How to Make the Best Roasted Turkey
Learn how to make The BEST Roasted Turkey! This turkey is incredibly juicy, tender, flavorful and perfectly golden brown and crispy on the outside. This will be your new go to Roasted Turkey Recipe for Thanksgiving! I’ve also included step by step pictures below!
Serve this Roasted Turkey with homemade cranberry sauce and creamy mashed potatoes to complete your meal.
If you’re like me, your the designated cook in your family, which is great! It’s a title I gladly uphold and take very seriously. But it can also be stressful.
As a food blogger, people expect 5-star meals at my home, and I strive to deliver on that expectation. So when it came to making my own roasted turkey in time for Thanksgiving, I knew I had to perfect the recipe. It needed to be moist, tender, and juicy on the inside with charred, crispy skin on the outside.
I’m happy to report that this recipe met all of my expectations. We were inspired by Alton Brown’s method for cooking the best, juiciest, golden turkey. His trick is to cook the bird first over very high heat for a very short time, then lowering it and covering the breasts with aluminum foil so they don’t dry out or get too brown.
The best part of this foolproof roasted turkey recipe is that it doesn’t require any brining or prep work! Simply remove it from your fridge and allow it to come to room temperature one hour before you plan to cook it. Then blot it all over — inside and out — with paper towels. Eliminating excess moisture is KEY for achieving that crunchy, crispy skin.
Then, pack in the homemade herb butter into every nook and cranny, especially under the skin on the breast meat. This part of the turkey tends to dry out quicker than the dark meat, so this butter is crucial in keeping the white meat juicy and tender. It also helps crispy up the skin and make the drippings extra rich and delicious.
Save Those Drippings for Your Gravy!
Easily the best part of roasting your own Thanksgiving turkey is all of the drippings that pool in the bottom of the pan while it cooks that you can use to make homemade gravy. Talk about flavor! And don’t you dare throw those away or use gravy from a paper packet! If you do, we can’t be friends. Sorry, not sorry.
These drippings are essential for making the most delicious, richest, savory homemade turkey gravy. And let’s be real, you can’t have a Thanksgiving meal without gravy. It’s necessary for the lean turkey meat, creamy mashed potatoes, sausage stuffing, and rolls. And the best part is that this recipe is gluten-free, so you can save your calories for the rest of your Thanksgiving spread.
All you need are the following ingredients:
- 2 cups leftover turkey drippings (can supplement with chicken stock, if needed)
- All of the leftover cooked vegetables from the pan
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tsp fresh thyme
- 1 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
And then to make the turkey gravy, just follow these simple steps:
- Skim the fat off of the turkey drippings.
- Add the roasted vegetables from the turkey and place in the blender. Pulse for 1 minute, or until the vegetables are smooth and all of the vegetables have been pureed.
- Add all of the turkey drippings, pureed veggies, thyme, and parsley to a medium saucepan, and whisk to combine. Bring to a simmer, and cook until warmed through and thickened, approx. 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
That’s it! This roasted turkey gravy is no-waste and all flavor, and it will take your Thanksgiving meal to the next level!
Key Ingredients for the Best Homemade Roasted Turkey
- 1 whole turkey: You want to pick a bird that is between 12-20 pounds, depending on how many people you plan to serve or how many leftovers you want.
- 2 whole onions: Diced, but in large pieces. They’ll cook down as they roast in the oven with the turkey.
- 4 medium carrots: Chopped into large chunks. These will also cook down while roasting.
- 4 celery ribs: Chop these about the same size as the carrots.
- 1 whole apple, peeled and quartered: I know what you’re thinking … an apple? Really?! Trust me here. Magic happens when it combines with the savory flavors from the turkey and the vegetables, and it just works.
- Herb butter: Combine 1/2 cup unsalted butter, 2 tsp fresh thyme, 1 tsp fresh sage, 1 tsp fresh rosemary, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper, 1 tsp onion powder, and 1/4 tsp paprika in a small bowl and mix to combine. Set aside until you are ready to coat the turkey.
How To Make the Best Roasted Turkey
Remove the turkey from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees, and lower the oven rack to the lowest position.
Remove neck and giblets from the turkey. Blot dry turkey as well as you can with paper towels (inside and out, especially under and on top of the skin on the breast meat). Season the cavity with salt and pepper.
Place 1/2 cup of the chopped vegetables and apple inside of the turkey cavity. Put remaining vegetables in the bottom of a roasting pan. Place turkey on top of the vegetables.
Lift the skin up from the breast and smear herb butter under the skin by hand, getting into ever crevice. Then, spread the rest of the skin on top of the bird with the remaining herb butter.
Bake for 30 minutes at 500 degrees, then place foil just on top of the breast (see picture).
Reduce heat to 350 degrees, and roast for an additional 1 1/2-2 hours or until the turkey reaches 161-165 degrees.
Allow the turkey to rest for 1 hour before slicing into it. This ensures it is cooked throughout, allows it to reabsorb some of its juices to make for a moist, tender bite.
Tip: Don’t toss the carcass, either! Roasted turkey bones will yield a delicious stock. Just save them in a freezer-safe bag until you’re ready to make your stock. When you are, place the bones in a large stockpot and cover with water. Add peppercorns, plenty of salt, a few whole carrots, some celery stalks, a head of garlic cut in half, 2 halved onions with the peels, and herbs you like. (Parsley and thyme work well here.) Also, if you have one on hand, toss in a parmesan rind. This is my secret ingredient for homemade stocks. It adds a level of saltiness, nuttiness, and richness that’s like nothing else I’ve tried. I always save mine and keep them in the freezer for when I make stocks. (You can follow this same method for chicken stock with any leftover chicken bones.)
How To Store, Reheat, and Freeze Your Leftover Turkey
Arguably, the BEST part about big holiday meals are the sandwiches made the next day (or later that night, if we’re being honest) with the leftovers. And Thanksgiving leftovers are easily the most delicious and most anticipated leftovers all year long.
My favorite way to enjoy them the next day (after I’ve time to digest and make room for Round 2) is between two slices of hearty, toasted bread that are smeared with mayo and whole grain mustard, then filled with a schmear of mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, thick turkey slices, gravy, a thin layer of stuffing, two crispy pieces of romaine lettuce (in that order). If you typically have rolls on Thanksgiving, you could make slider versions of this with them. I prefer not to heat them up and instead eat them cold or at room temperature, but it’s totally up to you.
You could also throw any leftover turkey meat into a soup, like turkey and noodle or my turkey tortilla soup.
However you eat them, Thanksgiving leftovers are simply the best.
- Store leftover turkey in an airtight container or plastic bag in your refrigerator for up to five days.
- Reheat in the microwave at 3o-second intervals, or warm in a skillet over low-medium heat.
- Freeze any remaining turkey in a freezer-safe Ziplock bag for up to six months.
More Thanksgiving Recipes
Complete your from-scratch holiday meal with these side dishes and deserts:
- Creamy Mashed Potatoes
- Sweet Potato Casserole
- Green Bean Casserole
- Homemade Cranberry Sauce
- Corn Pudding
- Honey Roasted Carrots
- Pumpkin Coffee Cake
- Pecan Pie Bars
Roast Turkey Recipe
This homemade roasted turkey is juicy, tender, flavorful, and crispy-skinned — what everyone wants in a Thanksgiving bird!
- 1 12-20 pound turkey, thawed
- salt and pepper
- 2 medium onions, large dice
- 4 medium carrots, chopped
- 4 ribs celery, chopped
- 1 whole apple, peeled and quartered
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tsp fresh thyme
- 1 tbsp fresh sage
- 1 tsp fresh rosemary
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and mix to combine. Set aside until you are ready to coat the turkey.
- Remove the turkey from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature for 1 hour.
- Lower oven rack and preheat oven to 500 degrees.
- Remove neck and giblets from the turkey. Dry turkey as well as possible with paper towels (inside and out). Season the cavity with salt and pepper.
- Place 1/2 cup of the chopped vegetables and apple inside of the cavity of the turkey. Place remaining vegetables in the bottom of a roasting pan. Place turkey on top of the vegetables.
- Using your hands lift the skin up from the breast and smear herb butter under the skin then smear the rest of the skin on top of the bird with the remaining herb butter.
- Bake for 30 minutes at 500 degrees then place foil just ontop of the breast (see picture).
- Reduce heat to 350 degrees and roast for an additional 1 1/2-2 hours or until the turkey reaches 161-165 degrees. Allow the turkey to rest for 1 hour before slicing into it.