How to Roast a Turkey

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Learn how to roast a Thanksgiving turkey using this easy no-brine method! It’s one of my favorite recipes for buttery, juicy roast turkey with homemade turkey gravy. You’ll come back to this easy recipe year after year.

A whole roast Thanksgiving turkey.


How to Roast a Thanksgiving Turkey

Fall is in the air, apple cobbler is in the oven, and it’s nearly time to gobble gobble our way through our annual Thanksgiving feast. And that means TURKEY! 🦃 With so much else going on during the holidays, who needs the added stress of a complicated roast turkey recipe? Not me. I’m sharing how to roast a turkey perfectly with just a few easy ingredients, using one of my hands-down best recipes. 

This bird comes out incredibly juicy, buttery, bronzed like an Amazonian goddess, and full of flavor while keeping the roasting process super simple. In the spirit of giving, I’ve thrown in my favorite recipe for maple turkey gravy to boot. Happy holidays!

Why You’ll Love This Easy Roast Turkey Recipe

  • No brining or marinating. Just an uncomplicated, stress-free method for succulent roasted turkey smothered with butter and herbs. 
  • Perfectly roasted. It’s easier than you’d think. I’ll show you how to cook a turkey that’s crisp on the outside and all kinds of juicy on the inside, slow-basted in drippings. 
  • Homemade turkey gravy. Speaking of drippings, save them! I include my recipe for the BEST maple turkey gravy with pan drippings, too. You’ll want to slurp it like soup.
Close up of sliced roast Thanksgiving turkey over a bed of greens on a plate.

What You’ll Need

The secret to the most flavorful turkey? Smothering it inside and out with butter, fresh herbs, onions, and garlic before roasting. It really makes all the difference. Here are some notes on what you’ll need. Be sure to scroll to the recipe card below the post for a full ingredient list, amounts, and recipe details.

For the Turkey

  • Compound Butter: We’ll whip together a super-simple compound butter, a.k.a. herb butter, with lemon, garlic, and parsley. 
  • Whole Turkey: One 12-pound turkey, like the one in this recipe, is enough to feed about a dozen hungry Thanksgiving guests. You can absolutely adapt this recipe to any size turkey you need. Keep reading for details on how long to roast a turkey per pound.
  • Garlic and Herbs: I stuff my turkey with quartered onions, a whack of fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, and parsley), and garlic. Go ahead and fill your turkey with any aromatics you’d like. You can also borrow from my rosemary lemon roasted turkey recipe.
  • Chicken Broth: I recommend low-sodium chicken stock or broth. Not only does adding broth to the pan add moisture, but we’ll use the leftovers in our homemade gravy.
  • Turkey Gravy: Because no turkey dinner is complete without a finger-licking turkey gravy. I’ve included my easy recipe for gravy with pan drippings infused with real maple syrup. You can also use my original recipe without maple if you’d prefer.


  • Roasting Pan with a Rack: Most roasting pans come with a roasting rack. If yours doesn’t, make sure that the rack you use fits comfortably in the bottom of the pan.
  • Meat Thermometer: To keep an eye on the temperature, so you’ll know when the turkey is done.
  • Brush or Baster: For basting the turkey with the pan juices throughout roasting.
An uncooked, trussed turkey stuffed with herbs and ready for roasting.

How to Roast a Turkey: The Easiest Method!

If you’re not quite sure how to roast a turkey but you’d like to learn, you’re in luck. This is my tried-and-tested, all-time-favorite, easy-peasy method for the perfect roast turkey with the least amount of effort. Let’s get started.

  • Make the compound butter. First, you’ll make a simple garlic and herb butter by mashing butter together with parsley, garlic, lemon zest and juice, salt, and pepper.
  • Rub the turkey. Next, using your hands, rub the turkey all over with your compound butter. Make sure to (carefully) lift the skin and get some under there, too. You want that flavor in every nook and cranny.
  • Stuff the turkey. Now, you’ll fill the turkey cavity with one-half of a whole garlic bulb, along with fresh thyme, rosemary, and more parsley. If you’d like, you can tie the herbs together in what the French call a bouquet garni. But I usually just stuff them in as is.
  • Prep the turkey for the oven. Place the turkey into a roasting pan with a rack, tie the turkey’s legs, and then tuck the wings underneath. Insert a meat thermometer deep underneath the drumstick. Since we’ll be making gravy from the turkey drippings, add a few cups of chicken stock to the pan before placing your turkey in the preheated oven at 450ºF.
  • Roast. As soon as the turkey is in, lower the oven temperature to 350ºF and roast for 2 ½ to 3 hours. Baste the turkey with the pan juices and cover the turkey breast with foil after 40 minutes. Every 40 minutes after that, take the turkey out and continue to baste to really amp up the moisture and flavor. 
  • Rest. When your turkey is ready to come out, allow it to rest outside of the pan, covered lightly in foil, for at least 30 minutes. Don’t skip this step! Resting lets the juices redistribute, for a perfectly tender turkey that’s easy to carve.
  • Serve. Carve and enjoy!

How Long Does It Take To Roast a Turkey?

The easiest way to know how long to roast a turkey is to estimate about 13-15 minutes per pound. I usually roast a 12-pound stuffed turkey for 2 ½ to 3 hours at 350ºF, until the internal temperature reaches 160-170ºF. Check your turkey for doneness using an instant-read thermometer.

Can I Prepare a Turkey In Advance?

If you’re looking to get a head start on your Thanksgiving turkey, your future self will be thankful that you did. To prepare this turkey for the oven ahead of time, butter up your bird as directed, stuff it with herbs, and then cover it with plastic wrap to refrigerate overnight. When you’re ready to cook the turkey, take it out of the fridge 1 hour ahead of roasting. Then simply proceed with the recipe as written.

A whole roast Thanksgiving turkey.

How to Make Turkey Gravy From Pan Drippings

Now that your turkey is cooked, see all those leftover juices and turkey bits in the pan? Don’t throw them out! That, my friends, is where the flavor is. While the turkey rests, let’s make a delicious maple turkey gravy with the leftover pan drippings:

  • Start by deglazing the roasting pan. Transfer the pan juices to a heatproof bowl. Next, position your metal roasting pan over two burners on your stovetop, add one cup of drippings, and boil the liquid for a minute. Use a spatula to scrape up any stuck-on bits from the pan, then pour the liquid back into the bowl. We want alllll the flavor from that roasting pan, every last drop!
  • Make the gravy. In a separate saucepan, create a “roux” by whisking flour into melted butter. This acts as a thickener for the gravy. Next, add two more cups of pan drippings, and let it cook off, whisking until thickened.
  • Finish with maple syrup. Lastly, stir in maple syrup and season your gravy to taste with salt and pepper. Voila! It’s time to serve and get drizzling.
Maple turkey gravy is poured over sliced roast turkey on a plate.

Tips for Success

See? Roasting a turkey doesn’t have to be a large-scale production in the kitchen. Keep the following tips in mind for turkey that turns out golden and juicy no matter what:

  • If you’re using a frozen turkey, make sure that you plan ahead and budget enough time for it to thaw completely before cooking. Frozen turkey usually takes a few days to thaw in the fridge. I give it approximately 24 hours of defrosting time for every 5 pounds of turkey.
  • You don’t need to brine the turkey for this recipe. However, if you’d like to take the extra step to brine your Thanksgiving turkey, check out my post on how to brine a turkey for an easy step-by-step. In this case, you’ll need to plan to brine the turkey at least 12 hours in advance.
  • Figure out the right roasting time. Plan for 13 minutes of cooking time per pound for an unstuffed turkey, or 15 minutes per pound for a stuffed turkey.
  • Check that your turkey is done by taking the temperature at the thickest part of the thigh. According to the UDSA, your Thanksgiving turkey is finished cooking when the internal temperature reads 165-170ºF. Anything below that, and you’ll need to keep roasting.
  • Rest that turkey! I know, I know, you’re the one who’s earned a rest, amiright? But in all seriousness, don’t skip the resting time after the turkey is out of the oven. The longer a roast turkey rests, the more tender it becomes.
  • If your turkey gravy turns out too thick, whisk in a little more broth at a time to thin out the consistency. If you find that the gravy is too thin, try adding a slurry of 2 tablespoons cornstarch combined with 2 tablespoons water, and whisk until thickened.
Sliced roast turkey over a bed of greens on a plate topped with maple turkey gravy.

Common Questions

What’s the best temperature for roasting a turkey?

I roast this turkey by preheating the oven to 450ºF, and then immediately lowering the temperature to 350ºF once the turkey is in the oven. I’ve found that starting at a higher temperature crisps up the turkey skin and locks in the moisture.

Should I roast a turkey covered or uncovered?

We want the turkey skin to be golden and crisp, and the inside moist and juicy. I recommend roasting a turkey uncovered for the first 40 minutes before partially covering it with foil, shielding the breast area. This prevents the white meat in the turkey breasts from drying out.

Carved Thanksgiving turkey served over a bed of greens on a platter, topped with maple turkey gravy.

What to Serve With a Thanksgiving Turkey

This golden roast turkey is no doubt the center of attention at the Thanksgiving table. If you’re looking for something delicious to serve alongside your holiday turkey, I have SO MANY Thanksgiving dinner ideas. Here are some easy favorites: 

Close up of sliced roast turkey over a bed of greens on a plate topped with maple turkey gravy.

Storing and Reheating Leftovers

  • Fridge: Leftover carved turkey can be refrigerated airtight for up to 3-4 days. Reheat leftovers in the oven or microwave, or in a skillet on the stovetop. I like to drizzle over some gravy to help moisten up the turkey while reheating.
  • Freezer: Once the cooked turkey is completely cool, carve the remaining meat from the bones and store the meat airtight in freezer bags. Freeze leftover turkey for up to 3 months and defrost fully in the fridge before reheating.
  • Leftover turkey makes for some pretty amazing turkey soup, turkey salad sandwiches, and leftover turkey frittatas in the days after Thanksgiving. Check out my Thanksgiving leftovers recipes for even more inspo.


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5 from 13 votes

How to Roast a Turkey

Master how to cook a Thanksgiving turkey with this easy, no-brine method. You'll love this tender, juicy roast turkey recipe topped with homemade turkey gravy, perfect for the holidays!
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
Resting Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 50 minutes
Servings: 12 Servings


For the Compound Butter:

  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons or 113 grams) butter, softened
  • 1/2 lemon,, zested and juiced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

For the Turkey:

  • 1 (12 pound) Turkey
  • salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 whole bulb garlic,, cut in half, horizontally
  • 2 yellow onions,, quartered
  • 10 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 10 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 10 fresh parsley sprigs
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth

For the Maple Turkey Gravy:

  • 2 cups broth and drippings from the bottom of the roasting pan
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
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  • Preheat oven to 450ºF.
  • Fit a wire rack inside a large roasting pan and set aside. (Most roasting pans come with a wire rack.)

Make the Compound Butter:

  • In a medium bowl, combine softened butter, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper.
  • Using a fork, mash and stir until well combined. Set aside.

How to Roast a Turkey:

  • Rinse the turkey and pat it dry with paper towels.
  • Season inside of turkey cavity generously with salt and pepper.
  • Fill the cavity with halved bulb of garlic (use both halves), quartered onions, and all the sprigs of fresh herbs.
  • Using your fingers OR the long handle of a wooden spoon, separate the skin from the breast meat, starting at the top of the breast and slide to the right and left, then work your way down.
  • With your fingers, grab small dollops of the compound butter and rub 2/3 of the butter mixture under the turkey’s skin.
  • Then, spread the rest of the compound butter around and over the top of the skin.
  • Tie up the legs with kitchen twine; tuck the wing tips under; transfer turkey to a roasting pan fitted with a rack.
  • Place a meat thermometer into the bird, beneath the drumstick, deep into the dark meat.
  • Pour 4 cups of chicken broth inside the roasting pan and transfer turkey to the oven.
  • Place turkey in the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 350ºF.
  • Roast for 40 minutes; remove from oven – close the oven door so you don’t let out the heat – baste the turkey with the drippings from the bottom of the roasting pan.
  • Place a piece of foil over the turkey breast area and put turkey back in the oven. Cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, basting every 40 minutes. Turkey is done when the internal temperature reads 170ºF at the thickest part of the thigh.
  • Remove turkey from the oven; transfer it to a cutting board, cover loosely with foil and let rest for at least 30 minutes.

Make the Maple Turkey Gravy:

  • Pour out the pan juices into a heatproof bowl and skim off the fat.
  • Set the roasting pan over 2 burners on high heat until sizzling.
  • Add 1 cup of the pan juices and bring to a boil, scraping up all the browned bits stuck to the bottom. Add the liquid back into the bowl with the remaining pan juices and set aside.
  • Melt butter in a saucepan and whisk in flour for 1 minute. Add 2 cups of the pan juices to the saucepan and cook (add water or broth if needed to make 2 cups), whisking, until the gravy is thickened; about 5 minutes. Stir in the maple syrup and season with salt and pepper.
  • Strain the gravy into a gravy boat.
  • Carve the turkey and serve with the gravy.


  • Frozen Turkey: Let turkey completely thaw before cooking. Frozen turkey will thaw within a few days in the fridge, approximately 24 hours for every five pounds of turkey.
  • Roasting Times: For every pound of turkey, you need 13 minutes of cooking time if the turkey is not stuffed. If it’s stuffed, plan 15 minutes of cooking time per pound.
  • Check for Doneness: Turkey is done when a thermometer registers at 170ºF in the thickest part of the thigh.
  • Resting: Turkey needs to rest 30 minutes to 1 hour before cutting. The longer it sits, the better, because, it will become more tender and it will be much easier to cut.
  • Gravy: If gravy is too thick, add more broth, 1 tablespoon at a time. If gravy is too thin, make a slurry with 2 tablespoons cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water. Add to the hot liquid and whisk and stir until incorporated and the gravy thickens.


Calories: 580kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 72g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 257mg | Sodium: 1044mg | Potassium: 867mg | Fiber: 0g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 530IU | Vitamin C: 4.8mg | Calcium: 53mg | Iron: 3.2mg

Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.

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  1. Frank Mosher says:

    Turkey stuffing is a very individual preference, and I really feel sorry for those of you who have never tried one of, if not, the best! Let me just enlighten you, if I may be so arrogant! The stuffing should be moist, if not, one is referring to a very old excuse for a “stuffing”, baked seperately in a dish/pan. Dry!! One should add spices- poultry seasoning, etc, cooked sausage, old bread pieces, apples, currents, wild rice, onions, a little olive oil to give the baked in-turkey stuffing, moisture! The suggestion that raw meat juices will contaminate the stuffing has no merit at all. If your turkey is contaminated to begin with, the stuffing is the least of your concerns. Further, unless a “Butterball” -oil/butter injected bird, it should first be marinated in a salt/water solution. I do like your maple gravy recipe, and will definitely try same. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger, try it! Cheers!

  2. Jean says:

    Love the turkey but I’m too much a tradionalist to put garlic in the turkey. I substituted rubbed sage for the garlic but everything else remained the same. Absolutely delicious, especially the maple gravy

    1. Katerina Petrovska says:

      Thank YOU! I’m glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

  3. Janine says:

    If I set this up the night before do I remove the onions and garlic from the cavity to stuff the turkey before baking or leave it in and just add the stuffing to it?

    1. Katerina Petrovska says:

      Hi! It won’t make a difference, whatever is easier for you. I would leave those in and make the stuffing (dressing) separately because the stuffing will soak up all the raw turkey juices, which might make someone sick if the stuffing does not cook to a 165˚F. At least that is the “school of thought” these days by culinary professionals… however, it won’t surprise me if it changes by next year. 😆

      1. Janine says:

        Agreed! It’s always something 🤣 I think I will make the dressing separately, I’m really looking forward to making your recipe next month! Thanks so much!

  4. Hanifia says:

    This was a delicious turkey. A nice change from the traditional flavor. I stuffed this with the “Awesome Sausage Apple and Cranberry Stuffing” from this site and this made the best Turkey and stuffing I’ve ever eaten. I’ll be making it again.

  5. Erin | Dinners,Dishes and Dessert says:

    This looks incredibly delicious!

  6. Allyson Zea says:

    This sounds seriously sooooo delicious but it looks totally gorgeous too!