Perfect Roast Turkey (step-by-step)

A perfect Roast Turkey is actually easy to make. In this recipe, turkey is generously seasoned with fresh herbs, and then it is cooked in the oven to juicy perfection.

While it takes a bit of time to make, creating a juicy thanksgiving or holiday meal is not difficult. Below are our favorite tips and a step-by-step guide!

sliced herb roast turkey on a platter

Make this turkey recipe and add in your fave sides; creamy mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, and of course cranberry sauce for traditional turkey dinner!

How to Cook a Turkey

Cooking a turkey may seem overwhelming but this recipe is easy to follow.  It does take time but the results are worth it (and I promise it’s not difficult). Below I have provided step-by-step directions for how to cook a turkey to juicy perfection.

OVERVIEW of Steps for Cooking a Turkey:

  1. Prepare turkey – remove giblets, season outside, brine if desired
  2. Stuff turkey (optional)
  3. Tie (or truss)  – the turkey is tied with kitchen string so the wings/legs don’t burn and the bird cooks evenly
  4. Roast – simply bake until golden and cooked
  5. Rest turkey – this allows the juices to redistribute and ensures you have juicy meat

How to Prepare a Turkey for Roasting

  • Thaw – If the turkey is frozen be sure to allow time for it to thaw can take several days. TIP: How long to thaw a turkey.
  • Brine (optional) – Brine turkey up to 24 hours or according to brine recipe. Drain well and pat dry. Roasting a brined turkey follows the same directions as a turkey that hasn’t been brined.
  • Remove Giblets/Neck – Remove the giblets and neck from the cavity. I usually place them in the pan to bake alongside the turkey and flavor my drippings for gravy.

two images of prepping turkey for the oven, one prepping the legs and the other pouring oil over top

  • Stuff turkey (optional) – Loosely stuff the turkey with stuffing or herbs. Scroll below for more info and tips if you’re stuffing the bird. (Image #1)
  • Dab Dry – Dab the skin dry with a paper towel, this will help the skin crisp better. If you’re stuffing the turkey, wipe the inside with a dry paper towel to remove any debris.
  • Oil & Season – In this turkey recipe, you’ll rub the skin with olive oil or slightly cooled melted butter and season with salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and lots of fresh herbs. (Image #2)

Tips for Stuffing

Stuffing a turkey is optional, a stuffed turkey will take longer to cook. If you decide not to stuff your turkey, I would suggest adding an onion and some fresh herbs to the cavity for extra flavor.

  1. Prepare stuffing according to recipe directions.
  2. Cool completely, this is important to avoid bacteria. I prepare my stuffing up to 24 hours in advance (but do not stuff the turkey in advance).
  3. Very gently spoon the stuffing into the main cavity of the turkey, do not pack it in.
  4. Add a little bit of stuffing to the neck cavity as well, seal with the flap of skin left on the turkey with a small metal skewer. Leftover stuffing can go into a casserole dish.

How to Tie or Truss

Now that the bird is stuffed and seasoned, it’s time to tie it up and get it in the oven.

Flip the wing tips under the turkey, this keeps the tips from burning and also helps stabilize the turkey.

If your turkey has a band of skin near the cavity opening, you can tuck the legs into the band. If not, simply crisscross the legs over the cavity and tie them together with a piece of kitchen string or twine.

overhead of uncooked turkey in a roasting pan and cooked turkey in a roasting pan

overhead of uncooked turkey in a roasting pan and cooked turkey in a roasting pan

How to Roast a Turkey

This roast turkey recipe makes it easy!

You’ll need a large roasting pan, I personally do not recommend a disposable roasting pan as they don’t tend to hold the heat as well which can sometimes add tons of extra cook time.

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (per the recipe below).
  2. Place prepared turkey breast side up on a rack in a large roasting pan (photo #4 above). If you do not have a rack, balled up foil or large pieces of onion/celery/carrot are great to hold the turkey up and off the bottom of the roaster.
  3. Add an onion, a couple pieces of celery and a couple of carrots in the bottom of the pan (optional, this will add great flavor to your gravy). Add 1″ or so of broth to the bottom of the pan.
  4.  Place turkey in the oven, reduce heat to 325°F and roast until it reaches 165°F (and if stuffed, the center of the stuffing should reach 165°F).
  5. Remove from the oven and REST at least 20-30 minutes before carving.

herb roast turkey on a platter

herb roast turkey on a platter

What Temperature to Roast a Turkey

I like to preheat the oven to 350°F and then when I place the turkey in the oven, I turn the oven down. Slow roasted turkey at 325°F comes out perfectly tender and juicy.

According to the USDA, a turkey is fully cooked with both the meat and the center of the stuffing reach 165°F.  Use a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh and ensure it is not touching the bone.

Use the drippings to create a quick and easy turkey gravy for the perfect holiday meal.

How Long to Roast a Turkey

Turkey roasting time can vary depending on if the turkey is stuffed or not. If you are short on time, you can Spatchcock Turkey to make cooking extra quick. For a smaller turkey meal, make Roast Turkey Breast.

14 to 18 pounds

    • Unstuffed: 3 3/4 to 4-1/2 hours
    • Stuffed: 4 to 4-1/2 hours

18 to 22 pounds

    • Unstuffed: 3-1/2 to 4 hours
    • Stuffed: 4-1/2 to 5 hours

22 to 24 pounds

    • Unstuffed: 4 to 4-1/2 hours
    • Stuffed: 5 to 5-1/2 hours

24 to 30 pounds

    • Unstuffed: 4-1/2 to 5 hours
    • Stuffed: 5-1/2 to 6-1/4 hours

Cook times are approximate and will vary. Turkey should reach 165°F* in both the meat and the center of the stuffing.

Favorite Turkey Dinner Sides

Herb Roast Turkey

Herb rubbed turkey roasted to juicy perfection.

Follow Spend with Pennies on Pinterest

Follow Spend with Pennies on Pinterest

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.

  • Remove giblets and neck from turkey cavity and pat turkey dry with paper towels. If stuffing the turkey, wipe the inside of the cavity with paper towels.

  • Rub olive oil and chopped herbs over turkey and season generously with salt/pepper.

  • If stuffing turkey, fill with stuffing loosely (do not pack stuffing) or add ½ an onion and fresh herbs to the cavity.

  • Tie legs together with kitchen string or tuck under the flap of skin at the tail if your turkey has one. Twist the tips of the wings under the turkey.

  • Place turkey in a roasting pan on a rack, breast side up (optional, add celery, onion, carrot and the turkey neck to the bottom of the roasting pan). Add 4 cups broth to the  bottom of the pan (or enough to fill the pan about 1″ deep).

  • Add turkey to the oven, reduce heat to 325°F and roast until turkey reaches 165°F *see below. Once the breast starts to brown, loosely tent a piece of foil over the breast so it doesn’t overcook.

  • Remove turkey from the roasting pan and tent with foil, rest at least 20 minutes.  Make gravy from the drippings while the turkey rests.

Note: The meat and the stuffing of the turkey should reach 165°F.

Calories: 498, Carbohydrates: 1g, Protein: 70g, Fat: 23g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Cholesterol: 232mg, Sodium: 648mg, Potassium: 787mg, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 233IU, Vitamin C: 6mg, Calcium: 42mg, Iron: 3mg

Keyword roast turkey, roasted turkey, turkey dinner

roast turkey closeup
closeup of juicy roast turkey
whole herb roast turkey, and sliced roast turkey