This roast turkey recipe will be the star of your Thanksgiving dinner! It’s juicy and flavorful, with an aromatic combination of garlic, herbs, and lemon.
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Turkey is a Thanksgiving staple, but how you make that turkey? Well, that’s the wild card!
You can cook turkey stuffed with sausage stuffing or unstuffed; you can make it in the oven or deep fry it. Or you can roast it at a higher temperature with fresh herbs, lemon, and garlic and enjoy the most flavorful Thanksgiving turkey you’ve ever had!
Roast turkey is a succulent and delicious dish that is perfect for any Thanksgiving feast. The turkey is perfectly seasoned and filled with all kinds of good stuff—the aforementioned herbs, lemon, and garlic, along with carrots and onions. The high temperature at the beginning of the cooking time ensures that the turkey is golden brown and perfect, but still juicy and tender like it should be.
Perfect Roast Turkey Recipe
This roast turkey is the perfect centerpiece for a classic Thanksgiving dinner with your favorite mashed potatoes, cornbread dressing, and green bean casserole. (Oh, and don’t forget to use the drippings to make turkey gravy!) And I guarantee everyone will want to have seconds!
Stuffing the bird with aromatics infuses every bite with flavor. If you’re used to cooking your roast turkey with stuffing inside, you might hesitate to break with tradition and make your Thanksgiving turkey differently, but trust me—this recipe is worth it!
See recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
- Whole turkey — Remove the neck and giblets.
- Onion — Use a yellow or white onion here.
- Garlic – You can add more if you prefer a more prominent garlic flavor.
- Unsalted butter – If you only have salted butter on hand, go lighter on the salt when seasoning the turkey.
- Chicken stock
- Kosher salt & black pepper
How to Make Roast Turkey
- Prepare: Preheat the oven to 450ºF and dry the turkey with paper towels. Season the cavity with salt and pepper, then fill it with the onions, carrots, lemons, garlic, and herbs. Tuck the wings under the bird, then place it into a pan on a roasting rack and tie the legs together with kitchen twine.
- Season the outside: Brush the turkey with the melted butter and season the outside with salt and pepper. Pour the chicken stock into the roasting pan.
- Cook: Roast at 450ºF for 30 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350ºF and continue to cook for 3 to 4 hours, or until an instant read meat thermometer reads 160ºF.
- Cool: Remove the roast turkey from the oven and tent it with foil. Let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving and serving.
The turkey will continue to cook from the residual heat as it rests. This will bring the turkey to a safe internal temperature of 165ºF; the rest time also makes sure the juices don’t all run off when you carve the turkey!
How to Store Leftover Roast Turkey
The best way to store leftover roast turkey is in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can also freeze it, but make sure to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil before placing it in a freezer bag or airtight container. It will keep for up to three months in the freezer.
When you’re ready to reheat your leftover turkey, place it in an oven-safe dish and bake at 350ºF until heated through. You can also microwave it, but the oven is best.
There are a few things you can do to help turkey slices retain their moisture. First, be sure that you don’t overcook your turkey. Make sure the inner temperature reaches 160ºF and no more. You can also brine the turkey beforehand by soaking it in a saltwater solution for about 12 hours. And of course, make sure to serve the turkey with cranberry sauce or turkey gravy to help keep it moist!
A turkey needs to be cooked in an oven for anywhere from 3-5 hours, depending on its size.
Yes, a stuffed turkey will take longer to cook than an unstuffed roast turkey. The stuffing adds moisture and density to the bird, which means that it takes longer for the heat to penetrate all the way through. For a 12-pound turkey, you’ll need about 4 hours of cook time if it’s stuffed, versus only about 2 hours and 45 minutes if it’s unstuffed.
There are a few ways to moisten leftover roast turkey. One is to reheat it in an oven-safe dish and bake at 350ºF until heated through. Another way to add moisture is to revive it with broth or stock. Simply heat the broth in a saucepan, then pour it over the sliced turkey and let it soak in for a few minutes.
- 1 12-15 pound turkey, neck & giblets removed
- 1 large onion, quartered
- 2 carrots, roughly chopped
- 2 lemons, quartered
- 1 head garlic, whole, halved horizontally
- 10 sprigs thyme
- 5 sprigs rosemary
- 5 sprigs sage
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
- 2 cups chicken stock
- Kosher salt & black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 450F.
- Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Heavily season the cavity with salt and pepper and fill with the onions, carrots, lemons, garlic, and herbs. Tuck the wings under the bird, place into a roasting pan on a rack, and tie the legs together with kitchen twine.
- Brush the turkey with the melted butter and season the bird with salt & pepper. Pour the chicken stock into the roasting pan.
- Roast at 450F for 30 minutes and then reduce the heat to 350F and continue to cook for 3-4 hours or until an instant read thermometer reads 160F. The turkey will continue to cook and bring the temp to 165F.
- Remove from the oven and lightly cover with foil to rest for 15-20 minutes.