Need an easy roast turkey recipe to impress your loved ones this holiday season? Here’s the ultimate guide on How to Cook a Turkey In the Oven so you can learn to become the master of making tender turkey this Thanksgiving. 

Roast turkey on a plater of herbs and sliced oranges.

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Thanksgiving dinner is like the Super Bowl of meals. You have so much going on that it can be easy to get overwhelmed, especially if you’ve been tasked with making the turkey for Thanksgiving. In this guide, we’ll share step-by-step instructions for the best turkey recipe you’ve ever had, so you don’t need to stress! 

 🎥 Watch how to make classic oven roasted turkey

What Is This Roasted Turkey Recipe?

For this recipe, we’re sticking with the old tried-and-true roasted turkey in the oven. It’s the classic holiday centerpiece that everyone anxiously gathers around for, whether at Thanksgiving or Christmas. A turkey, cooked in the oven, basted in pan juices, and served with all of the trimmings, it’s the best way to give your family a meal that is worthy of the holiday feast. 

We’re taking a fully thawed turkey with herbs, veggies, and garlic and transforming it into the perfect Thanksgiving turkey! What we love about this recipe is that it is a timeless cooking method that everyone can master that doesn’t require any fancy cooking equipment or tools. 

First, for the most juicy roast turkey and crispier skin, we start with a turkey brine, specifically a wet brine, but you can always do a dry brine if you prefer. Then, we put some veggies in a roasting pan, stuff the bird with herbs, and roast it at a lower temperature to slowly cook the turkey meat. Then, we crank up the heat to give our bird the crispy skin it deserves! Finally, we carve up our bird and dug in. 

And as much as we love turkey recipes, like our Smoked Thanksgiving Turkey, or stuffed turkey Traeger Smoked Turkey, this is our favorite way to deliver a moist turkey with golden skin that everyone loves. If you’re running tight on time, or want to take the guesswork out of the cooktime, try our  Spatchcock Turkey

Roasted Turkey Ingredients

If it’s your first time or 100th time, this roast turkey recipe is as tried as true as it gets. With juicy meat and classic roasted flavor, this is the iconic Thanksgiving turkey. Once you master how to cook a turkey in the oven, it’s onto all the side dishes and desserts!

  • Whole turkey – 12-14 pound fresh turkey. Make sure the giblets and neck are removed from the cavity and reserved for the giblet gravy. We look for fresh turkeys for this recipe and do not recommend Kosher turkeys as they already have salt added that can change the flavor.
  • Onions – yellow, white or sweet
  • Lemons
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Garlic cloves + a Whole head of garlic
  • Chicken broth or homemade turkey stock.
  • Bay leaves
  • Fresh herbs (parsley, sage, thyme)
  • Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Unsalted Butter
Roast turkey coming out of the oven with golden brown glistening skin.

How to Make an Oven-Roasted Turkey

Before you get started, make sure you’ve thawed the turkey and removed the turkey neck and bag of giblets from inside the bird. Check out our guide on how to thaw a turkey to give yourself enough time to have this perfect roast turkey recipe on the table in time for Thanksgiving dinner.

Brine the turkey

  • First, we do a wet brine and leave the turkey submerged in the brine liquid. A general rule of thumb is to leave the turkey submerged in the water for every 1-2 pounds of turkey.
  • Next, take the turkey out of the brine and pat it dry with paper towels. Don’t forget to dry out the turkey cavity really well, too. Now, find a spot for it on a wire rack, on top of a baking sheet or dish, and let it air dry in the fridge for a whole day or two.

Prep the turkey

  • Next, preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Make sure your oven racks are set up for easy turkey sliding later on.
  • When you’re all set, grab two onions, one lemon, some carrots, and three celery stalks. Toss them into the bottom of the roasting pan. Don’t forget to smash those 7 cloves of garlic and add them to the mix. Pour in the chicken broth, toss in the bay leaves, and we’re off to the races.
  • Inside the cavity of the turkey, slide in the remaining onion and celery, along with the parsley, sage, and thyme bundled with kitchen twine, sliced lemon halves, and the head of garlic.
  • Gently lift the skin of the turkey from the breast with your fingers. Start at the edge of the cavity, work those fingers in between the skin and meat, and carefully slide forward. This is where you sneak in little pieces of herb butter between the turkey skin and meat. It’ll melt and make the turkey even more delicious as it cooks.
  • Now, it’s time to truss the turkey. Do this by gently pulling the legs together and securing them with butcher’s twine. To master this, see our step-by-step guide and video on How to Truss a Turkey.
  • Place your prepped turkey on the roasting rack, breast side up, and tuck it into the pan right on top of those veggies.

Roast the turkey in the oven

Use our helpful guide on how long to cook a turkey per pound for an easy estimate of how long it will take.

  • Pop the pan in the oven and let it bake for 45 minutes. While it’s in there, give it a nice baste with those savory pan drippings using a brush or turkey baster. Then, cover the turkey breast with some aluminum foil and let it roast for another 50-60 minutes.
  • Now, take the pan out of the oven, crank up the heat to 400 degrees, and give the turkey another good baste with the turkey drippings or additional melted butter. Remove the foil from the breast, pop it back in the oven, and let it cook for another 45-60 minutes. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t get too brown on top. We’re looking for golden brown, not dark brown.
  • You want the internal temperature of the breast meat to hit 165 degrees F and the thickest part of the thigh to reach 170 degrees F with an instant-read thermometer. Don’t forget to check the thickest part of the breast and thigh to make sure it’s cooked through. If it’s not quite there, give it another 20 to 30 minutes in the oven, checking every 10 to 15 minutes. And always trust your instant-read meat thermometer for the most accurate results. Times will vary depending on the size of the bird.
Golden brown glistening turkey coming out of oven.

Rest, carve, and Serve

  • Once your perfect turkey is ready, take it out of the oven and let it rest for a solid 30 minutes before you start carving. You can check out our How to Carve a Turkey guide for more info!

Girl Carnivore Expert Recipe Tips

  • Let the bird sit at room temperature for 30 before cooking to get super crispy skin and more even cooking. 
  • Depending on the size of your bird, you may have to adjust the turkey cooking time. We recommend a 12 to 14 pound turkey.
  • The best tool you can own for achieving a perfect turkey is a quality digital meat thermometer. We use Thermaworks (which are not listed on Amazon), but they regularly run sales on the Thermapen One. They are our go-to choice for cooking. Check out all of our recommended brands and tools on our Shop Page.
Hands holding fork and knife, carving into turkey.

What to Serve With This Roasted Turkey

Drizzle your juicy turkey meat with some delicious turkey gravy! As for Thanksgiving side dishes, serve up your carved turkey with some popular Thanksgiving recipes like Smoked Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Keto Cranberry Sauce, and green bean casserole for the perfect holiday dinner!

Wine Pairing:

We love pairing cooked turkey with a buttery Chardonnay or even a light Pinot Noir.

Carved roast turkey on a serving platter.

Leftovers & Reheating

Store leftover turkey in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. You can also freeze turkey for up to 4 months.  We often take the time to immediately pick the meat from the bones and divide the leftovers to make leftover turkey recipes and easy meals for the next few days. We also use the carcass for leftover turkey soup or homemade turkey stock.

Here’s how to reheat your turkey:

Oven Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Simmer some chicken broth on the stove. 
  3. Grab a baking dish and add your turkey slices.
  4. Place a kitchen towel over the slices. 
  5. Pour the simmered chicken broth over the towel until just damp. You don’t want your turkey slices swimming in the broth.
  6. Wrap the entire thing in aluminum foil.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes. 

Microwave Method

  1. Grab a small baking dish or microwave-safe dish.
  2. Arrange your turkey slices in the dish.
  3. Dampen a paper towel with water or chicken broth and place it on top of your slices.
  4. Microwave in 30-second intervals until heated. 

Not sure what to do with leftovers? Make this Hot Brown Sandwich or a Leftover Turkey Sandwich!

Oven roasted turkey on wood table.

MORE THANKSGIVING RECIPES

This is the best Thanksgiving turkey recipe you’ll find this holiday season, with simple steps and a delicious end result! One bite, and your family will still be talking about this perfectly roasted turkey at Christmas!

Have you tried this recipe? Do us a favor and rate the recipe card with the  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ and drop a comment to help out the next reader.

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Oven Roasted Turkey Recipe

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 3 hours
Resting Time: 20 minutes
Total: 3 hours 35 minutes
Servings: 12
Roast turkey on a plater of herbs and sliced oranges.
Roast turkey made simple: Follow our foolproof instructions to serve up a succulent bird that will have everyone asking for seconds! 🦃🍽️

Ingredients  

  • 1 12-14 lbs whole turkey thawed and make sure giblets and neck are removed from cavity and reserved for the giblet gravy
  • 3 onions rough chop into wedges
  • 2 lemon cut in half
  • 3 carrots cut into large pieces
  • 4 stalks of celery cut into large pieces
  • 7 cloves of garlic
  • 1 whole head of garlic top quarter cut off to expose cloves
  • 2 – 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Fresh herbs parsley, sage and thyme
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 4 tbsp butter

Instructions 

Brine the turkey:

  • Start 2 days ahead if you have the time by removing the turkey from its package, setting aside the neck and giblets and brining the turkey. See our notes below for more information.

Air Dry:

  • If you don't brine the bird, we still recommend an air dry over night for the crispiest skin.
  • Remove from the brine and pat dry. Be sure to thoroughly dry the cavity as well.
  • Nestle the turkey onto a wire rack on top of a baking sheet or dish and then air dry in the fridge for 24 to 48 hours.

Cook the turkey:

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Adjust your oven racks so that the turkey, in the roasting pan will slide in and out easily.
  • When ready to cook, add 2 onions, 1 lemon, carrots and 3 celery stalks to the bottomr of a roasting pan.
  • Smash the 7 cloves of garlic and add them as well.
  • Pour in the chicken broth and add the bay leaves.
  • Then, Add the remaining onion and celery to the cavity of the chicken, along with the herbs tied together.
  • Add the lemon lemon sliced in half and the head of garlic as well.
  • Next, working with your fingers, gently pull the skin up from the breast. Do this by working with the skin at the edge of the cavity by sliding your fingers between the skin and the meat.
  • Carefully slide forward, loosening the skin from the meat.
  • Then, add the butter in small pieces in between the skin and the meat. It will melt over the turkey as it cooks.
  • Truss the turkey by securing the legs with butcher's twine.
  • Place the turkey on the rack, breast side up, and nestle the rack into the pan atop the veggies.
  • Place the pan with the turkey in the oven and bake for 45 minutes.
  • Baste with the drippings using a brush or turkey baster, then cover the breast with foil and roast the tureky for another 50-60 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from the oven and increase the heat to 400 degrees. While the heat increases baste the turkey again.
  • Remove the foil from the breast return the turkey to the oven, and cook for another 45 to 60 minutes, watching that the bird does not get too brown atop.
  • Baste the bird every time you check it.
  • Cook the turkey until the breast reaches 165 degrees F and the legs are at 170 degrees F. Check that the meat on the thickest part of the bottom of the bird has cooked as well.
  • If the turkey is not to temp, return to oven for another 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Always use an instant-read thermometer for the most accurate results.

Rest and serve:

  • Carefully remove the turkey from the oven.
  • Lift the roasting rack and carefully transfer it, with the roasted turkey on it, to a clean cutting board to rest.
  • Tent the bird loosely with foil and let it rest for 30 minutes before carving.

Video

Notes

  • Make sure you’ve thawed your turkey before starting. If you need tips on that, view our guide on how to thaw a turkey.
  • Let the bird sit at room temperature for 30 before cooking to get super crispy skin and more even cooking. 
  • Depending on the size of your bird, you may have to adjust the turkey cooking time. We recommend a 12 to 14 pound turkey.
  • The best tool you can own for achieving a perfect turkey is a quality digital meat thermometer. We use Thermaworks (which are not listed on Amazon), but they regularly run sales on the Thermapen One. They are our go-to choice for cooking. Check out all of our recommended brands and tools on our Shop Page.
More helpful turkey guides: 

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 553kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 77g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 0.4g | Cholesterol: 262mg | Sodium: 579mg | Potassium: 914mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 2872IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 61mg | Iron: 3mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, French
Author: Kita Roberts

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Watch: How to cook a Turkey in the Oven

Recipe FAQs

CAN I USE A FROZEN TURKEY FOR THIS RECIPE?

No, you need to thaw your turkey before cooking. Head over to our How to Thaw a Turkey guide for best results!

WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH THE LEFTOVER TURKEY BONES?

Make some delicious Instant Pot Turkey Stock

How many hours does it take to roast a turkey?

The time to cook a turkey depends on the size of your turkey, but around 2 – 2 1/2 hours is generally how long roasting a turkey takes.

How long do you roast a turkey per pound?

A general rule of thumb is 13 minutes for every pound of turkey at 350 degrees F.

Can roast turkey be pink?

No. Poultry needs to be cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165°F at the thickest part of the white meat, according to the USDA. We take our dark meat to 170°F. The dark meat will be darker in color but not pink. It’s important, when roasting a whole turkey, to check the thickest parts of both the white and dark meat with a digital thermometer for accurate results.

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Well, Hey, Y’all.

Kita is a multi-talented individual, boasting numerous accomplishments such as being an award-winning recipe developer, world-traveled professional photographer, and journalist. As the lead creative force behind Girl Carnivore®, she is widely recognized as an authority on all things meat.

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