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This is the only guide you’ll ever need to make the best Thanksgiving turkey recipe that will wow friends and family! Cooking turkey doesn’t have to be intimidating… simply follow this easy turkey recipe for tips on how to thaw, brine, rub, roast, and serve your bird. Then, dish up your easy herb butter roasted turkey with all your favorite Thanksgiving recipes!
Why You’ll Love This Easy Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe
- Moist, tender meat
- Perfectly crispy skin
- Garlicky herb butter flavor
- Simple ingredients
- 10 minutes active prep time
- All the tips you need for brining and roasting the best Thanksgiving turkey recipe
- Lots of ways to use leftovers
Ingredients & Substitutions
This section explains how to choose the best ingredients for herb butter turkey, what each one does in the recipe, and substitution options. For measurements, see the recipe card below.
Turkey & Brine:
- Whole Turkey – Pastured Thanksgiving turkeys taste great if you can find them, but you can use whatever variety (fresh or frozen) that works best for the number of guests you have. See the charts below for thawing times and how much turkey for Thanksgiving you’ll want to prepare per person. Check the cavity of the turkey for giblets and be sure to remove them.
- Water – For the turkey brine.
- Salt -You’ll need a large amount of salt for the turkey brine. I highly recommend kosher salt because it dissolves easily (and is more cost effective), but sea salt can also work if needed.
SCIENCE: Why brine turkey?
The right salt concentration in the water will:
- Create an imbalance between the moisture in the turkey and outside of it, causing the turkey to draw in more water through osmosis
- Dissolve the muscle proteins (so they don’t contract and squeeze out moisture during cooking)
- Season the turkey all the way through the inside
As for other turkey brine ingredients, salt is actually all you need! Salt particles are much smaller than anything else you can put into a brine, so they will more readily pass into the meat than any herbs, spices, or broth. Save those for the cooking process instead.
- Butter – Any unsalted variety can work to make compound butter for turkey, but I like using a higher quality one to make this dish extra special.
- Fresh Herbs – This herb butter recipe for turkey uses sage, rosemary, and thyme, but any herbs for turkey would taste delicious! (You can use a variety of herbs, citrus juice, and aromatics. See this compound butter recipe for more ideas.) I highly recommend using fresh herbs here, but if you must, you can substitute 1 teaspoon dried herbs for each tablespoon of fresh. See more seasoning ideas below.
- Garlic – Turkey butter tastes best with fresh garlic, but jarred minced garlic will work if you need to save time.
- Lemon Zest – Adds a touch of bright flavor to herbed butter for turkey. Zest it fresh from a lemon.
- Salt & Pepper
How To Cook Thanksgiving Turkey In The Oven
This section shows how to make roasted turkey for Thanksgiving, with step-by-step photos and details about the technique, to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.
- Brine. Stir together water and kosher salt in a large stock pot. Add turkey to the pot, making sure it’s submerged, and brine in the refrigerator for at least 10-12 hours, or up to 48 hours.
- Make herb butter. Mash together butter, sage, rosemary, thyme, garlic, lemon zest, sea salt, and black pepper.
- Season. Drain the water and pat dry with paper towels. Place the turkey into a roasting pan on top of a rack. Gently separate the turkey skin from meat, and spread the half of the herb butter under the skin and the other half over the top of the bird. Be careful not to tear the skin.
TIP: Don’t have a roasting pan?
You can place the turkey on a bed of onions (coarsely chopped into large pieces) instead, which will elevate the bird similar to a rack.
- Roast. Roast for 45 minutes uncovered, then tent with foil and continue roasting until it’s done. Check the Thanksgiving turkey time chart below for recommended times depending on the size of your turkey.
- Rest. For the best juicy roast Thanksgiving turkey, resting is important to let the juices settle. Transfer the turkey to a cutting board to prevent overcooking, tent with foil, and let it rest for at least 10-20 minutes before serving.
TIP: Avoid covering turkey too tightly.
This will ensure that the skin stays crisp. However, if foil ends up touching the bird and the skin isn’t as crisp as you like at the end, you can always broil it for a couple of minutes to crisp it up.
How Long To Thaw A Turkey?
Thaw time in the fridge requires about 24 hours for every 5 pounds, or 30 minutes per pound in cold water, refreshed every 30-60 minutes.
Here is a general guideline for how long to thaw a turkey based on weight:
|Turkey Weight||Refrigerator Thaw Time||Cold Water Thaw Time|
|4-8 pound turkey||1-2 days||2-4 hours|
|8-12 pound turkey||2-3 days||4-6 hours|
|12-16 pound turkey||3-4 days||6-8 hours|
|16-20 pound turkey||4-5 days||8-10 hours|
|20-24 pound turkey||5-6 days||10-12 hours|
|24-28 pound turkey||7-8 days||12-14 hours|
|28-32 pound turkey||9-10 days||14-16 hours|
After your turkey has thawed completely, you can brine it.
What Temp To Cook Turkey?
Some people prefer cooking turkey low and slow, others blast the turkey and then reduce the temperature afterward. When using a garlic butter turkey rub, I recommend roasting turkey at 350 degrees F the entire time, which ensures that the butter won’t burn and that all of the portions of the turkey cook evenly. You’ll need to start with the turkey uncovered to roast the top, and then cover it to prevent burning.
How Long Do You Cook A Turkey?
Thanksgiving turkey cook time depends on size, oven temperature, and whether the bird is stuffed. For an oven temperature of 350 degrees F, calculate 12-16 minutes per pound for an unstuffed turkey and 14-18 minutes per pound for a stuffed turkey. During that time, roast turkey uncovered for 45 minutes first, then cover and roast for the remaining time.
The safe internal temperature for turkey is 165-170 degrees F, but you can remove it from the oven when it reaches 155 degrees F, as the temperature will continue to rise to 165-170 degrees F as it rests for 15-20 minutes. Test with a meat thermometer for doneness.
Here is a time chart for how long to roast turkey covered at 350 degrees F:
|Turkey Weight||Roast Uncovered First For This Long||Then Cover and Roast For||Total Time|
|8 to 11 lb||45 minutes||1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours||2 1/4 to 2 3/4 hours|
|12 to 14 lb||45 minutes||1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours 15 minutes||2 1/2 to 3 hours|
|15 to 17 lb||45 minutes||2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours||3 1/4 to 3 3/4 hours|
|18 to 21 lb||45 minutes||3 hours to 3 hours 30 minutes||3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours|
|22 to 25 lb||45 minutes||3 hours 30 minutes to 4 hours||4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours|
|26 to 30 lb||45 minutes||4 hours to 4 hours 45 minutes||4 3/4 to 5 1/2 hours|
Note: These times are for an unstuffed turkey. If your turkey is stuffed, add about 45 to 75 minutes to the covered roasting time (1 hour on average).
How Much Salt In Turkey Brine?
The right concentration of salt in turkey brine is about 6 percent of the water weight. For each gallon of water, that would be 1.25 cups Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt or 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp of Morton Kosher Salt, Real Salt Kosher Salt, or most brands of sea salt.
Here is a chart showing how much salt to use:
|Turkey Weight||Water Volume||Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt||Morton’s Kosher Salt, Real Salt Kosher Salt, or Sea Salt|
|8 to 12 lb||2 gallons (7.6 liters)||2 1/2 cups (450 grams)||1 3/4 cups (~438 grams)|
|13 to 17 lb||2 1/2 gallons (9.5 liters)||3 1/4 cups (570 grams)||2 1/4 cups (~563 grams)|
|18 to 22 lb||3 gallons (11.4 liters)||3 3/4 cups (675 grams)||2 3/4 cups (~688 grams)|
|23 to 27 lb||3 1/2 gallons (13.2 liters)||4 1/3 cups (780 grams)||3 cups + 2 tbsp (~781 grams)|
|28 to 32 lb||4 gallons (15.1 liters)||5 cups (900 grams)||3 1/2 cups (~875 grams)|
More Frequently Asked Questions
Make the best Thanksgiving turkey recipe with these tips in mind:
- Can you brine frozen turkey? You can, but it’s best to just thaw your turkey and then brine it after. If you must combine them, then only place your thawing turkey into the brine for no more than 48 hours, toward the end of thawing.
- How long to brine turkey? 8 to 12 hours is the sweet spot for how long to brine a turkey, but up to 48 hours is fine.
- How much turkey per person? Aim for 1 pound of turkey per person, or 1.5 pounds per person if you want leftovers. This accounts for bone weight too, so each person wouldn’t actually be eating an entire pound of meat.
- How to know roasted turkey is done? The best way to know that a roasted turkey is done is to use a meat thermometer. A meat temperature probe is the best so that you don’t have to keep checking on it. Cook turkey until it’s 165 to 170 degrees F in the coolest part of the bird, which is usually the thickest part of the thigh. Be careful not to touch the bone when measuring the temperature, because this can skew the reading.
Leftover Roasted Turkey Ideas & Storage
You’ll probably be making this roasted turkey for Thanksgiving, but if you’re like most people, you’ll probably have leftovers.
- Store: Keep your easy turkey recipe leftovers in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
- Freeze: Carve the turkey, let it cool, and freeze for up to 3 months.
How To Use Leftover Turkey:
Here are some ideas for what to do with leftover turkey:
What To Serve With Roasted Turkey
If you plan to cook turkey for Thanksgiving, consider these easy pairings.
More Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes
There’s more than one way to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving… try these other easy ways, too.
Easy Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe
All you need to make roasted herb butter turkey perfectly! This easy Thanksgiving turkey recipe is juicy and flavorful, with crispy skin.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 3 hours
Resting Time 10 minutes
Total: 3 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 12 (adjust to scale recipe)
Tap underlined ingredients to see where to get them. Please turn Safari reader mode OFF to view ingredients.
Tap on the times in the instructions below to start a kitchen timer while you cook.
In a large stock pot large enough to fit the turkey, stir together 2 gallons (7.5 L) of water and 2 1/2 cups (128 g) kosher salt. Submerge the turkey in the brine. Refrigerate for 10 to 12 hours.
When the turkey is done brining, drain the water and pat dry. Place the turkey onto a roasting pan with a roasting rack.
Garlic Herb Butter Turkey Rub:
In a small bowl, mash together the softened butter, sage, rosemary, thyme, minced garlic, lemon zest, sea salt and black pepper.
Use your hands under the skin of the turkey to separate the skin from the meat underneath. (Be careful not to tear the skin.)
Spread half of the butter all over the turkey underneath the skin. Spread the other half over the skin all over.
How To Roast Turkey:
Position the oven rack on a low position, so that there is enough room for the turkey. The top of the turkey should end up just slightly higher than the middle when placed in the oven later. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees F).
Place the turkey in the oven and roast. Check the roasted turkey time chart in the blog post for the amount of time to roast without foil and the remaining time with foil. For a 12 lb turkey, that’s 45 minutes uncovered followed by about 2 1/4 hours covered. To cover, tent the top of the turkey with foil, shiny side out, making sure no turkey is peeking out, and return to the oven.
Check that the roasted turkey is done with a meat thermometer – it should read 165 degrees for the safest option. For the most juicy turkey, aim for 150-155 degrees, and then cover in foil immediately after removing from the oven. Let the turkey rest, covered in foil, for about 20 minutes to come up to 165 to 170 degrees before serving.
Serving size: 1 lb per person including bone weight, or about 6 oz of cooked, boneless turkey
A 12 lb turkey yields about 4.5 lbs edible meat.
*Check the post above for amounts of water, salt and roasting times for different turkey sizes.
Amount per serving. Serving size in recipe notes above.
Total Carbs 0g
Net Carbs 0g
Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy. Have questions about calculations or why you got a different result? Please see our nutrition policy.
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