The Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe without Brining

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Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
4 hrs 30 mins

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

FAQs

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!

 

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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: 12-14 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: 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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Hey There

Krista
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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82 Responses
    1. Krista

      Yes, you definitely could! My mom has done it before. I couldn’t tell you cook times but I would follow the ingredients and then you can do you’re own cook time because I’m sure you’ve done it before.

    1. Krista

      You can prep those items the night before but I would not apply them the night before. Turkeys still tend to “sweat” overnight in the frig and you don’t want you citrus to get all gross of your butter to fall off the bird. 🙂

  1. Angie

    I have never cooked a turkey before but due to covid restrictions, we had our own Thanksgiving this year at home. I used this recipe and oh my goodness – the turkey turned out perfectly! It was the absolute best turkey I’ve ever had!

  2. Cassandra Alderson

    I followed these directions (modifying it just a bit for our 20 lb. turkey) and it came out wonderful. Moist and Golden. Would definitely recommend and make again. Thanks!!

  3. Krystal

    I’m making my first ever turkey this year tomorrow (couldn’t do it actual Thanksgiving day) and I ordered a 12 lb turkey from the butcher and when I got home I realized they gave me a 24 lb turkey!!! I’m freaking out! Other than doubling the recipe. Is there anything else I need to do? It’s a fresh turkey, so luckily no thawing for a week.

    1. Krista

      WoW!! That’s a huge mix up on their part! Yes, you’ll definitely need to double the recipe and double the cook time too!

  4. Mimi Comfort

    This turkey recipe turned out fantastic! I did decide to cook it a couple of days early and just took all the meat off the bones and stored it in a giant zip lock bag with the broth. Put it in the crockpot on Thanksgiving day. Son in law said it was the best turkey he had ever had

  5. Susan Amato

    This was the first year that my turkey wasn’t dry. Yay!!! I followed your recipe with some exceptions. Instead of fresh herbs, I used *dried. I didn’t have any dried tarragon, so I substituted with Mexican Oregano and for the Lemon Zest, I used powdered Lemon Peel (*penzeys spices.com). I basted with chicken broth and chicken stock. I have Viking double ovens and I used the convection bake setting. Never fails, my turkey (14.44lbs) cooked in 2 1/2 hours., including the roasting time. My roommates loved it!! The breast was juicy and tender and it was delicious. I will be using this recipe every year. Thank you for an awesome recipe.

    *Mexican Oregano
    *Albanian Rubbed Sage
    *French Thyme
    *Spanish Rosemary

  6. Melissa Tilghman

    Hello, the website for cook times isn’t working how long do you cook for a 20 pound turkey? Thanks Happy Thanksgiving!!

    1. Krista

      Hey Melissa, it’s usually about 13 minutes per pound at 350° so for a 20 lb. it would be about 4 hours and 20 minutes. But this recipe does have you start at 45 minutes of high heat at the beginning so I’d say about 3 hours 30 minutes is when I’d start checking the internal temperature of the bird.. it needs to be 165°F in the thickest part of the thigh.

    1. Krista

      yes, absolutely! I usually season, stuff and then rub butter on the day before and day off I’ll melt the remaining butter, dip the cheesecloth in the butter, cover the turkey and bake.

  7. Rocio

    I can’t wait to make this! This will be my first turkey and I’m a little nervous. What should I use instead of black truffle salt, kosher or table salt? Would it be the same amount?

    1. Krista

      I think it’s better with the cheesecloth, however if you can’t find it you can use a tin foil tent the first 45 minutes of baking then remove the tin foil and bake uncovered for the remaining of the bake time.

    1. Krista

      Yes, absolutely! You could just add flour (I’d start with 4-5 tablespoons worth) to the dripping and whisk until it thickens.

    1. Krista

      Yes! I would just add 4-5 tablespoons of flour to the drippings pan and whisk at a simmer until it thickens up. If it’s not quite thick enough you could add a cornstarch slurry (1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of water) to the gravy as well.

  8. Mihaela

    I’m super excited to try this recipe this year! I’m just wondering if you used a frozen turkey or a fresh one? I heard that all fresh turkeys should be bribed but frozen ones like butterball don’t need to be if you use a cheese cloth. I have a fresh turkey and have never made one before. Just seeing if you would recommended bribing it in addiction to all of your steps? Thank you!

    1. Krista

      Hey Mihaela, I’m assuming you mean brining. And no, this recipe you don’t need to brine. I’ve use fresh before too. I’d suggest generously rubbing it with salt and pepper the day before and leave it in the refrigerator covered overnight then follow the recipe as given. You should be good from there.

  9. Joy

    This looks amazing and will be the recipe I use this year… hopefully every year, if I am successful!
    Question: If I do not have a rack for my roasting pan, should I use vegetables (carrots, etc?) to prop under the turkey? Should I just let it set flat on the pan? Suggestions?

    1. Krista

      I like to use a rack because it allows the turkey cook all around. However, if you don’t have one yet using vegetables to prop it up would be the next best thing.

    1. Krista

      I leave it on the entire time. It acts as a net to keep on the goodness on the turkey instead of dripping or melting off while basting.

    1. Krista

      Hey Elizabeth, it’s usually about 13 minutes per pound at 350° would be about 2 hours and 10 minutes. But this recipe does have you start at 45 minutes of high heat at the beginning so I’d say about 1 hour 30 minutes is when I’d start checking the internal temperature of the bird.. it needs to be 165°F in the thickest part of the thigh.

  10. Carlie

    Do you have a garlic/herb butter recipe? Also what cute uses do you use? Oranges for sure but I don’t know what else. TVs me I am excited to try this!

    1. Krista

      Carlie, I do. The garlic herb butter recipe is in the recipe card .. I got you covered! I use oranges and lemon… So good and keeps the turkey so moist.

    1. Krista

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

  11. Emilee King

    About what size piece of cheese cloth would you say you used? Just big enough to cover the exposed part of the turkey with one layer?

    1. Krista

      Hey Emilee, I make sure that the cheese cloth is “double lined” basically you’re folding it so you have layers instead of one. As far as how big, it depends on the turkey size. I make sure that the legs and wings are covered. Usually I will pull the cheese cloth out, double layer it then lay it on my turkey to measure before I cut it to make sure it will cover everything. I hope that helps.

    1. Krista

      Honestly, I’ve never used one. But I would assume so. The only part I would be careful of is the cheese cloth. Everything else seasoning wise will be flawless!

  12. Dori

    FINALLY a perfect Turkey recipe. It was just amazing. Great steps and instructions. Will do my turkey like this every year from now on!

    1. Krista

      Oh yeah!!! That just made me so happy! We love this recipe too, it’s my go to every year. And then my husband also insists on frying a turkey too… bc apparently that’s what you do in texas 🙂 haha

    1. Krista

      That’s correct. Because I don’t. The cheesecloth that i use it the barrier so that you don’t burn the bird. It works like a charm.

      1. danielle

        I’m confused… Do you cover it the entire time with cloth only? I’ve seen the question asked twice and in one comment you said you only use the cheese cloth and in this reply you said you cover it for part of the roasting. Part of the roasting with cheese cloth or foil.

        1. Krista

          Yes, you use the cheese cloth the entire roasting time. After the turkey reaches internal temperature of 165°F you remove it from the oven and THEN tent it with tin foil. Don’t use tin foil during the roasting process. Make sense?

  13. Michelle

    I used this recipe to make my first Turkey dinner EVER, and it was a HUGE hit! Everyone loved it and the instructions made it super easy to follow along and keep my stress level low. It was delicious and moist, everyone raved about it.

    Thank you SOOOOO much!

  14. Meghan

    I have always brined my turkey but I have been thinking about how I don’t want to this year… then I saw this! I can’t wait to try it!

  15. Susan Buckethal

    I LOVE your new web site! I can’t wait for T-Day and try this method. I have never used the cheese cloth but I will this year!

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