The holidays can be stressful, let’s take one stressor away with this recipe for Easy Thanksgiving Turkey! Nothing fancy here, just a standard juicy roast turkey that will satisfy the whole crowd.
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Easy Roast Turkey
Thanksgiving can be SO overwhelming. So I wanted to make sure to give you the easiest no-fuss turkey recipe I could packed with tons of information specific to first time (or not often) turkey roasters.
Extra information like choosing a turkey, thawing, equipment, ingredients, and instructions. I tried to give you as much info as I could. AND if you still feel like you have question please let me know in the comment section at the bottom of the post!
If this is your first time making a roast turkey I like to recommend to read everything in the recipe and be familiar with it before even going to the store. That way you can ensure that there are no surprises when it is time to roast the turkey!
Choosing a Turkey
When choosing a turkey for a holiday meal there are a few things to consider. How many people am I feeding? How much do I want to spend? Do I have space to thaw and store a frozen turkey? Should I buy extra for leftovers?
So if this is your first time making a turkey that can all be a little overwhelming. Luckily there are quite a few options.
To start you will want to make sure you have enough turkey for the number of people you are feeding. Most people say about 1 1/2 pounds per person. So if you have 10 people you are serving you will want about a 15 pound turkey. Once you figure out about how big your turkey needs to be you can figure out the next questions.
(Side note: Let’s say you are hosting a very big crowd, like larger than 13. I would recommend roasting two smaller turkeys opposed to one large one, this is my personal recommendation. I think it is easier to handle two 12-13 pound turkeys than one that is around 25 pounds.)
So now you have the size. You want to figure out what kind of turkey, fresh or frozen. Now fresh and/or minimally processed frozen turkeys are going to cost more, they also come without being pre-brined which is not how this recipe is works, But don’t worry I have you covered if you want to go that direction instead hop over to my Dry Brined Turkey Recipe. I will note that these types of turkeys will also cost more money so these aren’t great if you are on a budget.
So for this easy roast turkey we will be buying a frozen turkey. Think Butterball or other ready to go turkeys. These turkeys are great because they almost come completely oven ready.
What you do have to think about is the space to store the turkey before it is time to cook. If you are buying with plenty of time to go you will need freezer space followed by fridge space. If you are timing out buying your turkey with the thaw then you will need the fridge space. So make sure that you have that thought out ahead of time since the turkey will have to thaw out in the fridge for a few days.
Last questions leftovers. Some people will claim, okay a lot of people will claim their favorite part of thanksgiving is the leftovers, I get it! So some people consider that if you want more leftovers to consider buying 2 pounds per person instead of 1 1/2. Just wanted to throw that out there as something to consider but it certainly isn’t necessary at all.
Thawing a Turkey
Luckily thawing your turkey is very hands off you just have to make sure that you give yourself enough time!
The USDA has three methods to thaw a turkey. Their top recommend being the refrigerator, which is also the easiest so let’s go over that. This is considered the safest method because the turkey will thaw at a consistent, safe temperature.
Thawing in the fridge does take time, so you need to plan it out. Allow one day for each 4 – 5 pounds of weight. So if your turkey weighs 16 pounds, it will take about four days to thaw.
The best part about this method is that once the turkey is thawed, it is safe for another two days in the fridge, so for a 16 pound turkey you can start thawing it six days before thanksgiving (the Friday before Thanksgiving). This is great because if you are like me and want to really ensure that it won’t be frozen I can get it started thawing a day early and the turkey will be totally fine.
So as a general guideline you will will transfer your frozen turkey to the fridge 1 day for every 4-5 pounds with 2 days as wiggle room.
There technically are two other methods, cold water and microwave. These must be done immediately before you start cooking the turkey, so you’ll have to wait until Thanksgiving morning.
You can technically thaw your turkey in the microwave on defrost, if it fits. Because I don’t believe most turkeys will fit I am going to kinda skip over this one. Head to the USDA guidelines if you want more info.
The last method I think of as more of an emergency method. A cold water bath. You will leave the turkey in its original wrapping and submerge it in a sink (or container, like a cooler) full of cold water. You should change the water every 30 minutes. Empty out the water and replace it with fresh cold water. This method takes 30 minutes of defrosting time per pound. So if you have a 16 pound turkey it will take 8 hours to thaw using this method. So I consider this a last ditch effort because you probably need to start around 4 a.m. if you want to eat in the afternoon! Once the turkey has thawed it needs to be cooked immediately, no putting it back in the fridge.
Lastly I will note. If you have a frozen, or even partially frozen turkey it can still be cooked frozen. It will just take longer. Just plan on about 50% longer if it is still frozen (but hey still faster than an ice bath I suppose).
In keeping with the theme of trying to make this as easy as possible I try to keep any fancy equipment to a minimal as well. The number one thing that you might need to get that isn’t an everyday kitchen appliance is a roasting pan. Especially if you are roasting a big bird you will want a roasting pan! I think the bird cooks best with a wire insert, so if you are shopping around look for that to keep the bird elevated.
The other tool you will want is a meat thermometer. If your bird comes equipped with the plastic thermometer that is great to use as a guide but it is always a good idea to have a real temp taken to confirm the turkey is done. I like my product from ThermoWorks, it is fast and correct every time.
Beyond that you will need typical kitchen equipment like plates, measuring cups, knifes, cutting board ect…
- Turkey – Most of the turkey info was stated above in the ‘choosing a turkey’ section. Make sure you look for a frozen turkey that will match with how many people you will be serving. Remember if you are cooking a turkey for a holiday like Thanksgiving or Christmas you might want to grab a turkey sooner than later because a lot of people will be buying them and you don’t want to miss out on the size you want!
- Unsalted Butter – When cooking I like to use unsalted butter because that way you can totally control the amount of salt that you are putting into your dish! This should also be room temperature and soft when you are ready to use it. Forgot to soften it? Don’t worry happens to me all the time. For this recipe in particular I found the best way to quickly get the butter softened was to use a box grater and grate the butter like you would cheese. It will almost instantly be ready to use in this recipe.
- Olive Oil – Yes olive oil and butter. Why? Because they are different, act different, and have different flavors even though they are both cooking fats. I found that mixing these two together created a crisp skin from the olive oil but also a beautiful brown skin from the butter.
- Kosher Salt – Kosher salt is the best salt to use in roasting, the structure of the salt helps dissolves into the food better than other kinds. If you realize last minute you don’t have any the best substitute would be fine sea salt.
- Lemon – The rest of the ingredients are all ‘Optional’ aromatics. I find that lemon, garlic, and herbs are a simple yet affective flavoring. If you are averse to any of these ingredients, that’s okay just don’t use them.
- Garlic – To me garlic is pretty much a must. I like to use a whole head, cut in half.
- Mix of Fresh Rosemary, Sage, and/or Thyme – A lot of times during the holiday season you will also see these sold together as a poultry mix, this is great and you can just grab that. Feel free to also use any other fresh herbs you really like.
- Other Ideas for Aromatics: Onion, Shallot, Apples, Oranges, Celery, Carrots – Use more or less as you like, just make sure to not over stuff your bird.
For a complete detailed list of the ingredients continue towards the bottom of the page.
About 1 hour before you want the turkey to go in the oven remove it from the fridge and plastic packaging. With paper towels gently blot any extra moisture from the turkey, a dry turkey is good. So even after resting at room temperature you might want to blot it dry again.
Remove any gizzards and/or neck that is in the cavity of the Turkey. Check the neck flap too sometimes the bag of gizzards is there. Set the turkey breast side up on a plate or baking tray. Let sit at room temperature for 45 to 60 minutes before proceeding.
In the oven move the racks so that the top rack is in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325° F.
In a small bowl add the softened butter and olive oil. Whisk together until it mostly combines, small chunks of butter are totally okay. Set aside.
Quarter cut the lemon and cut the garlic head in half the short way so that all the cloves are cut in half. Keeping in mind not over stuff the turkey add the herbs of your choosing, lemon pieces, and garlic halves to the empty cavity. If not everything fits don’t force it. If the bird comes with a plastic piece or is cut to hold the legs together you might have to undo it to get it stuffed. Re-attach the legs after stuffing. If the turkey doesn’t come with a spot to bring the legs to the middle I suggest using kitchen twine to tie them together.
At this point transfer the turkey to the roasting pan wire rack breast side up. Tuck the wings back behind the turkey, pull the tip of the wings out, up, and then down so they wrap behind the larger part of the wing, they should stay in place, this will help for an even cook.
With your hand gently start rubbing the butter/oil mixture over the bird. Concentrate on the breast area but don’t forget to get the wings, legs, and thighs.
With clean hands carefully sprinkle kosher salt generously all over the turkey.
Transfer to the oven. Cook about 16 minutes per pound. Chart to help in timing. Remember this isn’t exact but the best guess of when your turkey will be done.
|Pounds||Time in Hours|
|8 to 12||2.25 to 3.25|
|12 to 16||3.25 to 4.25|
|16-20||4.25 to 5.5|
When the Turkey has reached 165° F in the breast. Remove turkey from oven and let rest 30 minutes before carving.
tips, tricks and questions
What can I add to turkey for flavor?
Want ever more flavor! I suggest adding some dried herbs to the olive oil and butter mixture! Dried thyme would be my go-to but rosemary or rubbed sage would also be really good!
Should I cover my turkey with aluminum foil?
The main reason you would want to cover your turkey with aluminum foil is if the skin is near burning. If you are cooking a large turkey this might be possible towards the end of roasting so if you see the skin looking too dark you can add some aluminum foil to the top. Otherwise this turkey recipe doesn’t require you to cover the bird.
- 1 Whole Turkey, thawed (any size)
- 4 tablespoon softened unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lemon
- 1 whole head garlic
- 1 ounces mix of fresh rosemary, sage, and/or thyme
- About 1 hour before you want the turkey to go in the oven remove it from the fridge and plastic packaging. With paper towels gently blot off any extra moisture from the turkey. Remove any gizzards and/or neck that is in the cavity of the Turkey, check the neck flap too sometimes the bag of gizzards is there. Set the turkey breast side up on a plate or baking tray. Let sit at room temperature for 45 to 60 minutes before proceeding.
- In the oven move the racks so that the top rack is in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325° F.
- In a small bowl add the softened butter and olive oil. Whisk together until mostly combines, some small chunks of butter are totally okay. Set aside.
- Quarter cut the lemon and cut the garlic head in half the short way so that all the cloves are cut in half. Keeping in mind not over stuff the turkey add the herbs of your choosing, lemon pieces, and garlic halves to the empty cavity. If not everything fits don't force it. If the bird comes with a plastic piece or is cut to hold the legs together you might have to undo it to get it stuffed. Re-attach the legs after stuffing. If the turkey doesn’t come with a spot to bring the legs to the middle I suggest using kitchen twine to tie them together.
- At this point transfer the turkey to the roasting pan wire rack breast side up. Tuck the wings back behind the Turkey, pull the tip of the wings out, up, and then down so they wrap behind the larger part of the wing, they should stay in place, this will help for an even cook.
- With your hands gently start rubbing the butter/oil mixture over the bird. Concentrate on the breast area but don’t forget to get the wings, legs, and thighs.
- With clean hands carefully sprinkle kosher salt generously all over the turkey.
- Transfer to the oven. Cook about 16 minutes per pound. (Chart in post to help)
- When the Turkey has reached 165° F in the breast. Remove Turkey from oven and let rest 30 minutes before carving.
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Serving Size:Depends on Turkey Size
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 131Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 19mgSodium: 79mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 2g
Nutritional data is automated and might not be 100% accurate, final nutritional information will depend on ingredients used and any changes made.