Easy, No Fuss Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

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Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
4 hrs 30 mins

Wondering how to make the best Thanksgiving turkey ever this year? This easy Turkey recipe is the answer. It packs tons of flavor and makes a juicy Thanksgiving turkey slathered with garlic herb butter and browned to perfection. No brining needed in this no-fuss turkey recipe!

The BEST Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

Are you ready for it? It’s officially November which means you’re going to be having all things Thanksgiving coming at ya! And let me tell you, I have some awesome thanksgiving recipes in the queue for the next couple of weeks.

This post has been a L O N G time coming. I have been making this oven-roasted turkey recipe for years now. Basically, since I’ve been married, so 12 years to be exact!

Follow my step-by-step roasted turkey recipe and learn how to make perfect, moist turkey with crispy brown skin. Hands down the best turkey you’ll ever have! 

Let’s get started with the basics shall we?

Roasted turkey on a white platter stuffed with orange slices and herbs

What Size Turkey Do You Need?

When selecting my turkey the first thing I determine is how many people will be at my Thanksgiving dinner.

You need about 1.5lbs of meat per person, so just multiple 1.5 x [the number of people at dinner] and that equals the size of the turkey you need!

Preparing Your Turkey for the Big Day

Once you’ve brought your turkey home it’s time to start prepping for the big day. This needs to happen DAYS before Thanksgiving so don’t wait until the last minute!

  • THAW your Turkey days ahead of time in the refrigerator. You’ll need to calculate 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey. So, if you’re turkey is 15 pounds you’ll need to thaw it in the fridge for 3 days! Here’s a handy thawing calculator if you need it.
  • Once thawed, place the turkey in the sink and remove from the packaging. Hold the turkey so the cavity (hole) of the turkey is facing the sink and drain all the water out of the cavity. Remove the neck and giblets (should be in a bag) from the turkey and set aside. Hint: you could use these later to make a gravy if you’d like.
  • Don’t wash your turkey. Instead, pat the turkey dry and place on a roasting rack in a roasting pan breast side up. This is the roasting pan with rack that I use.
A roasted turkey cavity stuffed with orange slices and herbs

What You’ll Need

When it’s time to cook your turkey, here’s what you’ll need. There are three things that make my Thanksgiving turkey recipe so moist and juicy: the use of cheesecloth, citrus fruits, and a compound herb butter.

Ingredients for the Turkey:

  • 15 lb. turkey – Neck + giblets removed, completely thawed and patted dry
  • Large sheet of double lined cheesecloth – We are going to use this to help seal the moisture in while your turkey is roasting.
  • Citrus fruits – Orange and lemons. We are going to be placing these inside your turkey. They’ll add flavor and help keep your turkey moist.
  • Chicken stock or broth – You could also use vegetable both if you prefer.

Ingredients for the Garlic Herb Compound Butter:

This compound butter is super easy to make and adds tons of flavor! We are going to be sticking it in between the turkey meat and the skin (more on that below) for the ultimate juicy turkey.

  • Unsalted butter – You can also use salted butter, but you may need to add the amount of salt used separately.
  • Salt – I used black truffle salt from Sur la Table
  • Fresh herbs – Tarragon, sage, thyme and rosemary
  • Garlic cloves – Finely minced so that their flavor is distributed evenly.
  • Fresh lemon zest – Also adds flavor

The trick to using this butter to cook up a moist turkey is loosening the skin and using a cheesecloth. We’re not going to just slather the butter onto the turkey, at which point it would quickly melt and slide off the meat. Instead we’re going to stuff the butter in between the turkey skin and the meat. Then, we’re going to use a cheesecloth to hold more butter in place and really let those flavors soak into the turkey.

Ok. So those are the main steps to “prep your turkey.”

How to Cook the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

When it comes to Thanksgiving turkey recipes there are a thousand questions!

What is the BEST Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe? Do you use brine? Do you use dry brine? How do you make a moist turkey? Do you put butter under the skin? How often do you baste it? What temperature what I cook it at? How long do you cook it? 

The list is long! Believe me. I looked!

So today’s I’m going to do my best to answer all of your questions. But, if I miss a few don’t hesitate to send me an email. I want your Thanksgiving Day to go off without a hitch!

For starters, I thought it would be helpful to give you a step-by-step guide (with pictures) of how to make a thanksgiving turkey recipe. I don’t know about you, but I learn better if I can see it!

Step by step photos showing a turkey being prepared for roasting

Step 1: Season your turkey and prepare it for roasting.

What do you do to a turkey before roasting it? Here are my simple steps for making a moist and juicy turkey!

  1. Season the cavity of the turkey (the hole) with salt and pepper!
  2. Separate the skin. Using your fingers, separate the skin from the meat of the turkey. (as shown)
  3. Combine the compound butter ingredients. Make an awesome garlic herb compound butter and put it under the skin. (as shown). When you put the butter under the skin, it allows all those flavors from the butter soak into the meat not just on the skin. Reserve some of that butter, because we’ll use it later.
  4. Add citrus. Stuff the cavity with fresh citrus and any left over herbs you have from making the herb butter. The juice from the citrus will keep the turkey nice and moist and the herbs add another layer of flavor! In my opinion it’s way better than stuffing it with dry bread … aka stuffing.
  5. Add the cheesecloth. Ok. Now for the good part. Melt the leftover butter in the microwave. Take a large strip of double layered cheesecloth and place it in the melted herb butter. Completely soak the cheese cloth. Then lay it over as much of the turkey as possible. You’ll cook the turkey the entire time with this cheese cloth on, basting over it and everything. It ensures that the turkey does not get burnt AND gives it an even brown. Plus it’s more butter on the skin! Winning!
  6. Add 4 cups of chicken broth to the bottom of the pan. This will catch all the drippings which is LOTS of flavor and great to use on the turkey as you baste it through the roasting process.

In my opinion, you don’t have to use a brine to make a moist turkey. With these simple steps – adding flavor to the right parts of the turkey and elements that will keep the turkey moist, like citrus. You’ll have a perfect turkey every time!

Collage showing raw and roasted turkey with a meat thermometer show the done temperature

Step 2: Roast and baste your turkey. Don’t forget resting time too!

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Roast the turkey. Once the turkey is prepped and ready to roast (according to the instructions above or in the recipe card) place turkey in the lower third of the oven and roast at 425 degrees F for 45 minutes.
  3. Baste the turkey with the drippings and broth from the bottom of the pan. (Leaving the cheese cloth on.)
  4. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Place turkey back in the oven and roast 15 minutes per pound. For example, I did a 15 pound turkey so I would need to roast a total of 3 hours and 45 minutes. (15lbs x15 minutes) But, because I already roasted the turkey for 45 minutes at 425 degrees, I know I only have 3 hours left. Here is an easy to follow chart when it comes to cook time for turkey.
  5. Baste turkey 3-4 times during this roasting process.
  6. Check the temperature. 30 minutes prior to the turkey being done, start checking the temperature of the turkey in the thickest part of the thigh. Remove turkey from the oven when the thermometer reads 160 degrees F.
  7. Let it rest. Cover turkey with a tin foil tent and let sit for 30 minutes. This will allow the juices to redistribute and also continue ‘cooking’ the turkey. Safe temperature to serve is 165 degrees F for the thigh and 170 degrees F for turkey breast.
  8. Slice and serve!
Finished roast turkey in a roasting pan on a marble counter

How to Tell When Your Turkey is Done

The best way to tell your turkey is done is with an instant read meat thermometer. These are inexpensive tools that can remove all the guess work from cooking meat!

Your turkey is done when it registers 165F for the thigh and 170F for the turkey breast. Insert your thermometer in the thickest part of the meat to get an accurate reading.

Tips for Success

  • Let the turkey rest. When your turkey is done it’s tempting to just dig in. But you need to let it rest for at least 15 minutes and up to 30 minutes. This rest time lets the turkey meat absorb extra juices and is a simple way to make sure your turkey meat is moist and tender.
  • No need to use an expensive roasting pan. If you have a large roasting pan that will fit your turkey, that’s perfect. But you can also use a disposable foil roasting pan, which makes post-dinner clean up a breeze.

What About the Gravy?

My favorite turkey gravy recipe is super simple to make and ready in 15 minutes. You can make it while your turkey is resting! The recipe does not need pan drippings, but you can add them if you want to.

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that we have covered the basics of how to roast a turkey, let’s dig into some common questions:

Do you put water in the bottom of a turkey pan?

You can, but I prefer to use chicken broth for this as mentioned in the instructions above. Using chicken broth adds so much flavor to your turkey drippings! When you baste your turkey during roasting all that flavor goes into your turkey.

How do I keep my turkey moist?

I like to make a compound herb butter and also stuff my turkey with citrus slices. The butter is placed in between the turkey skin and the meat, so as your turkey roasts all that incredible flavor is soaked up by the breast meat. Stuffing the turkey with citrus slices add flavor and keep the meat moist.

How do you flavor a turkey?

You can add flavor to your turkey with compound butter, fresh aromatic herbs and by stuffing the cavity with citrus fruits.

How long to cook a turkey?

Roast your turkey at 350F for 15 minutes per pound. For example, a 15 pound turkey would need to roast a total of 3 hours and 45 minutes. (15 lbs x 15 minutes)

What is the best temperature to cook turkey?

I cook turkey at 425F first to get that golden color, then I reduce the temperature to 350F.

Close-up Image of The Best Thanksgiving Turkey

I CANNOT wait to hear what your tribe thought of this turkey. I know it will be a hit because it always is in my house. I constantly get asked, how do you get the turkey so moist? Well, folks. I gave you all my secrets, so now it’s your turn to use them in your favor!

Bon Appetit!

What to Serve with Thanksgiving Turkey

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Image of a Garlic Herb Butter Thanksgiving Turkey on a Plate

The Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe without Brining

  • Author: Krista
  • prep_time Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • cook_time Cook Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
  • total_time Total Time: 5 hours
  • yield Yield: 1214 servings 1x
  • category Category: Dinner
  • method Method: Oven
  • cuisine Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

This is seriously the Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe ever! It packs tons of flavor and makes a juicy Thanksgiving turkey slathered with garlic herb butter and browned to perfection. No brining needed in this easy, no-fuss turkey recipe!

Scale

Ingredients

  • 15 lb. turkey, neck + giblets removed, completely thawed and patted dry
  • large sheet of double lined cheesecloth
  • 1 large orange, cut into quarters
  • 2 small lemons
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken stock or broth

Garlic Herb Compound Butter:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon salt (I used black truffle salt from Sur la Table)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven.
  2. Remove turkey from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey and completely pat dry.
  3. Place turkey on a large wire rack lined roasting pan.
  4. To make the garlic herb compound butter: place softened butter in a medium bowl along with salt, tarragon, sage, thyme, rosemary, garlic cloves, and fresh lemon zest. Mash together using a fork or spoon until everything is combined.
  5. Season the cavity of the turkey with salt and then stuff with oranges and lemons and any left over herbs you have. (sage, thyme, rosemary or tarragon)
  6. Starting at the breast, using your fingers, gently separate the skin from the body of the bird so you have a little “pocket.”
  7. Gently rub 3/4 of the butter mixture under the skin, spreading it out so both sides of the turkey breast part are covered.
  8. Place the remaining butter in the microwave and melt.
  9. Dunk the cheese cloth in the melted butter mixture and completely soak the cheese cloth.
  10. Add any remaining herbs or garlic on top of the skin and drap the butter soaked cheese cloth over most of the turkey.
  11. Add 4 cups of chicken stock/broth to the roasted pan.
  12. Place the turkey in the oven at 425 degrees F for 45 minutes.
  13. After 45 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Remove the turkey from the oven and bast.
  14. Place turkey back in the oven and roast for another 2 1/2 to 3 hours at 350 degrees until the thickest part of the turkey thigh readers 160 degrees F. Bast turkey with the drippings from the pan throughout the roasting process.
  15. Once turkey reads 160 degrees F remove from oven then gently remove the cheesecloth. Transfer turkey to a cutting board and cover with a tent of tin foil. Let rest for 20-30 minutes.
  16. Before slicing take the temperature one last time to ensure it is at a safe 165 degrees F.
  17. Slice and serve!

Notes

*Cheese cloth method from Martha Stewart.

Keywords: thanksgiving dinner, juicy thanksgiving turkey, easy turkey recipe, best thanksgiving turkey

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104 Responses
  1. Krystal

    Hi! I made my first turkey ever in 2020 using this recipe and it was fantastic! My mother was upset I didn’t use her recipe but honestly she only gives verbal recipes from memory and I need visuals and to read. Now she wants your recipe! She didn’t believe me when I said the citrus would turn out well inside. But it was not overpowering the flavor at all!

    I’m trying this out again this year for a NYE dinner and wanted to ask if you think it’s important (or not) to keep the turkey raised out of the juices? I think last time I used a tin tray and it sat in the juices but it looks like official turkey roasting pan is up on a raised rack. Any insight would be helpful!

    1. Krista

      The roasting pan lifts the turkey and allows the oven heat to circulate around the turkey. You don’t necessarily need a roasting pan – you can use any wire rack. I have heard of using balls of foil to lift the turkey – but I have never tested this before.

  2. Katie

    Made my first turkey this thanksgiving and it was so easy and turned out amazing. So tender and not dry at all with amazing flavor. My husband hates turkey, and he said it was the best turkey he’s ever had. Thank you for the recipe!

  3. J. A

    I tried this recipe and it was delicious! My only semi complaint was that the skin of the Turkey had a rubbery texture not a crispy one so we had to take the skin off to eat. Any ideas as to why this happened? Again, the Turkey meat was the best I’ve ever had!

    1. Krista @ Joyful Healthy Eats
      Krista

      Ugh.. I don’t know. Mine always turns out crispy. So next time I would recommend salting the outside of the turkey the night before, usually this draws moisture out and gives you the crispy skin we all love!

  4. Corinna

    What?!? Cook 2 turkeys? 2 days notice and with only 1 turkey under my belt…needless to say I was a lil nervous.

    There it was….the answer to not only my prayers but thos not so forgiving hungry bellies coming to Thanksgiving dinner with high expectations of a delicious and moist turkey!

    Let’s just say….”I effin killed it”!! This recipe is heaven sent, ty. My turkeys were delicious and moist. Hungry bellies went home stuffed and mouths full of praise for me and my turkeys.

    3 turkeys under my belt now…..!!

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