If you are looking for a foolproof recipe for making Roasted Turkey this Thanksgiving, I have the best recipe for you! I will walk you through every step of the process, from how long it takes to thaw the turkey, how to brine it, and most importantly how to roast it. Plus I’ll even share my top tips for making lump-free herb gravy. Read on to see the full video tutorial, step-by-step photos and the full printable recipe!

overhead view of the turkey on the platter

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

The Complete Guide To Making Herb Roasted Turkey

I created this recipe site more than a dozen years ago and for some reason I have never shared my roasted turkey recipe. Perhaps, it seemed to me too daunting of a task to test cooking an entire turkey over and over again to perfect the recipe. For years I have brought you dozens of Thanksgiving side dishes and desserts for your holiday table, but never the main event- the turkey itself. This year, I decided to go for it and I have been working tirelessly for the last two months on bringing you this complete guide to making a delicious Thanksgiving turkey!

I based this recipe on a technique I have loved for our own Thanksgiving meal, and I knew I wanted to share it with you. I have included how to brine the turkey, for those of you who want to brine yours. It makes the turkey even more juicy and flavorful. And I have also added a delicious garlic herb rub to make the flavors of the turkey meat come alive.

And you can’t have turkey without gravy. I have crafted a way to make a brined turkey with gravy by making your own unsalted turkey giblet stock so the gravy doesn’t get too salty. Plus as I mentioned before, I have a classic culinary technique that will help make your gravy silky smooth and lump-free!

Also, make sure to check out our Thanksgiving Planner with a helpful timeline for planning your complete holiday meal and actually enjoy hosting!

How To Use This Guide

Please use this table of contents to jump to the areas of this post that will help you most and make sure to Pin this to your Thanksgiving Pinterest Board so you can keep this resource available when you are ready for the big day.

Key Ingredients

ingredients for roasted turkey, brine, gravy and garlic herb rub

For The Brine

  • Water
  • 1 ¼ cup Diamond Crystal Kosher salt or ¾ cup Morton Coarse Kosher Salt
  • one 5-pound bag ice (16 cups)

For The Stock

  • Turkey neck, gizzards, and heart
  • Water
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 3 chunks
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 3 chunks
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
  • ½ teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves

Herb Rub

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Chopped Fresh Herbs: 2 tablespoons Sage, 2 teaspoons thyme and 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon fresh pepper
  • If using an unbrined turkey you will also want to use 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt in the herb rub
  • Whole thyme sprigs, rosemary sprigs and sage sprigs adding to the inside of the turkey cavity

For The Gravy

  • 4 tablespoons very soft unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups turkey giblet stock. You can also use homemade chicken broth or purchase low sodium broth.

Choosing The Best Turkey

I tested this recipe with conventional turkey and Certified Organic turkey from a local farm. I also tested it with fresh and frozen and thawed. I can honestly say that the difference in the flavor of the organic turkey is very apparent. So if a high-quality pastured turkey is within your budget, your taste buds will be rewarded. That’s not to say, the conventional bird was anything to scoff at. My family thoroughly enjoyed them too!

If you buy a frozen turkey, make sure to give yourself four or five days to thaw it in the refrigerator. Set it in a baking dish to catch any liquid that may seep out of the plastic packaging. Find more tips on how to thaw poultry safely here.

No matter what you choose, this recipe works for a 15 to 16-pound turkey and yields about 5 pounds of meat, which is enough for about 10 people plus leftovers.

PRO TIP: If you want to brine your turkey, look for a turkey that doesn’t contain any sodium. If you want to enjoy the flavors of a brined turkey, but don’t have the time or space to do so yourself, look for a kosher turkey, which are already treated with salt.

Special Equipment

If you haven’t roasted a turkey before, or this is the first turkey you have made in a while, you’ll need to head over to your local kitchen store and pick up a handful of items, or borrow them from someone who maybe isn’t hosting this year.

equipment for roasting a turkey with lables
  • Pot, Bucket or Cooler: To brine the turkey, you will need a very large container to fit the whole turkey (and brine) in it. If you plan to have space in your refrigerator, you can use a large bucket (5 gal) or a stock pot that is large enough to hold your turkey. If you do not have space in your refrigerator, you can brine the turkey in a high quality medium cooler.
  • A large heavy roasting pan with a rack: This is a great set like I have been using for more than a decade. It is thick and heavy so that it can go on the stovetop for making the gravy.
  • Turkey Lifters: These long-toothed oversized forks are nice to have to get your roast turkey out of the pan and onto the carving board. (Though I have gone without them from time to time when I am traveling to family’s houses. Tongs can also work.)
  • Digital Thermometer: I really like my thermapen which is more expensive but very high quality. You can get a more affordable version here. Any calibrated meat thermometer will do though.
  • Defatter or Fat Separater: To remove the fat from the pan drippings, these inexpensive defatting cups are really handy. You can see how they work in the video I shared. You can also pour the drippings into a tall measuring cup and ladle off the top layer of fat.
  • Gloves: Because you will be handling the raw turkey, you may want to have some disposible gloves on hand.
  • Butcher’s Twine (Kitchen Twine): To tie the turkey legs together, you can use butcher’s twine.

Step By Step Instructions To Make Herb Roasted Turkey

brine the turkey and then rinse it off

Step 1 Brine Turkey:

Note: Skip to step 3 if you are not brining your turkey.

Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add salt and stir until dissolved. Pour into a medium cooler, 5 gallon bucket or large stock pot large enough to fit the turkey and brine. Add 1 gallon cold water and ice and stir to chill. Add the turkey (set the giblets aside) and cover the cooler tightly. Keep coller in a cool place or keep stock pot or bucket in the refrigerator for 10 to 16 hours.

Step 2 Remove the turkey from the brine:

After 16 hours remove the turkey from the brine so that it doesn’t get too salty. Discard brine and rinse turkey with cold water. Let drain.

pat the turkey dry and preheat the oven

Step 3 Dry Turkey:

If you are not planning to cook the turkey now, keep it refrigerated, uncovered. Leaving it uncovered will dry out the skin which will help the skin of the turkey become crispy as it roasts. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator to start to bring to room temperature for about 40 minutes. Pat dry with clean paper towels.

Step 4 Preheat Oven:

Position oven rack in the bottom-most position of the oven to accommodate the turkey. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

make the garlic herb mixture and rub it on the turkey

Step 5 Make Garlic Herb Rub:

Mix garlic in a small dish with sage, thyme, rosemary and ground pepper. If using an un-brined turkey, add 1 ½ teaspoons coarse kosher salt. Reserve one tablespoon garlic herb mixture for the gravy.

Tip: if your herb mixture doesn’t stick to the skin, you can mix the herb mixture with olive oil or melted butter.

Step 6 Prepare Turkey For Roasting:

Rub the turkey all over and inside the cavity with the garlic herb mixture.  Add the whole sage, thyme and fresh rosemary sprigs to the cavity. Tie legs together with kitchen twine and tuck wing tips under. Place turkey in a large heavy roasting pan, preferably fitted with a roasting rack.

place the turkey in the preheated oven on the bottom rack and then after an hour add water to the pan

Step 7 Roast The Turkey:

Transfer the turkey to the oven and roast undisturbed until light golden brown, and juices are dripping into the bottom of the roasting pan, about 1 hour.

Step 8 Lower the temperature and continue roasting:

Rotate the roasting pan so that the legs face the opposite direction in the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Pour two cups water into the pan. Continue roasting, checking the liquid in the pan every once in a while.

take the temperature and make the giblet stock

Step 9 Take Temperature:

Roast until the thermometer registers 165 degrees and skin is golden brown, about 1 hour 15 minutes to 2 hours 15 minutes. Double check the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer in several spots and use the lowest temperature as your guide. Transfer the turkey to a carving board (or a cutting board with a channel) and tent with aluminum foil to keep warm. Let turkey rest 30 to 60 minutes before carving.

Step 10 While The Turkey Roasts Make giblet stock:

When the turkey is roasting, combine giblets and turkey neck (discard liver), 6 cups cold water, celery, carrots, onions, peppercorns and bay leaf in a large saucepan. If your turkey giblets are not included, you can cut off the wing tips and add them with the neck into the stock. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium low and gently simmer for 1 ½ hours. Strain and discard solids. You should have two or so cups stock. If you have slightly less, you can add a little water to it to make up the difference.

mash the butter and flour together and whisk it into the gravy to thicken it

Step 11 Prep Gravy:

Mash the butter and flour together in a small dish until creamy and completely combined. Remove the rack from the pan. Skim the fat (or use fat separator) from the pan drippings. Add the defatted pan juices to the pan along with reserved 1 tablespoon garlic-herb mixture and set it over two burners on medium-low. Bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits, about 90 seconds to 2 minutes.

Step 12 Thicken The Gravy:

Add 2 cups turkey giblet stock to the pan, and continue whisking until the browned bits are all incorporated into the liquid. Bring to a simmer. Gradually whisk the butter-flour mixture into the simmering liquid, whisking constantly. Simmer, whisking often until the gravy is thick, 5 to 10 minutes. Strain gravy, if desired, through a fine-mesh sieve and transfer to a gravy boat.

the carved turkey arranged on a platter

Step 13 Carve The Turkey:

Carve the turkey by slicing the breast meat. Remove the legs, and slice them into chunks. Serve the turkey with the gravy.

FAQs and Expert Tips For Roasted Turkey

How Long Does it Take To Roast a Whole Turkey?

I tested this recipe five times, and every time I had a slightly different roasting time. That is why it is important to have a digital thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey meat to ensure it is completely cooked through. For an unstuffed turkey, without basting, it takes plus or minus 3 hours for a 15 pound pastured turkey using high heat for the first hour and medium-high heat for the remaining time. Pastured turkeys tend to have larger more dense breasts and can take more than an hour longer than a conventional turkey of equal weight. Furthermore, if you choose to either baste your turkey or stuff it, the turkey will take even longer. To time your meal, plan to pull the turkey out (step 3) about 5 1/2 hours before you want to serve the meal. If your turkey is done earlier, you can let it rest longer.

How do I make the gravy gluten-free?

Instead of thickening the gravy with the combination of butter and all-purpose flour you can use cornstarch which is gluten-free. Use 2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with a little water and whisk it into the simmering drippings, herbs and stock. Once it comes to a simmer and thickens, turns off the heat. Then you can whisk in 4 tablespoons of cold butter to add richness.

Can I stuff this turkey?

We do not recommend stuffing your turkey because it will slow down the cooking time. Even when the meat is done, it will not be hot enough on the inside of the turkey to kill any harmful pathogens from the turkey cavity that have gotten on the stuffing. If you do decide to stuff the turkey, use a cloth stuffing bag to put your stuffing in, and once the turkey meat is finished cooking, pull the bag out of the bird, and spread the stuffing in a casserole dish to finish baking to a safe temperature.

How many people does this recipe serve?

This recipe makes five pounds of meat and 1 1/3 cups gravy. Technically that is about 20 servings if you go with the standard USDA recommendation of 4 ounces of meat for a protein portion. Here we’ve estimated that this actually is an appropriate amount for 10 people plus leftovers. Nutritional values in our recipe card are based on 8 ounces of meat and 1/4 cup gravy.

Should I baste the turkey?

Basting is a complete waste of time and it only slows down the roasting process. I do not even own a turkey baster. If you do decide to baste, note that you will need to adjust your timing slightly to account for heat loss of the oven every time you open it.

What is a good wine pairing for Thanksgiving dinner?

We love to have Beaujolais Nouveau, a light and fruity French red that is only fermented for weeks and released right in time for Thanksgiving. In addition, a full-bodied unoaked chardonnay like a Chablis is great with all of the flavors of the meal. If you like to serve rosé, look for a dry one from Provence. For a more substantial red, try a Bordeaux.

the roasted turkey on a platter from the side

Thanks so much for reading. If you are new here, you may want to sign up for my free weekly email newsletter for healthy recipes delivered right to your inbox. Or follow me on Instagram. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It is very appreciated. Happy Cooking! ~Katie

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a side view of the roasted turkey on a platter

Brined Herb Roasted Turkey and Gravy Recipe

  • Author: Katie Webster
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 16 hours
  • Yield: 5 pounds turkey + 2 1/3 cup gravy 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Roasting + Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Description

If you are looking for a foolproof recipe for making Roasted Turkey this Thanksgiving, I have the best recipe for you! I will walk you through every step of the process, from how long it takes to thaw the turkey, how to brine it, and most importantly how to roast it. Plus I’ll even share my top tips for making lump-free herb gravy.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cup Diamond Crystal Kosher salt or ¾ cup Morton Coarse Kosher Salt
  • 1 5 pound bag ice (16 cups)
  • 1 14 to 16-pound turkey, preferably locally raised, giblets and neck reserved
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 3 chunks
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 3 chunks
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
  • ½ teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped sage, plus 4 whole sprigs
  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme, plus 4 whole sprigs
  • 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary, plus 2 whole sprigs
  • ½ teaspoon fresh pepper
  • 4 tablespoons very soft unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Instructions

  1. Brine Turkey: (If not brining, skip to step 3.) Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add salt and stir until dissolved. Pour into a medium cooler, 5 gallon bucket or large stock pot large enough to fit the turkey and brine. Add 1 gallon cold water and ice and stir to chill. Add the turkey (set the giblets aside) and cover the cooler tightly. Keep coller in a cool place or keep stock pot or bucket in the refrigerator for 10 to 16 hours.
  2. Remove the turkey from the brine: After 16 hours remove the turkey from the brine so that it doesn’t get too salty. Discard brine and rinse the turkey with cold water. Let drain.
  3. Dry Turkey: If you are not planning to cook the turkey now, keep it refrigerated, uncovered. Leaving it uncovered will dry out the skin which will help it become crispy as it roasts. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator to start to bring to room temperature for about 40 minutes. Pat dry with clean paper towels.
  4. Preheat Oven: Position oven rack in bottom-most position of the oven to accommodate the turkey. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  5. Make Garlic Herb Mixture: Mix garlic in a small dish with sage, thyme, rosemary and ground pepper. If using an un-brined turkey, add 1 ½ teaspoons coarse kosher salt. Reserve one tablespoon garlic herb mixture for the gravy.
  6. Prepare Turkey For Roasting: Rub the turkey all over and inside the cavity with the garlic herb mixture. Add the whole sage, thyme and rosemary sprigs to the cavity. Tie legs together with kitchen twine and tuck wing tips under. Place turkey in a large heavy roasting pan, preferably fitted with a roasting rack.
  7. Roast The Turkey: Transfer the turkey to the oven and roast undisturbed until light golden brown, and juices are dripping into the pan, about 1 hour.
  8. Lower the temperature and continue roasting: Rotate the roasting pan so that the legs face the opposite direction in the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Pour two cups water into the pan. Continue roasting, checking the liquid in the pan every once in a while. Roast until the thermometer registers 165 degrees and skin is golden brown, about 1 hour 15 minutes to 2 hours 15 minutes.
  9. Take Temperature: Double check the internal temperature with an instant read thermometer in several spots and use the lowest temperature as your guide. Transfer the turkey to a carving board and tent with foil to keep warm. Let turkey rest 30 to 60 minutes before carving.
  10. Meanwhile Make giblet stock: When the turkey is roasting, combine giblets and turkey neck (discard liver), 6 cups cold water, celery, carrots, onions, peppercorns and bay leaf in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium low and gently simmer for 1 ½ hours. Strain and discard solids. You should have two or so cups stock. If you have slightly less, you can add a little water to it to make up the difference.
  11. Prep Gravy: Mash the butter and flour together in a small dish until creamy and completely combined. Remove the rack from the pan. Skim the fat (or use fat separator) from the pan drippings. Add the defatted drippings to the pan along with reserved 1 tablespoon garlic herb mixture and set it over two burners on medium low. Bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits, about 90 seconds to 2 minutes.
  12. Thicken The Gravy: Add 2 cups turkey giblet stock to the pan, and continue whisking until the browned bits are all incorporated into the liquid. Bring to a simmer. Gradually whisk the butter flour mixture into the simmering liquid, whisking constantly. Simmer, whisking often until the gravy is thick, 5 to 10 minutes. Strain gravy, if desired, through a fine mesh sieve and transfer to a gravy boat.
  13. Carve The Turkey: Carve the turkey and serve with the gravy.

Notes

Note About Purchasing Turkey

If you want to brine your turkey, look for a turkey that doesn’t contain any sodium. If you want to enjoy the flavors of a brined turkey, but don’t have the time or space to do so yourself, look for a kosher turkey, which are already treated with salt.

This recipe works for a 15 to 16-pound turkey and yields about 5 pounds of meat, which is enough for about 10 people plus leftovers.

If you buy yours frozen, make sure to give yourself four or five days to thaw it in the refrigerator. Set it in a baking dish to catch any liquid that may seep out of the plastic packaging. Find more tips on how to thaw poultry safely here.


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 8 ounces turkey + 1/4 cup gravy
  • Calories: 295
  • Sugar: 4 g
  • Fat: 9 g
  • Saturated Fat: 3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 14 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Protein: 38 g

More Thanksgiving Recipes

Now that you have a recipe for the Star of the Show, it is time to think about the rest of the recipes! Over the years here on Healthy Seasonal Recipes, we have shared literally dozens of Thanksgiving side dishes and we have a hard time choosing among them! Make sure to head over to the Thanksgiving page to browse through them. You can further search by going to our power search page, select Thanksgiving under “Season/Occasion” and then filter by diet (vegetarian, gluten-free etc) or dish type (such as dessert or side dish.)

Here are some of our all-time favorites!

Traditional Side Dishes

Easy Stovetop Side dishes

Casseroles To Add To Your Holiday Menu

Pie Recipes To Consider

Herb Roasted Turkey