Roast Turkey

Roast Turkey made with seasoned butter and broth and basted for over 4 hours for an incredibly tender meat and crispy skin that is PERFECT for your holiday dinner!

Turkey isn’t just a recipe in this house, it’s a passion. And we LOVE making a large bird because it means leftover recipes like this Leftover Turkey Casserole and Turkey Moist Maker Sandwich (MY SANDWICH!) and Chicken Tetrazzini (but with Turkey).

Easy Roast Turkey
Roast Turkey

Roast Turkey is the traditional turkey recipe you grew up watching your parents make on Thanksgiving or Christmas for all your family who has come over to enjoy a delicious meal with you, with a few added tricks to bring out the most juicy, tender turkey breast you’ve ever had on a turkey in your life.

Not to mention the incredibly crispy skin that’s been roasting in the oven, being basted with buttery broth and drippings all day long. My guests have told me that this is the most perfect roast turkey they’ve ever had!

Roasting and basting a turkey might sound intimidating, but it’s not that bad, I promise! All you need is the bird, a few key ingredients, a roasting pan, and a good meat thermometer. This is restaurant quality roasted turkey we’re talking about here. The only turkey recipe you will EVER need.

The key to juicy meat is all in the butter and the roasting/cooking time. You can add herbs like thyme, rosemary, or even lemon wedges to this roast turkey recipe. Fresh thyme adds a really nice flavor and helps season the gravy, but I like to keep it simple with just salt and pepper.

The butter is trapped under the skin, so it’s basically basting the turkey from the inside the entire cooking time. And what you get is a Thanksgiving turkey that’s practically falling off the bone good.

Crispy Roast Turkey

HOW LONG DO YOU COOK A TURKEY IN THE OVEN?

How long you cook this turkey recipe in the oven depends on what size turkey you have, and if you’re using stuffing or not. The USDA recommends you roast an unstuffed turkey (16-18 pound) for about 4 hours, or until the thigh reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F (check it with a thermometer).

If you are using stuffing, add another ½ hour to the roast time. You can buy an oven safe thermometer that stays in your turkey while it cooks in most stores now.

Check out my Slow Cooker Stuffing cooked outside of the turkey, cutting your roasting time down. It takes about 4 hours to cook in the slow cooker, so make sure you start it early. I would start around the same time you put the turkey in to roast.

Let me also take a moment to please lobby for you to cook your stuffing on the side. Cooking stuffing inside the turkey makes everything take longer to cook because of the density of the turkey being stuffed. Plus with salmonella concerns it is much safer to cook the stuffing on the side.

DO I PUT WATER IN THE BOTTOM OF THE ROASTING PAN FOR TURKEY?

Add 2 cups of chicken stock to the bottom of the roasting pan initially, and replace as needed while the turkey cooks. This helps keep the bird from drying out, and you can also use the pan juices for gravy later when your roasted turkey is removed from the pan. You can skip this step if you used brine, because your brined turkey will require less time in the roasting pan.

My Turkey Brine recipe guarantees the most tender and juicy turkey breast you’ve ever had with less cook time!

Crispy Skin Roast Turkey

WHAT IS THE BEST TEMPERATURE TO COOK A TURKEY?

325 degrees is the optimal temperature for roasted turkey. Any higher and you might be left with dry turkey breast that cooked too quickly on the outside. Don’t rely on the pop up indicator that comes with a bird, use an instant-read thermometer instead.

Your turkey cooking times will depend on what pound turkey you have. Try not to open the oven door and just let it roast, unless you’re basting, so the oven temperature doesn’t drop.

MORE HOLIDAY RECIPES AND SIDE DISHES

TIPS FOR COOKING A MOIST ROAST TURKEY IN THE OVEN

  • If you want to keep your Thanksgiving turkey moist, the most important thing is not to overcook it. You can use an oven safe meat thermometer and measure your cooking time, to make sure the roasted bird doesn’t go too far.
  • For extra moist meat, don’t cook stuffing inside the bird. It’ll increase your cooking time, and the white meat may get dry while the middle is still coming to temperature.
  • Let the roast bird rest out of the oven for at least 20 minutes after roasting. Just like a good steak, letting your roast turkey rest helps to lock in the juices. Just loosely cover with a piece of tinfoil while you prepare the gravy from the drippings on the bottom of the pan.
  • If you’re not up for basting, consider learning how to make turkey brine, which can be prepped beforehand. It basically self-bastes while it’s roasting!
  • Remember to remove the giblets before cooking the turkey. These can be used to flavor gravy later.

Classic Roasted Turkey

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Roast Turkey

Roast Turkey made with seasoned butter and broth is basted for over 4 hours for an incredibly tender meat and crispy skin is PERFECT for holiday dinner!
Yield 25 servings
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 15 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Author Sabrina Snyder

Ingredients
 

  • 1 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 turkey 16-18 pounds, patted dry
  • 8 cups chicken stock

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and remove all but the bottom rack and add the turkey to a large roasting pan with a rack.
  • Remove the bag of giblets and pat the turkey dry inside and out.
  • Mash the butter, salt and pepper in a small bowl and lift from under the turkey with the back of a spoon to separate the skin while adding in small chunks of the butter and then patting the skin back down to help spread the butter under the skin all over the bird (being careful not to pierce or tear the skin as the butter will ooze out.
  • Pour 2 cups of chicken stock in the pan and cover with foil and set a timer to go off every 30 minutes, basting each time.
  • After 2 hours remove the foil and continue cooking and basting for an additional 2 hours or until the thigh is cooked to 165 degrees (this is vital for food safety) and let rest for 20 minutes before serving.

Notes

Note: click on times in the instructions to start a kitchen timer while cooking.

Nutrition

Calories: 238kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 96mg | Sodium: 412mg | Potassium: 313mg | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 285IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 16mg | Iron: 1.1mg
Keyword: roast turkey

About the Author: Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years who is the creator and developer of all the recipes on Dinner, then Dessert.

She is also the author of the upcoming cookbook: Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients which is being published by Harper Collins.

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef.

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook for families one day a week and cook their entire week of dinners. All grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning was done along with instructions on reheating. As a private chef she cooked for private parties and cooked in family homes in the evenings for families on a nightly basis after working as a personal chef during the day.

Sabrina has been certified as a ServSafe Manager since 2007 and was a longstanding member of the USPCA Personal Chef Association including being on the board of the Washington DC Chapter of Chefs in the US Personal Chef Association when they won Chapter of the year.

As a member of the community of food website creators Sabrina Snyder has spoken at many conferences regarding her experiences as a food writer including the Indulge Food Conference, Everything Food Conference, Haven Food Conference and IACP Annual Food Professionals Conference.

Sabrina lives with her family in sunny California.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.

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Comments

    1. I am so sorry, I am just seeing this tonight. I am sure the recipe has long been cooked/or not but I still want to try to help.

      Yes, you definitely could do the recipe on a 12 pound turkey, just cut back the ingredients by 3/4ths and cut the cooking time to 90 minutes covered and 90 minutes uncovered.

  1. Beautiful turkey!! my mouth is watering lol!
    Years ago I found a recipe where you dip cheesecloth in melted butter and madeira wine and then drape it back and forth totally covering the turkey like a mummy. Self basting! It comes out just as browned and beautiful and sooo juicy!!
    I think I might try yours this year!
    You and I have similar taste in food! I love your recipes!

  2. i have never been able to figure out how to stick a thermometer in the thigh without coming close to or touching a bone.

    1. Slip the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey thigh,it should be just above the crease between the thigh and the place where the turkey breast begins and driving it into the thigh meat. I hope this helps for next time!

  3. I’m looking forward to trying this recipe but would like to know why the ingredient list calls for 8 cups of chicken stock but the instructions only call for 2 cups in the pan. Do I add additional chicken stock as the turkey cooks? I’m a novice and don’t want to make any mistakes if possible.

  4. Enjoying your site & all of your wonderful recipes! Yes they all look mouth watering but what would put your site over the top would be that your followers would actually MAKE these recipes before commenting!

    1. Thank you for your compliments! I’m glad you are enjoying the site. I try not to police my comments, I want my readers to feel empowered to give feedback, troubleshoot/ask questions, let me know how it turned out or even rave about the pictures and content – however they want to feel a part of the site, I welcome 🙂

  5. Hi –

    Can you brine and baste or is that too much? Also, I am thinking about making the turkey the day ahead any tips to keep the turkey moist?

    1. Sorry, it looks like your question got caught in my spam filter. You can totally brine it before if you’d like. Enjoy!