Roasted Turkey

roast turkey on a table with vegetables

The Spruce Eats / Diana Rattray

  • Total: 4 hrs
  • Prep: 30 mins
  • Cook: 3 hrs 30 mins
  • Yield: 8 to 10 servings

This classic roasted turkey is the perfect main dish for a Thanksgiving dinner, a holiday feast, or a cold-weather weekend meal. It's even a great option for a small family dinner since the leftovers can be used in countless ways. Fresh herbs and butter add flavor to the turkey skin, but feel free to omit the herbs and brush the turkey with plain melted butter.

A 12- to 15-pound turkey will take about 3 to 3 1/2 hours roasting time, or about 13 minutes per pound. While guidelines recommend a temperature of 165 F for white meat and 185 F for dark meat, it's difficult to reach those temperatures at the same time. Look for a temperature of about 156 F to 160 F in the breast meat and about 170 F in the thigh. As the turkey rests, the temperature will rise.

A brine can add juiciness to a turkey, but the skin doesn't crisp and the brine makes the drippings too salty for homemade gravy. Plus, a brine takes an extra 12 to 24 hours and lots of room in the fridge. If you do prefer to brine your bird, take a look at this basic brine with herbs. For gravy, this no-drippings gravy is an excellent solution.

Ingredients

  • For the Turkey:
  • 1 whole turkey (12 to 15 pounds, fully thawed)
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper (freshly ground)
  • 1 carrot (cut into 3 pieces)
  • 2 ribs celery (cut into large pieces)
  • 1 onion (quartered)
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary (plus 1 teaspoon, chopped)
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme (plus 1 teaspoon, chopped)
  • 1 sprig fresh sage (plus 1 tablespoon, chopped)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (plus more for the gravy, as needed)
  • For the Gravy:
  • Pan drippings
  • 2 to 3 cups low-sodium chicken stock (or turkey stock)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper (freshly ground)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. Place a rack in a large roasting pan and preheat the oven to 350 F.

    ingredients for classic roasted turkey and gravy
    The Spruce Eats / Diana Rattray
  2. Remove the thawed turkey from its packaging and pat dry with paper towels. Remove the innards and discard them or use to make homemade stock. Place the turkey on the rack in the roasting pan and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Rub the inside of the cavity with salt and add the carrot, celery, onion, and sprigs of herbs. Tuck the wings under the bird and tie the drumsticks together with kitchen twine.

    vegetables in the cavity of the turkey
    The Spruce Eats / Diana Rattray
  3. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the fresh chopped herbs and bring to a simmer.

    butter and chopped herbs in a saucepan
    The Spruce Eats / Diana Rattray
  4. Brush the turkey with the butter and herb mixture. Place in the oven and roast for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Place a foil tent over the turkey and continue to roast for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours longer, basting every 20 to 30 minutes. The turkey should register about 156 F to 160 F in the breast meat and about 170 in the thigh (make sure the thermometer is in the thickest part of the meat and is not touching bone).

    Brush herb butter over the turkey
    The Spruce Eats / Diana Rattray
  5. Remove the turkey to a platter and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

    roasted turkey on a platter
    The Spruce Eats / Diana Rattray
  6. While the turkey rests, prepare the gravy. Pour the pan drippings into a gravy separator and let stand for 2 minutes, until the fat rises to the top. Pour the broth into a cup or bowl, leaving the fat in the separator. Set the defatted broth aside and measure 1/2 cup of fat. If you don't have 1/2 cup of fat, add butter to make 1/2 cup. Pour the fat into a saucepan and place it over medium-low heat.

    place the saucepan over the heat
    The Spruce Eats / Diana Rattray
  7. Add the flour to the hot fat and cook the roux, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes.

    whisking the roux in a saucepan
    The Spruce Eats / Diana Rattray
  8. Whisk in the reserved defatted broth along with 2 cups of chicken stock. Continue to cook, constantly whisking, until the gravy is thickened. Add more stock to thin the gravy, as desired. Taste the gravy and add salt and pepper, as needed.

    turkey gravy and whisk in a saucepan
    The Spruce Eats / Diana Rattray
  9. Strain the gravy, if desired, and pour it into a gravy boat or serving bowl. Serve the gravy with the turkey.

    turkey on a platter with gravy boat
    The Spruce Eats / Diana Rattray

Tips

  • To make homemade turkey stock, put the turkey neck, heart, and gizzard in a saucepan. Add 5 cups of water (or part chicken stock for extra flavor) to the pan. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  • If a turkey is stuffed, the center of the stuffing must reach 165 F even if the meat is done. Stuffing should be removed to a bowl after the turkey has rested for 20 minutes.
  • Always pack and refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature is 90 F or above).