Simple Herb Roasted Turkey + No-Fail Gravy Tips
If you need a killer roast turkey without any long, complicated steps, this simple, no-fuss, perfect herb roasted turkey recipe is for you!
You guys. Let’s talk turkey.
Who’s on turkey duty this year for Thanksgiving?
Who’s never cooked a turkey in their life? Come on, raise your hand.
Don’t worry. You aren’t alone.
Cooking a turkey scared the bejeebies out of me for years until I finally had to buckle down and do it one year when our little family hosted Thanksgiving with some friends in the midwest, and my mom had better things to do than drive 28 hours to my house to make the turkey for me.
I was scared. Stressed. I over-talked turkey for weeks to Brian (who was soooo over it by the time Thanksgiving rolled around), but what do you know? In the end, I made a turkey!
And not to brag, but it was kind of amazing, and now I look forward to it every year when turkey duty falls on my shoulders.
I’ve talked turkey before. This brown bag 2-hour turkey revolutionized many of your lives back in the early days of my blog (although please don’t send me hate mail about using a real, live brown paper bag in the oven; just make your own informed decision and move forward).
Don’t forget this wonderfully simple slow cooker turkey breast. It’s crazy tender and makes it’s own gravy, which is kind of a miracle in and of itself.
And this brined turkey I posted a couple years ago is incredible. Really amazing.
In fact, it’s been my go-to (other than when we smoke a turkey, because that might really be the best thing ever, and maybe some day I’ll post about it).
But, I’m not going to lie, sometimes the thought of digging out my ginormous plastic bucket and making and cooling a brine and plunging the turkey into briny ice and making sure it stays cool enough and finding a place for it (bathtub??) overnight and then tackling the whole issue of a wet, dripping turkey all over my kitchen floor whilst transferring turkey from brine to roasting pan totally does not excite me.
Sorry if I just talked you out of making that recipe; it’s really not hard, and the results are terribly delicious, but clearly, my coping skills are on the low end this year when it comes to turkey roasting.
I decided to find the best, simple herb roasted turkey recipe…and this is most definitely it!
Helped along by slathering butter under and over the skin and stuffing the turkey with flavorful aromatics, there’s nothing tricky or overly time consuming about this roasted turkey recipe.
It’s amazing, and anyone can make this herb roasted turkey and feel like a rock star. Promise.
Now let’s talk gravy for a second.
Perfect Gravy Tips:
I usually use the easy turkey gravy recipe from this post, but I wanted to give you a few extra no-fail gravy tips today, as well. My go-to method has changed a bit. This makes the best gravy ever:
1) When the turkey is done roasting, I immediately pour 1-2 cups chicken broth into the bottom of the roasting pan over the turkey drippings, and let it all sit for a minute or so.
2) Once the rack/turkey has been removed from the roasting pan, I scrape up the broth and drippings from the bottom of the roasting pan and strain it all through a fine mesh strainer, pressing on those solids to get every last bit of goodness out, into a fat separator (this being a totally essential tool for Thanksgiving, just saying); I discard the solids and use the flavorful broth in the gravy.
3) I’ve started making my Thanksgiving gravy by melting 6-8 tablespoons butter and stirring in 1/2 cup flour. I cook it, stirring constantly, until golden, maybe 2-3 minutes.
4) Gradually, I stir in the strained broth from the drippings in the roasting pan. And then I whisk quickly and constantly like my life depends on it. I continue to stir while the gravy bubbles and thickens and add additional broth until it’s the right consistency.
5) The most important part? Salt and pepper to taste (don’t forget this step!). Bland gravy is no gravy at all.
If you need to make a killer roast turkey this year without long, complicated steps, this herb roasted turkey recipe is for you!
And that gravy? Heavenly.
One Year Ago: Stuffed Apple and Bacon Sweet Potato Casserole
Two Years Ago: Classic Pumpkin Pie
Three Years Ago: Smoky Corn Chowder
Simple Herb Roasted Turkey
- 10-13 pound turkey, thawed or fresh
- Coarse kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup (113 g) salted butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1 whole lemon, zested
- 1 medium onion, skin removed and quartered
- Bunch of parsley
- 1-2 medium carrots, chopped into thirds
- 1-2 celery stalks, chopped into thirds
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Remove the giblets and neck from the turkey cavity. Place the turkey on a rack set in a roasting pan.
- In a small bowl, combine the butter, thyme, and lemon zest.
- Salt and pepper all over the outside of the turkey; also liberally salt and pepper inside of the turkey cavity and stuff with the lemon (that was zested for the butter mixture), onion, parsley, carrots and celery.
- With your fingers, gently loosen the skin around the turkey breast. Grab tablespoon-size pieces of the butter mixture and place it in between the skin and the breast meat, going back as far as you can without ripping the skin. You won’t use all the butter; there should be about half left over.
- Once dots of butter are under the skin, press on top of the skin to mash the butter around into a relatively even layer; it definitely doesn’t have to be perfect. You just want little pats of butter all over between the skin and the breast meat (see pictures below for a how-to).
- Melt the rest of the butter. Brush it all over the skin of the turkey.
- Roast the turkey for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, until the meatiest part of a chicken thigh registers a steady 165 degrees F.
- Remove the turkey from the oven and let rest for 15-20 minutes before carving and serving.
Recipe Source: adapted from Ina Garten’s Roast Turkey recipe
56 Comments on “Simple Herb Roasted Turkey + No-Fail Gravy Tips”
This turkey was delicious, moist and had so much flavor! We followed the recipe exactly along with the gravy, except we used mayo instead of butter mixed with herbs, and it was perfectly browned and the gravy was delicious! Thank you for another great recipe, Mel!
I dearly love this (I know, we shouldn’t love food, lol) I’ve made it 3 Christmases in a row. I was late to Whole Foods-almost all of their turkey breasts were sold. The biggest one was only 5lbs-22oz. Should I decrease the cooking time or just stick to the original recipe time.
For a 5 pound turkey, yes you’ll definitely want to lessen the cooking time so it’s not overdone.
I used this method to make my first ever roasted turkey for our belated Thanksgiving celebration with family and it turned out delicious! The gravy was seriously the best I’ve ever had for a Thanksgiving. So easy to make and so good! I also made your sweet potato casserole and green bean casserole so basically you get credit for the fact that my first time cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the family went off without a hitch. As my husband said, “if it’s from Mel, you know it will be good”. Thanks for making me feel like a rockstar in the kitchen!
Thank you, Signe! You ARE a rock star! So proud of you!
I don’t have a roasting rack, is it necessary to make the turkey?
It will make a big difference in cooking time so the air can circulate underneath the turkey while cooking.
Thank you so much for this article, I just want to reach through the computer and give you a big ol’ hug!!
Here I am Thanksgiving morning and my “turkey duty” stress is a bit much, especially because I had planned to brine the turkey yesterday but was too exhausted cooking and cleaning all in preparation for TODAY. I am on overload with the all the turkey advice, recipes, tips, etc., and was almost too stressed to chose a method/recipe…. eeek!
Because I use several of your recipes for our Thanksgiving meals already it made sense to see what you had to say about wrangling a turkey…lo and behold your article got me back from the edge of a turkey-cliff. Phew.
THANK YOU Mel and a Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.
Thanks, Kari! I hope the turkey worked out. Happy Thanksgiving!
Hi, Mel! If I make a 20-22lb turkey should I double all the ingredients?
I would probably double everything except for the butter (that amount is plenty for a larger turkey).
This is the best turkey I’ve ever had, and I am not prone to hyperbole. It was so moist and flavourful! I followed the recipe exactly except that I roasted the turkey upside down, then flipped it over for the last half hour.
The gravy was so good from the drippings that I only added a tiny bit of salt and pepper. My gravy has always been too thin until now. Perfect! Will never need another recipe!
I don’t think I commented when I used your site for Thanksgiving. The turkey and gravy were amazing!!! I bought another turkey recently-ish and had forgotten it in the freezer. I was meal planning for this week and my husband wanted turkey…gravy. Ha ha! Turkey was awesome, and that gravy! Oh, the gravy is amazing. Gravy has always been a hit or miss thing for me, but not now! Yay!
I tried this for Thanksgiving on a 12 lb turkey and again today with 4 bone-in chicken split breasts laid over the vegetables. I slow baked the breasts for 35 minutes at 300F and crisped up the skin at 375-400F the last 15-20 minutes. Both were great hits – so tender and juicy! Thanks Mel!
Quick question. First of all THANK YOU for all the great recipes. I’ve been following for years and have made tons of great food thanks to you.
I made this turkey for thanksgiving and it was good, but it didn’t get golden brown on the outside. I noticed the other turkey recipes you have call for a 500 degree initial roasting time. Is there any reason why that wouldn’t be good to do with this recipe? Not gonna lie, I want a picture perfect turkey. Thanks again!
Do you think there’s a chance your oven cooks on the cool side of things? I’ve made this several times and it’s always browned up nice on the outside; however, if it didn’t, next time, I think you could follow what you suggested and start out by roasting at a higher temp and then cranking down the temp to finish cooking the rest of the time.
I have a new favorite way to make turkey. The turkey was flavorful and moist. I didn’t even hesitate to try a new recipe for Thanksgiving because I knew it was from your site.
That makes me feel good, Paula – so happy you loved this turkey!
Well, this is just a simply great recipe! It was just my husband and myself this Thanksgiving, so I thought I’d practice my turkey skills. This is only the 4th turkey I’ve cooked over the past 20 years….I’ve been fortunate to always be at other houses for this holiday. Anyways, loved your directions and pics, Mel. Thanks for sharing your expertise! Turkey has never been my favorite item on the plate, but I was pleasantly surprised this had great flavor all on its own. Looking forward to sandwiches tomorrow! Yumm!
So happy to hear this, Gail!
Question: Is this lemon kept whole inside? or do you halve it?
I usually halve it so it fits, but I’ve also put it in whole, too.
OK, you’re making me feel like I can make an edible turkey. I’m still super nervous about the gravy!
Just confirming: this bird is roasted in the oven in a pan, not covered or in a bag or anything, right?
Kay, so trying to stay calm here (I’m exaggerating, of course, or not), my in laws wanted to buy the turkey and graced me with a 17 pounder that was pulled out to be thawed saturday night. Will it be thawed by Wednesday or Thursday? Also, could I prep the turkey completely the day before so I just have to throw it in the oven on Thursday? Cover or don’t cover it in the fridge if I do that? Thanks Mel!
Usually it takes about a week to thaw a turkey, but you can speed up the process by putting it in a sink full of cool water (not warm!) and changing out the water as it warms up too much. Yes, I think you could definitely prep the night before; I’d refrigerate covered lightly with plastic wrap. You’ve got this!
Sorry if this is obvious, but do I leave the turkey in the packaging to thaw it in cool water or take it out?
I leave it in the package – just to avoid bacteria cross contamination.
I did it Mel! And I killed it! In a good way 🙂 It was so delicious. I panicked for a bit because the breasts were 180 while down by the thighs were still 150. But for some reason it all worked out and it was perfectly brown and beautiful. Even my father in law said he was gonna cut me some slack because it was my first turkey, but it turned out to be one of the best he’s ever had. Thanks so much for always helping me succeed in new endeavors!
I was wondering how it all worked out, Marci! I’m so happy the turkey was awesome!
Also, had a turkey, brie, avocado, spinach panini on my multigrain rolls tonight. With a slice of sugar free pie I tried out. Yum yum YUMMY!
I am cooking my first turkey ever this year…eeek…and I knew I could count on you to deliver a no-fail recipe. I am feeding quite a few, so I’m going to have to go up a bit on the turkey size. Do you ever cook your turkey in one of those turkey roasting ovens? It would free up my oven space for other things, but I am nervous to try it!
You’ve got this, Annie! You’ll do great. Are you talking about an electric roaster? I’ve never done a turkey in there but I know a lot of people swear by it.
Does the stuff inside (apples onion, etc.) just give the turkey flavor? Do you throw it away when the turkey is done cooking? Or do you leave it in while you are carving?
Yes, it gives the turkey a lot of great flavor. I toss it after the turkey comes out of the oven.
Hi Mel!! LOVE all your recipes! Can you tell me what would need to be changed for a 19 – 20 lb turkey? I know you said you like smaller better, but I had already bought the big one! Plus we love our leftovers!!
Thanks so much for your awesome blog!!
You’ll just want to increase the aromatics (inside the turkey) and butter accordingly….and definitely keep an eye on time. You’ll probably need an extra hour for roasting? Just a guess but I’d start there and check often.
I’ve been asked to host thanksgiving (What! My mom didn’t do that till she was 40 something!) and I’m considering doing the turkey. There will be about 30 people (mostly kids). If I did this turkey and gravy recipe, would it be enough for that many people? I’m so new to this, I don’t even know how to figure that one. I was going to do your vinegar ham as well.
If you are doing this turkey + the vinegar ham, then yes, I think that’s plenty for 30 people. If there’s one thing I’ve learned after hosting Thanksgiving over the years…with so many sides and recipes on the table, no one ever eats as much turkey as I think they will. Leftovers for days (not a bad thing).
Silly questions here. Do you cover the turkey at all during cooking? Do you baste it at all? Also could I add stuffing in the cavity with the celery and carrots in the recipe?
I don’t cover the turkey or baste it. I’ve never been a stuffing-inside-the-turkey kind of girl (a little too soggy for me) but you could experiment (although take care that the stuffing reaches a safe temperature before eating).
I also make gravy ahead of time, roast legs and wings at 400 for an hour with onions, carrots, celery and 1 cup broth. When nice and brown add everything to a large pot with 6 cups broth and simmer for another hour. Remove legs and strain all solids. Whisk 3/4 cup flour into 2 more cups broth, add to simmering broth in pan until thickened, season with salt/pepper. I have been using this recipe for 20 years, I think it was from a magazine, makes the best gravy. I freeze it, thaw it out for thanksgiving and add drippings from turkey, made mine yesterday. I’m also roasting a 12 lb turkey and making your crock pot turkey breast ( which is excellent) since everyone prefers white meat
This looks perfectly delicious. Brining has always been successful for me, but the extra effort is just not up my alley this year. I’ll be using this recipe, along with your pretzel and sausage stuffing, for our meal this year. Thanks so much!
This looks AMAZING!! Doesn’t butter always make everything so yummy??? ☺️ Thanks for the recipe! I’m still part of the “freaking out because I have never made my own turkey” club… I hope to rectify that soon. Thanks for giving a delicious and simple option to us!
I think I will try your slow cooker turkey, and the parmesan cream corn. The cranberry fluff salad has become a staple since you posted . Thanks!
Those are all great choices, Barb!
This turkey looks amazing! If we decided to cook our own this year, since it’s just going to be the four of us, I’m definitely trying this recipe!
Love your new profile picture. Beautiful.
Oh, that was sweet, Kira – thank you!
I always wonder what the truth is when it comes to turkey . I cannot think of
any other food surrounded by more voo doo than this. Brine or not, stuff or not, deep fry or not, breast up or down, or only when the planets are perfectly aligned will you get a great turkey. Your method is similar to Ina Garten’s. mayebe I’ll get brave and try this.
I so appreciate all of your recipes, I get so excited to see one of your posts pop up in my email! I am on turkey duty this year and we recently bought an awesome smoker-grill, so we were hoping to smoke a turkey this year. I know this time of year is pretty busy, but I would love some guidance/tips/a post, if you could! Thank you!!
My first turkey, 40 years ago as a 21 year old in my first house… it was more than edible but I neglected to remove the neck, gizzards, etc. and they cooked in the turkey. It became a family joke and I haven’t forgotten since 🙂
I did have 1 complete failure about 7 years ago. The first time I tried an organic turkey – not sure what happened but it neither tasted nor smelled good and we had backup meatloaf which went fine with the rest of the fixin’s!
I go with Karen’s idea also and a modification allows for a smaller turkey if you have a really large crowd. Like you, I like sticking to smaller birds 14 pounds max. If you need more meat, a bone in turkey breast is a good choice and it can be cooked days ahead and the broth saved for gravy. This year, the bone in breasts have been on sale the last several weeks and I’ve been cooking them in the Instant Pot: 2 cups water, 10 minutes per pound. As soon as the meat is cool enough to handle, I take it off the bone and then make turkey broth like your chicken broth method. Doing this, you can have plenty of meat and broth for gravy and still have a nice brown bird (of a manageable size) to take to the table for the oohs and aahs!
Hi Mel! Love your site- excited to see your increasing success 🙂
I just have a thought to add to your wonderful turkey post. For those that run short on gravy, or do not get enough drippings, this is what I do during “Thanksgiving Week.” I buy turkey legs and wings, season them well (I just use salt, pepper and granulated garlic) and roast them at 400 until tender. Once they cool, I pull the meat off (use for a casserole or even turkey quesadillas) and make a stock from the bones and skin (lots of flavor in that skin!) Make sure to cook long enough to be good and flavorful. Refrigerate- allowing fat to rise and solidify. When ready to use, remove fat and add to the roux in your recipe above (will prob need more though to thicken properly). That’s it! Hope that helps someone. 🙂
Thank you, Karen!