The Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe without Brining

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This is seriously The Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe! 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!

Cooked Thanksgiving turkey on a white platter garnished with cranberries and herbs

My Favorite 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 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! This year I’ve perfected it thanks to a little tip from Martha Stewart.

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! 

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

Let’s get started with the basics shall we!

How to Prepare a Thanksgiving Turkey for Cooking

  1. THAW your Turkey days ahead of time in the refrigerator. You’ll need to calculate 24 hours for every 4-5 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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

Now comes the good stuff!

A roasted turkey cavity stuffed with orange slices and herbs

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

What is the BEST Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe? Do you use a brine? Do you use a 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 by Step Guide for Cooking The Best Thanksgiving Turkey

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. Using your fingers, separate the skin from the meat of the turkey. (as shown)
  3. 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. 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. 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. 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. Does that make sense? 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. 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. 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 180 degrees F for turkey breast.
  8. Slice and serve!

Finished roast turkey in a roasting pan on a marble counter


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.

What can I put in my turkey for flavor?

In addition to using chicken broth for the drippings, 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 adds even more depth of flavor and also helps keep the meat moist.

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!


Recommended Tools for this Recipe

What to Serve with Thanksgiving Turkey


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: 12-14 servings 1x
  • category Category: Dinner
  • method Method: Oven
  • cuisine Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Gluten Free


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!



  • 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


  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!


*Cheese cloth method from Martha Stewart.

Keywords: best thanksgiving recipe, best turkey recipe, thanksgiving turkey recipe, how to cook a thanksgiving turkey, how long to cook a turkey for, how to cook a turkey in oven, best turkey, roasted turkey recipe

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Title Image for The Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe without Brining



Hey There

Hi! I'm the recipe developer and food photographer behind all these easy healthy recipes! I love food, Jesus, morning lattes, and am obsessed with fantasy football!

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29 Responses
    1. Krista

      Yes, absolutely. I would roast turkey breast for 1 hour then start checking temperature after that until internal temperature reaches 165°F

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