A moist and flavorful oven roasted turkey is so incredibly delicious! Just a few steps and key ingredients will create a beautiful and delectable bird.
A Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey
Cooking the Thanksgiving turkey can be a lot of pressure, especially if you’re hosting family and friends. It’s the star of the Thanksgiving dinner, and the item people often are looking forward to the most (unless you’re like me and you’re only here for the homemade rolls).
Well, the good news is that perfectly roasting a turkey is easier than you might think. It really only requires a handful of ingredients and a little bit of prep time, but then the oven does the rest! I have a few tips and tricks I’d like to share with you so that you, too, can make a beautiful oven roasted turkey to wow your holiday guests.
I hope some of my tips are helpful! Making a moist and flavorful oven roasted turkey is so simple and doesn’t have to done just for Thanksgiving! You can also use these same techniques to roast a whole chicken too.
How to Roast a Turkey in the Oven
PREP TURKEY. The first thing you need to do when preparing a turkey is to defrost it, remove anything inside the cavity, wash it and pat it dry. Place it in a large roasting pan and then prepare the butter!
BUTTER. My favorite way to make turkey ridiculously moist and flavorful is to create a soft “compound” butter. It only takes a few minutes to make and makes all of the difference. Combine the butter and herbs together and then rub in under the skin.
This process is probably the most time consuming step. You want to be extra careful so that you don’t poke a hole through the skin. I rub all the way down to the bottom of the breast and even up and on the drumsticks.
BASTE. Next comes the outside. Baste the skin with melted butter and some salt and pepper. The reason you don’t add herbs to the butter wash is because they’ll burn while roasting. Salt and pepper is all you need to add extra flavor to the skin.
FILLING. Then you’ll want to prepare the filling for the cavity. I prefer using fresh herbs (thyme and rosemary) along with onion, lemon and garlic. As the turkey roasts, all of these ingredients help flavor the turkey and add to the drippings which makes for some really tasty gravy!
TRUSS. The last thing you need to do before placing it in the oven is truss the turkey. When it comes to trussing, I like to tuck the wings under and tie them down along with the drumsticks and the leg bones. Make sure to tie everything extra tight because as the turkey roasts it shrinks and the twine will loosen. Anything that isn’t close to the main body of the bird might burn, so take a little time to get everything in its place.
ROAST. Place the turkey in the oven on the second lowest rack and bake for 2-2 ½ hours at 350 degrees. The skin will get dark and crispy and a thermometer should read 155 degrees. Remove from the oven and cover or tent the turkey with foil. Allowing the turkey to rest will bring it up to 165 degrees and will help the turkey stay extra moist.
SERVE. After the turkey has rested, transfer it to a cutting board using a poultry lifter (pictured in the first picture of the post). It’s a great way to prevent burns and to keep all of the turkey parts intact. Just insert it into the cavity of the turkey and lift!
Tips for Cooking Your Turkey
Just a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when cooking up your turkey.
- How many minutes per pound do you cook turkey? The normal approximation for cooking time is 20 minutes per pound. It may change slightly if you stuff your turkey or not.
- Do you cook a turkey covered or uncovered? Typically you cook the turkey uncovered.
- How do I keep my turkey moist? Make sure to not over bake the turkey. Take it out as soon as it has reached the correct internal temperature. You also need to let the turkey rest for 20 minutes or so before you carve it. This way the juices seep back into the turkey instead of being lost in the cutting process.
- Why are there no drippings from my turkey? If there are no drippings it may be because the stuffing soaked them all up. The other reason may be because you overcooked the turkey and all the juices were evaporated.
- How often should I baste a turkey? Basting isn’t required if you keep a close enough eye on the temperature and time. If you choose to baste the turkey you should do so every 30 minutes to ensure that it stays moist.
- Should you flip turkey while cooking? It is a poor idea to flip the turkey mid-way through the cooking process because you risk splashing the hot turkey fat all over yourself. The turkey will cook through very easily as it sits in one position.
Turkey Gravy and Other Sides
You can use the turkey drippings to make a homemade gravy that tastes delicious poured over your meat!
- Pour the drippings into a fat separator.
- Wait for about 10 minutes for the drippings to cool and the fat to separate and move to the top.
- Once it’s separated, measure out ¼ cups of fat and begin to heat in a skillet over medium-high heat (if you don’t have ¼ c of fat, you can add butter to reach ¼ c).
- Add ¼ cup flour and whisk for 2-4 minutes until it has thickened.
- Slowly add 2 cups of the liquid drippings. Continue whisking, as you bring it to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer, stirring/whisking occasionally, until thickened—about 5 minutes.
We made our stuffing on the side along with homemade cranberry sauce. When we do the whole spread we usually make our pies the day before and our rolls the morning of and put them in right after the turkey comes out. It’s a lot less stressful and that way we can enjoy spending time with family!
Here are a few more traditional Thanksgiving sides to serve with our oven roasted turkey:
- Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes
- Browned Butter Roasted Carrots
- Creamy Green Dean Casserole
- Maple Roasted Butternut Squash
How to Store + Freeze
STORE leftover turkey in the fridge in an airtight container for 2-3 days and rewarm in the microwave or in the oven until warmed through.
To FREEZE leftover turkey, remove the skin and place in an airtight bag before placing it in the freezer. It should last 2-3 months. When REHEATING it, it may be best to defrost it in the fridge before rewarming it in the oven at around 300 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or in the microwave at 30 second to 1 minute spurts.
For more ways to use leftover turkey, try these recipes:
- Turkey Soup
- Turkey Pot Pie
- Substitute the shredded chicken for shredded turkey in this Chicken Lasagna recipe or in this Chicken Enchilada Soup
Oven Roasted Turkey Recipe
- 1 (10-12 lb) turkey
- 8 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 lemon - zested
- 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 2 tsp fresh rosemary - minced
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 2-3 tbsp unsalted butter - melted
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1 bunch fresh rosemary
- 1 bunch fresh thyme
- 1 lemon - quartered
- 1/2 yellow onion - quartered
- 1 head garlic - halved crosswise
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Remove the giblets from the turkey, wash the turkey inside and out. Pllace the turkey in a large roasting pan and pat dry with paper towels.
- Combine the 8 tbsp. of butter with the lemon zest, thyme leaves, minced rosemary, salt and pepper. Rub under the skin of the turkey, being careful not to break the skin. Baste the skin of the turkey with the melted butter, salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, bunch of rosemary, lemon, quartered onion, and garlic. You don't need to remove the skin or seeds of any of the ingredients.
- Tuck the wings under the turkey, then truss the turkey by tying the wings, drumsticks and legs.
- Place in the oven and roast the turkey for 2 - 2 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh. A thermometer should read 155 degrees. Remove the and cover with aluminum foil, let it rest for 20 minutes. Move the turkey to a cutting board, slice and serve.