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Top shot of a cooked Thanksgiving turkey on a platter.

How to Cook a Turkey (Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe)

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  • Author: Erin Jensen
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours 45 minutes
  • Yield: 24 servings 1x
  • Category: Turkey
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American


How to Cook a Turkey (Easy Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe) – a simple, easy and delicious thanksgiving turkey recipe the entire family will love!



Turkey + Basting Liquid:

  • (1) 10-16 pound turkey
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups chicken broth or stock 
  • 1 small yellow onion, sliced
  • sprigs of fresh rosemary + thyme
  • (optional) a splash of white wine adds a fun flavor to the drippings

Optional Stuffing:

  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1 small orange
  • fresh sprigs of thyme + rosemary

Herbed Butter:

  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper 

Basting Butter:

  • 34 tablespoons butter


  1. Thaw + Room Temp: Ensure turkey is fully thawed. Remove turkey from packaging and remove any giblets that have been stuffed inside. Place turkey on a plate or in a roasting pan (breast side up) and let sit out at room temperature for approximately 60 minutes (why: this will help the oven get a jump start on raising that internal temp + allowing the skin to dry out a bit results in a crispier, more delicious skin).
  2. Oven + Roasting Pan: preheat oven to 450 degrees F. (we will reduce later) and ensure you have a roasting pan + rack (which lifts the turkey off the bottom of the pan and allows it to cook a bit faster). Add the chicken broth, onion and rosemary/thyme to the bottom of the roasting pan. Ensure turkey is sitting in the roasting pan on top of the roasting rack, breast-side up. 
  3. Prepare the Turkey: Combine the Herbed Butter ingredients and set aside. Pat turkey dry (outside and inside the cavity) with a clean paper towel. Season the inside of the cavity with kosher salt + ground black pepper. If stuffing, add your onion, orange and herbs to the cavity. Using your fingers gently separate the skin from the turkey breasts as much as you can. Push 3-4 tabs of butter underneath the skin.  Take the Herbed Butter mixture and spread all over the outside of the turkey. (I like to sprinkle a little extra salt and pepper all over the turkey on top of the butter)
  4. Place Turkey in Oven: place turkey inside the oven and turn the temperature down to 325 degrees F. Do not cover the turkey initially with foil – allow it to cook and once it starts to turn brown you can tent with foil, as-needed.  
  5. Roast: Let turkey roast 13-16 minutes per pound. 
  6. Baste: Melt the Basting Butter and use that to baste the turkey with a brush every 30-40 minutes. Once the Basting Butter is all used up simply use the basting liquid in the bottom of the roasting pan. 
  7. Internal Temp: A turkey is fully cooked when it reaches an internal temp of 165 degrees F. in the thickest part (usually the thigh + breast). About halfway through the estimated cook time start checking the internal temperature so you can project how much longer will be needed. Again, if you notice certain parts of the turkey skin browning too quickly feel free to place a piece of foil over a specific area or tent the whole turkey if the whole thing is browning. 
  8. Rest: Once the turkey has reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. remove from oven. Lift the roasting rack up and out of the roasting pan and place on a cutting board. Cover with foil and let rest 20-30 minutes. The turkey will continue cooking and residual heat will continue to raise the internal temperature 5 degrees. Transfer any liquid remaining in the bottom of the roasting pan to a glass measuring cup or fat separator so you can use it to make turkey gravy. Don’t forget to save the carcass to make homemade turkey stock
  9. Carve + Serve: Follow this tutorial to learn how to carve your turkey then serve with homemade turkey gravy and all of your other favorite thanksgiving side dishes! 


  • Roasting Rack/Foil Roasting Pan: if you are using a disposable roasting pan then I would recommend using either carrots or celery stalks as your “roasting rack” – just line them up in the bottom of the pan and place your turkey breast-side up on top of them. 
  • Tin Foil: you can start with the foil tented over the turkey and then remove it half way through cooking if you prefer, but I tend to favor starting without it and adding it as-needed as the turkey browns. 
  • Storage: store leftover turkey in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. 
  • Leftovers: we love making these quick and easy Turkey Cranberry Wraps or this Leftover Turkey Noodle Soup
  • Servings + Cook Time: the servings + cook time listed in the recipe card are assuming you are using a 12 pound turkey. Prep time also assuming you are not brining your turkey, which would take additional time to complete.