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This roast turkey recipe is tender, juicy, and simple to make with a delicious garlic herb butter rubbed on the skin. Perfect for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or a special occasion!

Is a turkey too big for your holiday gathering? Try my Easy Roast Chicken instead.

roast turkey on a marble background with a bowl of mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and a gravy boat

Best roast turkey recipe

So you’ve decided to roast a turkey. The good news is that learning how to roast a turkey does not have to be too intimidating or difficult. There are many different ways to cook it, but this method is simple and fairly hands off once you get it in the oven (no basting), and it will allow you to enjoy the day and even prepare some delicious sides like these Garlic Mashed Potatoes.

Read on, as this blog post is filled with tips to help you to roast a Thanksgiving turkey with confidence!

Thanksgiving dinner on a plate with sliced roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, and cranberry sauce

What size turkey to buy

Generally people will eat 1-2 pounds of turkey at Thanksgiving, but of course rules don’t always accurately reflect reality, so that’s why I like to make a bit extra. If you’ve got light eaters or a ton of sides, stick to 1-1.25 pounds per person. Want to ensure people can get their fill and you will still have some leftovers? Plan on buying an 8 pound turkey for 4 people, 12 pounds for 6 people, 16 pounds for 8 people, or 20 pounds for 10 people. 

Thaw your turkey in advance!

  • Plan on letting it thaw in its packaging in the fridge for 1 day per every 5 pounds. So, if you have a 15 pound turkey, it’ll take about 3 days to thaw. Do not leave it out on your counter all night the day before Thanksgiving for safety reasons.

To brine or not to brine?

This is optional. I don’t brine my turkey for this recipe. Wet brining can be messy and the skin doesn’t crisp up as easy. Dry brining is a bit less messy if you do want to go the brining route, however. I recommend letting the turkey sit uncovered in your fridge overnight if you do use a dry brine. If using this recipe with a brined turkey, I would reduce the salt or eliminate it altogether (even from the butter).

Everything is better with butter.

Rubbing softened butter all over the turkey skin keeps the meat moist and helps the skin crisp up. You can rub some of it under the skin, but there’s a chance it’ll rip if you’re not careful, so I generally just rub it over top.

how to roast a turkey prep photos with garlic herb butter and a prepped turkey in a roasting pan

How long to cook a turkey at 350F

The general rule is 13 minutes per pound for an unstuffed turkey. For my 14-pound bird, that means it took about 3 hours. Use an instant read meat thermometer, inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, to gauge if it’s cooked (minimum of 165F, but you won’t ruin it if it’s in the low 170s).  

Make stuffing separately.

If you place stuffing in the cavity of the bird, it must reach 165F to be considered safe to eat. This means that the breast will likely become overcooked before the stuffing is done, so many people opt to cook the stuffing separately. Try my Sausage Stuffing as a delicious dish to serve alongside this turkey.

sliced roast Thanksgiving turkey on a white platter close-up

You’ve come this far… now let it rest!

Resting allows the turkey juices to redistribute. Cutting too early means the juices will seep out, and you’ll be left with tough meat. The temperature will also continue to rise a bit during this time by approximately 5-10 degrees F (it’ll cook a bit more after you take it out of the oven). I don’t cover/tent the turkey with foil during this time, but you can if you wish.

How to carve a turkey

What about the gravy?

My Turkey Gravy recipe can be made ahead. Add some of the turkey drippings in while the bird rests. Be sure to use a fat skimmer to separate out the fat.

close-up of the best easy roast turkey

Recipe notes and tips for success

  • You will want to elevate the turkey for best results. I use a roasting pan with a rack, but if you need to improvise, check out this article.
  • I don’t add any extra liquid to the bottom of the roasting pan. Some recipes do this, but I find that it can make the bird steam and the skin doesn’t end up quite as crispy. It’s up to you if you do want to add some (add 2-4 cups of chicken broth/stock if doing this).
  • You can make the butter rub with dried herbs if you prefer/can’t find fresh herbs. I’d use some Italian seasoning or a poultry blend and use less than suggested for the fresh herbs (approx. 1 teaspoon for every tablespoon).
  • I recommend using sea salt or kosher salt on the turkey. Do not salt your turkey if it’s already been brined.
  • I don’t wash the turkey. It doesn’t actually kill bacteria, but it does a great job of spreading bacteria around your kitchen.
  • I recommend reading through the recipe a couple of times before you start cooking so you’re familiar with it and so you don’t accidentally forget to purchase any ingredients.

Leftovers and storage

sliced roast turkey on a platter

Hope you love this oven roasted turkey recipe! If you can’t find the answer to your question in the blog post, talk to me in the comments below. 

roast turkey on a marble background with a bowl of mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and a gravy boat
4.96 from 23 votes

Easy Roast Turkey

This roast turkey recipe is tender, juicy, and simple to make with a delicious garlic herb butter rubbed on the skin. Perfect for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or a special occasion!
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 3 hours
Total: 3 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 10


  • 1 (14-16 pound) whole turkey see note
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Herb butter:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) softened
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary chopped finely
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper or to taste

Inside the turkey:

  • 1 lemon halved
  • A few sprigs each fresh sage, thyme, and rosemary
  • 1 head garlic break into cloves and peel them


  • Take the turkey out of the fridge to let it warm up for an hour prior to roasting it. Set it on a baking sheet (this will help collect spills etc. once you open the packaging later on). Also take the butter out of the fridge to let it soften up.
  • Add the butter to a bowl, along with the other herb butter ingredients. Mash together with a fork.
  • Preheat oven to 450F and move a rack to the bottom third of the oven (remove the rest of the racks so there's plenty of room).
  • Take the turkey out of its packaging and remove the giblets and neck if they were included (found inside the cavity). If your turkey was frozen, you'll want to do this near the sink since there will be lots of excess liquid. Be sure to drain as much liquid from the cavity as possible, then put it back on the baking sheet.
  • To prep the turkey: Pat it dry with paper towel. Season with salt & pepper (add some inside the cavity too… about a teaspoon of salt in total since the herb butter contains salt too). Stuff the cavity with the lemon, herbs, and garlic. Rub the turkey all over with the herb butter (I don't do the very bottom of the bird). Tuck the wings under the turkey and tie the legs together with kitchen twine (optional, but it makes for a neater appearance).
  • Place the turkey on the rack of the roasting pan (breast side up).
  • Place the roasting pan in the oven and reduce the heat to 350F.
  • Roast the turkey for about 3 hours (for a 14 pound turkey), until an instant read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165F. When the turkey rests, the temperature will continue to rise, and the thigh meat should end up in the 170s, which will be perfectly tender. Begin testing for doneness 30 minutes before total roasting time is reached to avoid surprises. There is no basting in this recipe. Important: the skin will brown before the turkey is done (up to an hour or so before). At this point, loosely cover the turkey with non-stick foil for the remainder of cooking time so the breast meat doesn't burn.
    The timing rule for turkey is 13 minutes per pound at 350F, so adjust accordingly based on the size of your bird. Also remember that each time you open the oven, it'll lose some heat and cooking time will increase a bit.
  • Once the turkey is cooked and out of the oven, carefully tilt the roasting rack so the juices inside the turkey spill out to the bottom of the pan (these can be made into gravy!). Lift the rack (with the turkey on it) and transfer the turkey to a large cutting board or plate.
    Let it rest for 20 minutes prior to carving. This is important! The juices need time to redistribute or else you'll end up with a dry turkey. You can use the drippings to make gravy while the turkey rests.


  • You can roast a turkey that doesn’t fall within the 14-16 pound range, but if it’s much bigger or much smaller, you may want to use a bit less/more butter and fillings in the cavity. The timing rule is to roast 13 minutes/pound at 350F. I would not roast a turkey without having an instant read thermometer.
  • Use sea salt or kosher salt if possible. Do not salt an already brined turkey, and I would reduce or eliminate the salt in the butter if using this recipe with a brined turkey.
  • Please see blog post for more tips and answers to FAQs!


Calories: 537kcal, Carbohydrates: 3g, Protein: 56g, Fat: 33g, Saturated Fat: 15g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g, Monounsaturated Fat: 9g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 234mg, Sodium: 684mg, Potassium: 623mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 754IU, Vitamin C: 8mg, Calcium: 52mg, Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

© Salt & Lavender Inc. Content and photographs are copyrighted. Sharing this blog post is much appreciated, but copying and pasting full recipes without authorization to social media is strictly prohibited.

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Hi! I’m Natasha.

Salt & Lavender is a recipe blog with a focus on delicious comfort food using everyday ingredients. Beat the weekday grind with hundreds of easy-to-follow and hassle-free recipes!

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4.96 from 23 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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  1. Ann says:

    I love this recipe. We first tried it at thanksgiving this year and now made it again today for Christmas! Never have I been so impressed with a recipe and it’s so easy to do. I was skeptical the first time I made it, but once it came out and my husband sliced into it, I knew we found our forever turkey recipe!! Only took a decade haha.

    1. Natasha says:

      I love that!! 😀 Thank you for letting me know. That makes me so happy, Ann!

  2. Ann says:

    Hint: The reason your turkey does does crisp up is due to the fact that after brining, you have to dry out the turkey, by absorbing all the moisture from the brine, then leave it in the refrigerator overnight, so the skin can dry out. You are guaranteed perfect browning and crispy skin.

    1. Natasha says:

      I suggest in the blog post leaving it in the refrigerator overnight if you decide to brine it.

  3. Gigi says:

    I’m not sure what I did wrong, it was ok but not what I expected. I was exciting thinking it was goiIng to amazing. There were some spot that were better than other! I see the reviews seem to all be great so it must be user error on my part.

    1. Natasha says:

      Hi Gigi! I’m sorry to hear that. 🙁 Do you have any more info so I can try to help troubleshoot?

  4. Katie says:

    This is my first time making a turkey and I’m going to use this recipe! But I was wondering can you use a bag? Or recommend not to?

    1. Natasha says:

      Hi Katie! I’ve never made a turkey in a bag before, so I can’t advise on that. It’ll change the method and cooking time, though. I’d definitely be sure to read the full blog post if this is your first time making a turkey – I tried to pack lots of success/troubleshooting tips in there. Let me know how it goes!

  5. Monica woodie says:

    I’m fixing a 6 pound turkey breast for 4 people. Can you break down the recipe for me to roast my breast.

    1. Miranda @ Salt & Lavender says:

      This recipe is for a whole roast turkey.

  6. Kandie says:

    So I decided this year to break with tradition and cook the turkey without stuffing it, so I started searching for recipes, and I found yours.. I was nervous, but I shouldn’t have been because it turned out AMAZING. Everyone was complementing how flavorful and moist the turkey was, and a friend even said he needs this recipe for his family! This is my new favorite for sure!

    1. Natasha says:

      That’s so great to hear!! Thank you!!

  7. Dawn says:

    5 stars
    This recipe was perfect! I received tons of compliments about how delicious & moist the turkey was. Thank you for sharing, this is a keeper!

    1. Natasha says:

      That makes me so happy!! Appreciate your review!

  8. Carrie says:

    5 stars
    Sooo tasty and easy to follow, my first Turkey and first year hosting. Will make again!

    1. Natasha says:

      Yay!! I’m thrilled to hear it, Carrie!! 😀

  9. Stefanie says:

    5 stars
    Used this as my guide for the first time hosting Thanksgiving ever (made a 20 LB turkey for 8 adults so we would have lots of leftovers). It came out moist and delicious! Everyone loved it and I felt so happy to have my hand held by the recipe through the day ha!

    1. Natasha says:

      Aww this is so nice to hear. That is exactly what I was trying to do… help people through a stressful cooking day. Thank you for your review! XO

      1. Brenda Stegeman says:

        5 stars
        So I made the exact recipe as this one when you first posted, but this year we decided to do a brine we saw recommended from food network with just 1 cup salt (dissolved in 2 gallons of water and set for 24 hours, rinse and dry). It was even more flavorful and can’t wait to do it again!!!

        1. Natasha says:

          Excellent! Thanks for the tip!

  10. Kyndall Barcomb says:

    5 stars
    I felt so intimidated to make my own Thanksgiving turkey this year, but this recipe was super simple and delicious! I used ghee for the herb butter, and it was marvelous. The turkey was beautifully golden and juicy. I’ll be using this recipe for years to come!

    1. Natasha says:

      That makes me so happy, Kyndall!! Thank you! 😀