With crispy skin and lots of juicy meat, this oven-roasted turkey is the best way to welcome Christmas to your holiday table. Served with festive sides, it’s just waiting to be sliced and served.
The Best Christmas Turkey Recipe
With two simple cheats for keeping it moist, this oven-roasted turkey is the perfect dish for your Christmas menu. Don’t worry about complicated techniques or fancy ingredients, I’m keeping things nice and easy this year.
Roasted until golden brown, the skin is crispy and buttery. Hiding a juicy and herby interior, the meat is ready to fall off the bone the moment you slice into it. The secret? A cheesecloth and lots of basting. Best of all, it lets you swap out many ingredients for dried herbs and garlic powder to make things easier on yourself.
Unlike previous years, you’ll enjoy roasting the turkey this time around because the oven will do everything for you. When it’s time to divide the tasks for next year’s gathering, your hand will shoot through the air when you hear “turkey.”
Dried herbs will make things way easier for this oven roasted turkey. Check the recipe card at the bottom of the post for the ingredient amounts.
- Whole turkey
- Salt and pepper
- Yellow onion – This is the best one because of its sweetness, but feel free to use white onion as well.
- Garlic – Fresh garlic always yields the best flavor. However, you can swap it for 6 teaspoons of garlic powder.
- Rosemary sprigs – Dried rosemary works too in the same amount.
- Thyme sprigs – Feel free to use dried thyme.
- Parsley sprigs – Dried parsley will also work.
- Bay leaves
- Unsalted butter – If you use salted butter, reduce the amount of salt in the rest of the recipe.
- Dry white wine – My favorite is Chardonnay, but Sauvignon blanc is great, as well.
How to Make Oven Roasted Turkey
Thankfully, the oven does all the work for you. All you have to worry about is loosening the skin and soaking the cheesecloth in melted butter.
- Prepare the oven. Preheat the oven to 450˚F and place a rack in the lower third of the oven. Then place a roasting rack in a large roasting pan and set it aside.
- Prepare the turkey. Remove the giblets and neck from the turkey. Save them for later to make broth or throw them out. Use paper towels to pat the turkey dry.
- Loosen the skin. Carefully insert your fingers under the skin to loosen it. Don’t detach the skin completely. You can also use the long end of a wooden spoon for this. Once that’s done, season the turkey on the outside with salt and pepper to taste.
- Fill it. Place onions, garlic, rosemary sprigs, thyme sprigs, parsley, and bay leaves inside the cavity.
- Arrange the turkey. Place the prepared turkey on the rack inside the roasting pan, breast side up. Use kitchen twine to tie the ends of the legs together. Tuck the wing tips back. Set it aside.
- Melt the butter. Add the butter and wine to a small pot over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the butter has melted and the mixture is warm. Remove it from the heat.
- Prepare the cheesecloth. Fold the cheesecloth in half twice (it will have 4 layers.) Use kitchen thongs to carefully lower it into the butter. Once it has soaked up the butter mixture, remove it and unfold it once.
- Cover the turkey. Place the cheesecloth on top of the turkey and smooth it out. Cover the remaining butter mixture with the pot’s lid to keep it warm.
- Roast it. Place the cloth-covered turkey in the oven and let it roast for 30 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350˚F and then roast it for another 2 hours. Baste the cheesecloth and turkey with the remaining butter mixture every 30 minutes. Remove the turkey from the oven momentarily to remove the cheesecloth. Be careful not to tear the skin.
- Brown the skin. Return the turkey to the oven and let it roast for another 30 minutes, giving it one final basting. Once the skin is browned, and a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest portion of the breast reads 160˚F, it’s ready.
- Serve. Remove it from the oven and let the turkey rest for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.
Read this section to solve any doubts you may have about cooking times, how to keep it moist, and whether or not to roast your turkey covered.
How long does it take to roast a turkey?
- It usually depends on the size of the turkey, but the average cooking time is 13 minutes per pound. I used a 14-pound turkey, so the total roasting time was 3 hours.
At what temperature do you roast a turkey?
- Turkeys are roasted at both 450˚F and 350˚F. It should be roasted at 450˚F for the first 30 minutes and then at 350˚F for the remaining 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Do you roast a turkey covered or uncovered?
- Both. The initial portion of roasting should happen with your turkey covered to keep the skin from browning too quickly and burning. Once the meat is almost fully cooked, it can be uncovered to crispen the skin and brown it.
How do you keep a turkey moist when roasting?
- Basting is the secret to keeping an oven-roasted turkey moist. Baste it every 30 minutes of roasting time with the butter mixture and cooking juices to keep your turkey nice and juicy.
Tips for Success
With these tips, making oven roasted turkey once or twice a year may not be enough anymore.
- Create steam. Fill a baking dish with water and place it on the lowest rack in the oven. As the turkey cooks, the water will evaporate and create steam. This will help keep your turkey juicy.
- Turn it around. Most ovens have hot spots. To avoid one side of your turkey cooking properly and not the other, turn the roasting pan around (with the turkey) halfway through the cooking time.
- Add veggies. Chopping up baby potatoes, carrots, and other veggies will give you a 2-in-1 dinner of roasted veggies and turkey. Use them to make a bed for the turkey in the roasting pan.
- Place it in the fridge. Before roasting, let the turkey rest overnight in the fridge while being loosely covered with foil. This will help the skin dry out and become extra crispy once it’s in the oven.
- Use compound butter. Compound butter is a mixture of butter with herbs, spices, garlic, and other ingredients. This gives the turkey lots of extra flavor.
What to Serve with Roast Turkey
Think holiday dishes and sides for this roasted turkey. My favorites include the Classic Waldorf Salad, Roasted Artichokes, Broccoli Cheese Casserole, and Oven Roasted Vegetables. Remember the mashed potatoes and green beans!
If you’re expecting lots of guests, why not make several turkeys for variety? My favorite ones are Easy Roast Turkey, Garlic Lemon Butter Roast Turkey Breast, and Juicy Roast Turkey Recipe with Maple Gravy.
How to Store & Reheat Leftovers
- Refrigerate any cooled and sliced leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days. You can also cover the roasting pan with foil and refrigerate the leftover turkey whole.
- To reheat it, sprinkle it with a few teaspoons of water and then microwave it for up to 2 minutes or until warm. You can also reheat it in a pan over medium heat until heated through.
Can I Freeze Oven Roasted Turkey?
- Yes! However, you’ll need to slice it all first. Once you’ve done this, wrap the pieces once in foil and then in plastic wrap twice. Transfer it to a freezer-friendly bag or container and freeze it for up to 3 months.
- Move it to the fridge a day before serving it so it has enough time to thaw.
More Turkey Recipes
- Juicy Roast Turkey Recipe with Maple Gravy
- Garlic Lemon Butter Roast Turkey Breast Recipe
- Easy Roast Turkey Recipe
- Rosemary Lemon Roasted Turkey
Perfect Roast Turkey Recipe
- 1 14-pound whole turkey, completely thawed
- 1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
- ½ tablespoon fresh ground black pepper, or to taste
- 1 large yellow onion, quartered
- 8 cloves garlic, crushed
- 6 rosemary sprigs, or 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
- 6 thyme sprigs, or 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 6 parsley sprigs, or 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 2 bay leaves
- 1½ cups unsalted butter,
- 2 cups dry white wine, I use Chardonnay
- Preheat oven to 450°F with an oven rack placed in the lower third.
- Place a roasting rack in a large roasting pan. Set aside.
- Remove giblets and neck from turkey; reserve for later to make turkey broth or discard.
- Pat dry the turkey with paper towels.
- Starting at neck end, loosen the skin from the breast by inserting fingers or a long stick (I use my wooden spoon) and gently pushing between skin and meat. Do not detach the skin completely. Season the turkey all over with salt and pepper. Season the cavity, too.
- Place onions, garlic, rosemary sprigs, thyme sprigs, parsley, and bay leaves inside the cavity.
- Tie ends of legs together with kitchen twine, and tuck wing tips behind back.
- Place turkey on the rack in the prepared roasting pan, breast side up, and set aside.
- Add butter and white wine to a medium saucepan; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted and mixture is warm. Remove from heat.
- Take the cheesecloth and fold it in half two times so you get 4 layers.
- Using a pair of tongs, lower the cheesecloth in the butter mixture to absorb it.
- Remove the cheesecloth and unfold it once, so you end up with two layers.
- Place the cheesecloth on top of the turkey to cover it; smooth out the cheesecloth onto the turkey’s skin.
- Cover the remaining butter mixture to keep it warm.
- Roast the turkey for 30 minutes.
- Reduce oven temperature to 350°F, and roast for 2 hours, basting the cheesecloth and any exposed areas of turkey every 30 minutes with the reserved butter mixture.
- Remove roasting pan from oven and peel away the cheesecloth, being careful not to tear the skin. Discard cheesecloth.
- Continue to roast the turkey (and baste) for about 30 more minutes, or until skin is browned and a thermometer inserted into the thickest portion of the breast registers at 160˚F.
- Remove turkey from oven and let rest for 30 minutes before carving and serving.
- Juicy Turkey: There are many ways to ensure your turkey does not dry out. One of them is to take the turkey out of the oven as soon as the internal temperature registers at 160˚F. Also, you can create steam by filling a baking dish with water and placing it on the lowest rack in the oven. Finally, turn the roasting pan around halfway through cooking to avoid one side of the turkey cooking properly but not the other.
- Basting the Turkey: Basting is an excellent way to moisten the turkey. Baste the turkey every 20 or 30 minutes of roasting time with the butter mixture plus the cooking juices to keep your turkey from drying out.
- Cover the Turkey: For other recipes that do not use a cheesecloth, you should cover the turkey with foil to keep the skin from browning too quickly. Then, uncover it about 30 minutes before it is cooked so the skin can brown and crisp up.
- Cooking Time: This will depend on the size of the turkey, but the rule of thumb is to cook the turkey for 13 to 14 minutes per pound.
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.