This roast turkey is simple to make and full of savory flavors including butter, garlic, herbs and lemon. A must-have Thanksgiving turkey recipe that even a novice cook can make with minimal effort!

Be a rock star this year on Thanksgiving by presenting your family and friends with this juicy, golden brown roast turkey. Serve it alongside sour cream mashed potatoes, pomegranate brussels sprouts, homemade cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole with marshmallows and honey roasted carrots for a complete meal that will earn you rave reviews.

A Thanksgiving roast turkey on a serving platter garnished with herbs, pomegranate and figs.

It’s almost time for Thanksgiving, and for me, cooking turkey can be a source of stress. I want my turkey to be golden brown, juicy and perfectly cooked, and that’s a lot of pressure when you’re juggling a bunch of other side dish recipes, desserts and appetizers at the same time! This roast turkey is a super simple way to do a Thanksgiving turkey and it always comes out perfectly for me.

Roast Turkey Ingredients

To make this recipe, you will need a turkey, lemon, onion, rosemary, garlic, butter, salt, black pepper, and chicken broth or turkey broth.

How Do You Make A Roast Turkey?

The first step is to season your turkey. In this case, we’re stuffing the inside cavity of the turkey with aromatics like onion, herbs and lemon. Be sure to fold the wings of the turkey under the body. Place butter, salt and pepper in a small bowl and mix until well combined. Spread the butter mixture all over the turkey, including under the skin, then add more salt and pepper to taste on the exterior of the turkey. Tie the drumsticks together, then place the turkey on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. Bake at a higher temperature until the turkey starts to brown, then lower the oven temperature. Roast the turkey, basting it every 30 minutes with broth, until it is cooked through. Let the turkey rest, then carve and serve along with pan juices or use the drippings to make turkey gravy.

A raw bird with onion, lemon and herbs in the cavity.

Tips For The Perfect Dish

  • You do not have to brine a turkey to get a juicy and flavorful bird. That being said, a brine does help prevent a turkey from drying out by adding moisture, and it also adds a lot of flavor in the process. If you’d like to brine your bird before proceeding with this roast turkey, you can use my favorite turkey brine recipe. More questions about brining? Check out my complete guide on how to brine a turkey!
  • It’s very important to use a meat thermometer to ensure that your turkey is cooked to the proper temperature. This also helps to prevent your bird from drying out in the oven, since you won’t accidentally overcook it.
  • Pat the turkey dry with paper towels before you apply the butter for the crispiest skin.
  • I buy a fresh turkey whenever possible, but I know sometimes that isn’t always economical or practical.  If you have a frozen turkey, the best way to thaw it is in the refrigerator, but you do need to plan in advance. Typically you’ll need to thaw in the fridge for one day per 4 pounds of turkey. I had a 12 pound turkey and it took a full 3 days for it to thaw.

Quick Tip

To prepare a turkey for roasting you’ll need to do the following steps:

  • remove the neck from the turkey cavity
  • tie the legs together with oven safe kitchen twine (do this after you’ve stuffed the cavity!)
  • fold the ends of the turkey wings under your bird
  • remove the bag of giblets
A whole raw turkey coated in seasoned butter.

Recipe FAQs

How long do you cook a roast turkey in the oven?

The general rule of thumb is that a turkey needs to cook at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes per pound. In this case, we’re starting at a much higher temperature then turning the oven down to 350 degrees, so your turkey should cook a little faster with this method.

What temperature do you roast a turkey?

I start my turkey at 450 degrees F to ensure that the finished turkey will have golden brown, crispy skin. After 30-40 minutes, the skin will have started to brown, and at that point you can turn the temperature down to 350 degrees F.

When is a turkey done?

A turkey is ready when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees F. The internal temperature of the turkey is more important than the overall suggested bake time.

How much turkey per person?

You’ll want to plan on one pound of turkey per person. If you’d like to have a lot of turkey leftovers for sandwiches the next day, you should plan on 1 1/2 pounds per person.

Do you have to baste a turkey?

I like to baste my roast turkey with a little chicken or turkey broth because I think it helps to ensure that the turkey doesn’t dry out. If you’ve decided to brine your bird, you can skip the basting step in the recipe.

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A roasted turkey in a baking pan.

How To use Turkey Leftovers

Got leftover turkey? That’s a very common occurrence and I find that sometimes the leftovers taste even better the second day. I’ve compiled a list of Leftover Turkey Recipes so that you have plenty of ways to repurpose your bird.

Sliced roast turkey on a serving platter with rosemary, pomegranate and figs.

Flavor Variations

While this recipe is delicious as-is, you can easily customize the flavors to your taste.

  • Stuffing: Fill your bird’s cavity with other ingredients such as celery, orange, shallots, thyme, sage or parsley.
  • Flavorings: You can add other seasonings to the butter such as Italian seasoning, Cajun seasoning, Creole seasoning or turkey rub.
  • Protein: This recipe will also work with a whole turkey breast or whole chicken. You will just need to adjust the cooking time accordingly, or use a thermometer to skip the guesswork!

Everyone will be so impressed when you serve up this beautiful and delicious roast turkey on Thanksgiving Day!

More Thanksgiving Recipes

Roast Turkey Video

Love This Recipe?

Please leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 rating in the recipe card below & a review in the comments section further down the page.

5 from 13 votes

Roast Turkey for Thanksgiving

AuthorSara Welch
A Thanksgiving roast turkey on a serving platter garnished with herbs, pomegranate and figs.
This roast turkey is simple to make and full of savory flavors including butter, garlic, herbs and lemon. A must-have Thanksgiving turkey recipe that even a novice cook can make with minimal effort!
Time
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time3 hours
Total Time3 hours 10 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine American
Serves 12

Ingredients 

  • 12 lb turkey giblets and neck removed
  • 1 lemon quartered
  • 1 onion peeled and quartered
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 5 cloves garlic smashed
  • 8 tablespoons butter softened
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups chicken or turkey broth
  • fresh herbs and fruit for garnish optional

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Fold the wings of the turkey under the body.
  • Stuff the cavity of the turkey with the lemon, onion, rosemary and garlic.
  • Place the butter, salt and pepper in a bowl and stir until combined.
  • Spread the butter all over the turkey, both on top of and underneath the skin. Season the turkey with more salt and pepper to taste if desired.
  • Tie the turkey drumsticks together, Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan.
  • Cook for 30-40 minutes or until turkey has started to turn golden brown.
  • Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. Baste the turkey with 1/2 cup chicken broth.
  • Bake for another 2 hours, basting every 30 minutes with the chicken broth, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees F. If your turkey is getting too dark, you can cover it with foil.
  • Transfer the turkey to a serving platter and garnish with herbs and fruit if desired. Let the turkey rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Notes

  1. You do not have to brine a turkey to get a juicy and flavorful bird. That being said, a brine does help prevent a turkey from drying out and it adds a lot of flavor in the process. If you’d like to brine your bird before proceeding with this roast turkey, you can use my favorite turkey brine recipe
  2. It’s very important to use a meat thermometer to ensure that your turkey is cooked to the proper temperature. This also helps to prevent your bird from drying out in the oven, since you won’t accidentally overcook it.

Nutrition

Calories: 335kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 70g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 251mg | Sodium: 633mg | Potassium: 786mg | Vitamin A: 415IU | Vitamin C: 5.9mg | Calcium: 46mg | Iron: 3mg

Hello! I’m Sara!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this! It’s the first time making a turkey for me. Usually my husband does it but he ended up in the hospital. Can’t let the turkey go bad, so I had to roast it up. This had so many helpful tips! I’m just finishing up the last hour now so hopefully it turns out as good as it smells. And it smells delicious.

  2. I am actually making this recipe right now. The bird still have a little over an hour left and its getting pretty dark. Is it okay to light cover with foil?

  3. Such a great informative post! my hubby is the one who always makes the turkey here for us, we had our thanksgiving back in October here in canada!

  4. Wow, that turkey looks amazing! I’m going to have to give this a try this year. I can’t wait to try it out. I’m so excited for Thanksgiving already.

  5. 5 stars
    What a perfectly roasted turkey looking so delicious and juicy. This is my sister specialty and this year it is my turn I would like to try this recipe .

  6. 5 stars
    That is perfectly roasted turkey. . I love juicy turkey with crispy outside. Your recipe is so easy and at the same perfect ly done.

  7. 5 stars
    I love turkey so much. I don’t make it any other time of the year, but I surely love it to pieces on Thanksgiving day. Cannot wait to make it!

  8. It’s not thanksgiving without turkey. It seems like people get hung up on turkey and cooking it since they only make it once a year.

  9. This is the first year that I don’t eat meat on Thanksgiving. I’m not even sure how I’m going to get through the holiday.

  10. 5 stars
    Yummy – We always have roast Turkey for Christmas Dinner here in the UK. I love the idea of Thanksgiving.

  11. We of course always have a turkey for Thanksgiving and will not be changing that anytime soon. Been using my mom’s recipe for 37 years. Yours looks delicious.

  12. Roasting an entire turkey for a Thanksgiving meal can be intimidating for beginners. I love how you answered so many technical questions and gave a great recipe here.

  13. I love roasted turkey for Thanksgiving. I have tried many many ways and I always go back to a roasted turkey. This looks delicious I am definitely thinking I am going to do it just like you have here. It looks mouthwatering.

  14. Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without turkey! I am looking forward to a delicious turkey this year with all the fixings.