Easy Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey

By Katie Workman
Culinary Setting
Meal Type
Main Course, Entrée
3 HR

About this Dish

All you need to know to get a perfectly roasted moist and tender turkey on the table.

“Whether you are cooking your very first traditional Thanksgiving turkey or your 50th, it’s always good to have a refresher (or a primer) on turkey roasting best practices.  And if you are looking for an easy recipe for a whole turkey, you’ve landed in a good place!” – Katie Workman

Gravy is the perfect accompaniment for this Easy Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey! Check out our simple recipe for Basic Turkey Gravy.

How can you tell your turkey is done? We recommend a instant-read digital thermometer. Our guide can help you use this handy tool to determine if your turkey is ready for the table.

Cooking Style
Whole Turkey
Dish Type
Whole Bird


1 12-lb turkey, defrosted if frozen (giblets and neck reserved if available)

6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened, divided

3 tbsp kosher salt

1 orange, halved

2 medium yellow onions, peeled and halved

4 sprigs fresh rosemary

8 sprigs fresh thyme

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 c white wine (optional)

1 c chicken broth

Freshly ground pepper to taste


Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Rub 3 tablespoons of butter all over the bird. Rub the salt over the bird evenly. Place the turkey into a large plastic bag, preferably a sealable one, press out the air, and seal it tight. Place the turkey in a roasting pan, breast side up in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Turn the turkey at least once a day, and rub the salt into the bird through the plastic bag

After 2 to 3 days, and 1 day before Thanksgiving or your meal, remove the bird from the fridge and take it out of the plastic bag. Do not rinse the bird, but pat it dry with paper towels. Place the turkey in a rack in the roasting pan, and refrigerate uncovered, for another 24 hours.

Remove the turkey from the oven 1 hour before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place a rack in the lower third of the oven, and make sure you raise or remove the upper racks so the turkey can fit with room to spare on top.

Place the orange sections, onions halves and rosemary and thyme sprigs into the cavity of the bird. Tuck the wings behind the back of the bird and place it in a rack in a roasting pan breast side up. Tie the legs closed (some birds have a little plastic gadget that holds the legs together, thus closing up the cavity).

Rub the remaining 3 tablespoons softened butter all over the turkey, covering all of the skin. Season generously with the pepper. Make sure the turkey is breast side up in the rack in the roasting pan, and place the pan into the oven.

Pour the wine and chicken broth into the pan around the turkey. Place the pan in the oven. After 1 hour, baste the bird with the juices from the bottom of the pan. Start checking after 2 hours with an internal thermometer, sticking it into the deepest part of the thigh, and making sure that it does not touch bone. The temperature should be 165°F. If as the turkey is cooking the top starts to get too browned, just tent a large piece of tin foil over the top of the bird.

When the turkey is finished cooking, remove it to a cutting board with a moat, tipping any juices that have accumulated in the turkey back into the roasting pan. Let the turkey sit, tented with foil, for at least 20 minutes.

While the turkey is resting, pour all of the liquid from the roasting pan into a large measuring cup. Put it into the fridge and when the fat has risen to the top, use a spoon to scrape off the fat and discard. You also can use a fat separator for this purpose. Check out our Basic Turkey Gravy recipe, or just drizzle the pan juices over the turkey meat.

Carve the turkey and serve.