Our best turkey recipe is perfect for any special occasion. Make it for moist, flavorful turkey without the need for basting!
Best Turkey Recipe
The buttery, herb-infused flavor of this Thanksgiving turkey recipe pairs perfectly with all of your favorite side dishes. A simple cranberry sauce adds brightness and tang to the meal and helps cut through the richness of everything on your plate.
There are plenty of other dishes to choose from, which is why I compiled my Best Thanksgiving Recipes all in one place.
And don’t forget dessert! My layered pecan pumpkin pie is to die for and combines the two most popular holiday treats.
Tips For Cooking a Turkey
- Preparing the bird
First, remove the gizzards and neck from the open cavity. Then, rise the entire thing in cold water. Be sure to pat it dry with paper towels. You’ll likely want to leave the skin on, but feel free to trim off any excess sections if needed.
- Run through a checklist before cooking.
Before you put the bird in the oven, make sure you’ve added the water, smothered it in the butter mixture, and tucked in the wings.
If you happen to forget to tuck in the wings, you can use tongs to do this after it’s been in the oven. Just be warned that partially cooked wings are a lot less cooperative to work with!
- Don’t overcook the meat.
When making your Thanksgiving turkey, be sure to remove it from the oven when the temperature reads 165°F. Since the bird continues to cook as it rests, leaving it in longer will result in dry meat.
Check the temperature by inserting a thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh and the thickest part of the breast. This will give you a more accurate idea of when it’s cooked all the way through.
Get Free Recipes Sent to Your Email
Storing and Freezing Leftover Turkey
Slice all of the meat from the bone and transfer to a sealed bag or container. You can keep it in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Or, you can freeze leftover herb roasted turkey for up to 3 months. Be sure to squeeze as much air out of the storage bag as possible. This will prevent ice crystals from forming on the meat.
Best Turkey Recipe FAQ
Discard the carcass or save it for making homemade stock or broth.
How much turkey per person?
A good rule of thumb for serving size is between 1 and 1.5 pounds per person. This guarantees that everyone will have enough to eat, while allowing for at least a few leftover servings.
If you’re cooking for a large group, I recommend adapting this Thanksgiving turkey recipe to two smaller birds. This way, you won’t have them in the oven all day.
Why is water added to the pan?
Water not only keeps the roasted turkey from drying out, but it also keeps the drippings from burning in the beginning.
As it cooks, the water will evaporate in the oven, leaving a perfect base for making your gravy after.
With love from our simple kitchen to yours.
Best Turkey Recipe Video
To see us make the recipe from start to finish, watch the video at the top of this post.
Best Turkey Recipe for Thanksgiving + Video
- 12 pound whole turkey, defrosted
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 2 teaspoons ground sage
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups water
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Prepare your turkey by removing innards and washing inside and out in cold water. Set the turkey on the rack in your roasting pan. Slide your hand under the skin to separate the skin from the meat. Tuck the wings wings under turkey.
- In a small bowl, combine the butter, garlic, basil, rosemary, sage, salt and pepper. Mix until combined.
- Using your hands, coat the turkey all over with your butter mixture. Slide your hands under the skin to rub the herb butter mixture all over meat. Rub the mixture all over top, side and legs as well. Pour water into the pan.
- Bake until the turkey is starting to brown nicely, about 1 hour. Loosely cover the turkey with aluminum foil and continue to cook for 2 – 2 3/4 hours, or until temperature in the thickest part of the thigh reads 165°F or more. Cook time should be 15 minutes per pound.
- Baste the turkey occasionally if you prefer, but this recipe doesn't require it.
- Remove the turkey from the oven and place it on a cutting board. Tent the foil over the turkey for 20 minutes.
- Slice the turkey, serve and enjoy!
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.
Originally published November 2013, updated and republished November 2020
Disclosure: Posts may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link your price will remain the same and The Slow Roasted Italian will automatically receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting us, it helps us keep creating new recipes.