredients
- Whole Turkey – well, obviously!
- Yellow onions – these make for pungent aromatics.
- Baby red potatoes – creates a base under the turkey while keeping the bottom of the pan for perfect circulation.
- Carrots – gives your baked turkey some color when serving, plus they taste so good with the herb butter and turkey juices.
- Fresh herbs – rosemary, sage, and thyme combination make the perfect turkey seasoning.
- Lemon – creates a dazzling flavor.
- Garlic – for the herb butter.
- Unsalted butter – choose unsalted as you’ll be salting the turkey.
Easy Turkey Recipe
When cooking a turkey in the oven the baking time takes several hours. However, this easy turkey recipe is prepped in just 30 minutes. As it bakes, you can focus on the rest of your meal. Ideally, you’ll have prepped all that before too and you can finally put your feet up (or sneak a glass of wine!).
Somethings up…the farmer just unfriended me on Facebook.
Tom the Turkey
How do you Make Roast Turkey
If you want things to go smoothly, you should remember to let your turkey sit on the counter for an hour to come to room temperature. You’ll prep the roasting dish with veggies and get the herb butter ready. After that, you’re ready to start on the turkey. When preparing a turkey, don’t forget to remove the neck and giblets from the inside first. Then, pat the turkey dry while seasoning it inside and out with salt and pepper.
Fill the cavity with aromatics, put the herb butter under the skin, and bake it. You’ll soon be reveling in the smell of savory baked turkey.
Expert Tips and Tricks for the Perfect Turkey Every Time
- Plenty of thawing time – Allow enough time for your turkey to thaw in the fridge. Do not even try baking a turkey if it’s still frozen.
- Stuff your turkey with aromatics – This recipe calls for lemon, fresh herbs, and onion to go into the cavity. It makes the meat more moist and imparts the perfect flavor in oven roasted turkey.
- Don’t forget to remove the giblets – My mom likes to tell me about the first turkey she ever made. She didn’t know that bag was in there and needless to say, her kitchen filled up with stinky smoke and they wound up going out to eat.
How to Cook a Thanksgiving Turkey
There are several ways to cook a turkey, however a roast turkey recipe is the most traditional and best way to cook a turkey. Once you do all the prep work, cooking a turkey is easy. Make it easy on yourself by getting everything ready beforehand so all you have to do is put it together and bake the bird.
How do you prepare a turkey?
You’ll need to make sure it is thawed completely. Then you will have to remove the neck and giblets which come in a bag that can be found inside the turkey. From there, you’ll pat it dry and season it, stuffing it with aromatic herbs and spreading butter under the skin to keep it moist.
What is the best way to season a turkey?
Seasoning inside the bird as well as seasoning under the skin are among the best ways to season a turkey. This will add so much more flavor and keep the meat juicy.
What can I put in my turkey for flavor?
Lemon, onion, and herbs like rosemary, sage, and thyme are all wonderful aromatics to put in your turkey. This helps give it more flavor and a heavenly aroma too.
Do I butter or oil my turkey?
Butter is best for adding a beautiful, rich flavor while keeping the turkey meat moist. Plus, it helps the skin get nice and golden brown. The skin over the turkey breast is very thin and will be be the first to brown.
Should I put butter under the skin of my turkey?
Butter under the turkey skin is one of the best tricks for a perfect bird. But go a step further and use my herb butter to get the most delightful flavor of all.
How do I Keep my Turkey Moist
My secret is using the herb butter under the skin. Not only does it add amazing flavor, but it also serves to keep the meat tender and moist.
How can I prepare my turkey the night before Thanksgiving?
You can season it and get it ready the night before. If you choose to butter it at this point, you should plan on buttering it again before it goes in the oven to help the skin brown up nicely.
What temperature to cook a turkey?
The standard oven temperature for turkey is 325°F, which is the the lowest temperature the USDA recommends cooking turkey.
Turkey Cook Time – How long to cook a whole turkey in the oven?
Knowing how long to cook a whole turkey in the oven will vary depending on the weight of your turkey. The rule of thumb is to check the weight of your turkey (it should say on the sticker label) and cook it for 15-20 minutes at 325°F per pound of turkey (unstuffed). The best way to not overcook or undercook your turkey is to use a meat thermometer to check the turkey internal temperature. The USDA recommends the turkey internal temp to reach 165°F.
How long to cook a 10 lb turkey?
Using a conventional oven you will need to cook a 10 lb turkey for 2.5 hours to 3 hours and 20 minutes at 325°F until the internal temp reaches 165°F.
How long to cook a 12 lb turkey?
Using a conventional oven you will need to cook a 12 lb turkey for 3 hours to 4 hours at 325°F until the internal temp reaches 165°F.
How long to cook a 14 lb turkey?
Using a conventional oven you will need to cook a 14 lb turkey for 3.5 hours to 4 hours and 40 minutes at 325°F until the internal temp reaches 165°F.
How long to cook a 16 lb turkey?
Using a conventional oven you will need to cook a 16 lb turkey for 4 hours to 5 hours and 20 minutes at 325°F until the internal temp reaches 165°F.
How long to cook a 18 lb turkey?
Using a conventional oven you will need to cook a 18 lb turkey for 4.5 hours to 6 hours at 325°F.until the internal temp reaches 165°F.
How long to cook a 20 lb turkey?
Using a conventional oven you will need to cook a 20 lb turkey for 5 hours to 6 hours and 40 minutes at 325°F until the internal temp reaches 165°F.
Is it better to cook a turkey at 325F or 350F?
This recipe goes with 325F for cooking turkey, the perfect temperature to cook it effectively without overdoing it. You can use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey.
How do you roast a turkey without drying it out?
Pay attention to your turkey roasting time. The turkey cooking time per pound is 15 to 20 minutes at 325°F per every pound of unstuffed turkey. Your thermometer can help you be certain it’s cooked to 165°F internally.
Do you put water in the bottom of the turkey pan?
There’s no need to do that. With the turkey drippings and juices coming out all over the veggies at the bottom, there will be plenty of delightful turkey broth soon enough as the base for your turkey gravy.
Do you cook a turkey covered or uncovered?
Some people cover their turkeys, but that won’t let the skin brown up. You need to get that golden skin first. Then you can cover it up as you wish.
How often do I baste a turkey?
Basting a turkey is not required, but if you choose to do so, go with 30-minute intervals.
What to Serve with Baked Turkey (Side Dishes)
With this baked turkey recipe, you will have red potatoes, onions, and carrots at the bottom of your roasting pan. But you’ll likely want some more things. Dinner rolls, mashed potatoes with gravy, sauteed seasonal green veggies (like spinach or brussels sprouts), baked sweet potatoes, and a fresh salad are all fine ideas.
How to Store Leftover Turkey
Once the big meal is complete, wrap leftover turkey in aluminum foil or stow in an airtight container. You can keep it in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
Can You Freeze Turkey?
Turkey is a wonderful thing to have in the freezer. You can use it to make other meals, making meal prep a breeze. You’ll need to take time to pull all the meat off the bones and separate it. Then it can be kept in your freezer for up to 3 months.
How to Reheat Frozen Turkey
I put it in the fridge overnight and then bake it at 300F with a little broth or gravy to keep it from drying out. This should take about 30 minutes.
Watch How To Make Turkey (Video)
Easy Traditional Turkey Recipe
- 1 15-20 lb turkey
- 6 yellow onions (3 peeled and quartered, 3 halved)
- 2 lemons (quartered)
- 1 oz fresh rosemary
- 1 oz fresh sage
- 1 oz fresh thyme
- 5-6 carrots (peeled, chopped)
- 10-12 baby red potatoes (halved)
- 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups butter (unsalted)
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 black pepper
- 10-12 garlic cloves (crushed)
- 2 1/2 tbsp fresh chopped rosemary, sage, thyme
- Remove your thawed turkey from the fridge and allow to sit for 1 hour and reach room temperature. Preheat your oven to 325F.
- In a large roasting pan, place a layer of carrots, baby red potatoes, and onions on the bottom. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with the olive oil. In the meantime, make your herb butter by combining butter, garlic, salt, pepper, and freshly chopped herbs.
- Once you’ve made the herb butter, remove the turkey from the packaging and take out the neck and giblets. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Place the turkey on a wire rack in the roasting dish and then season the entire turkey including the thighs and cavity with salt and pepper.
- Place the lemon, onion and herbs inside the cavity of the turkey. Using your fingers, loosen the skin on the breasts of the turkey until you are able to place several tablespoons of the herb butter underneath. Baste the entire turkey with the remaining herb butter mixture, then roast at 325F at about 15 minutes per pound or until the internal temperature reaches 165F.
- Allow the turkey to rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.
More turkey recipes:
- Turkey Cooking Techniques
- Turkey With Chestnut Dressing
- Turkey 101
- Roasted turkey breask with apricot glaze
When looking how long to cook a turkey, see this page for a helpful cooking time calculator whether you have a 11, 12lb, 14lb, 16lb, or 20lb turkey!
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