Citrus and Herb Roasted Turkey + Turkey 101


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We’ve got less than 72 hours until the big day.

Citrus and Herb Roasted Turkey

Until party time.

Until it’s socially acceptable to start drinking prosecco at noon.

Until it’s time to stuff our faces with stuffing and turkey and gravy and potatoes.

Until we all have to un-do the top button of our pants. Unless of course you’re going to be like me a wear stretchy leggings to dinner. It’s the right thing to do. Let’s all do it this year. Even the men.

So I think it’s time to talk turkey. Maybe you have a recipe that you use every year for your turkey. Or maybe you need a new one. Either way, you’ll love this post. Why? Because I break it down for you step by step on how to prep a turkey, season the turkey and roast the turkey. And it’s complete with a Citrus and Herb Roasted Turkey that will make you swoon. Ready?

Okay go.

First lets make a compound herb butter. Add a bunch of your favorite herbs and lemon zest to a food processor with some butter.

Pulse away until everything is incorporated.

Season it with salt and pepper and give it a few more pulses, just for good measure. Then set this aside and lets get the bird ready!

Let’s truss the turkey. Grab a piece of twine. It’s awesome. See where the head use to be attached to the bird? That’s where we are anchoring our twine. Place it underneath that little piece of the bird where my hands are.

 Bring the twine down both sides of the breast so it’s close to the legs.

Tie a super tight knot at the top of the bird!! A lot of youtube videos suggest tying a surgeons knot to keep things extra sturdy. It’s basically a regular double knot but you thread the twine though one extra time!

Give it a nice tight tie and then make another double knot. Kinda like you would tie your shoes in a double knot.

Then hook the twine around the 2 birds legs

Here’s another angle….

Cross the twine around the breasts again so the legs get pulled together.

Make another tight knot so the legs are not only tied up but the turkey is pulled into kind of a ball shape.

Pull the twine on either side of the breast

And pull it all the way down so we can tuck the wings behind the string to secure them in place.

See how the wings are tucked under the twine? Now let’s flip the bird over

And tie another knot right where we originally started.

Then pull the twine back around the bird, keeping the lower part of the wings tucked away…

 And then flip it again…

Okay one more knot at the top by the legs now that we’ve flipped the bird over again!

Make it a double or triple knot just for peace of mind


Now stuff the cavity with some parsley


And thyme

A few lemon halves

And make sure it’s all nice and snug inside the bird.

Remember that herb butter we made? Slather it all over the bird and give it a good massage.

Season it with some salt and pepper and then place it into a roasting pan on top of a metal rack. It’s UBER important to use a rack so the turkey doesn’t sit in it’s own juices which makes it soggy. Unless you want a soggy bird. But I want one with extra crispy skin because it’s so so so good!

Into the oven it goes!

And a few hours later…..

It’s TURKEY TIME!! Don’t even worry about the twine until it’s time to carve. You can just snip it off before you carve and serve the bird!

So here’s the super delicious and MOIST turkey recipe!! A decadent homemade gravy post coming your way shortly!

Citrus and Herb Roasted Turkey

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 14 people


  • 1 18 pound turkey thawed if frozen
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 handfuls of fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 handfuls of fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 handfuls of fresh sage leaves
  • 3 teaspoons coarse salt plus more for seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper plus more for seasoning
  • 2 lemons each cut into halves


  • If you are using a frozen turkey, remove the turkey from the freezer a few days before Thanksgiving and let it thaw.
  • Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and rinse turkey with cool water, and pat dry with paper towels. Let it rest on a baking sheet for 2 hours until it comes to room temperature.
  • In a food processor, combine the butter, lemon zest, 1 handful of parsley, 1 handful of thyme and 1 handful of sage leaves and pulse for 1-2 minutes until everything is evenly incorporated. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and pulse for a few seconds more. Remove the compound butter from the food processor and set aside.
  • Truss the turkey using the photo step by step guide above.
  • Once the turkey is prepared, place it in a large roasting pan, breast side up on a metal rack. It's important to use a metal rack so the turkey is lifted from the bottom of the pan so there is room for the juices to hang out and not make the bottom of the turkey soggy.
  • Using your hands, smear the butter all over the turkey. Liberally season the bird with salt and pepper and use your hands to pat everything down onto the skin.
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F, with rack on lowest level.
  • Fill the inside of the bird with the remaining handfuls of herbs and the halved lemons, making sure everything is stuffed inside the bird.
  • Place the bird into the oven and roast for 30 minutes at 450 degrees F.
  • Then, reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees, and continue to cook for about 2 more hours, basting turkey with drippings from the bottom and rotating the pan every 30-45 minutes.
  • After 2.5 hours of cooking time, use a meat thermometer and check the thickest part of the turkey so make sure the internal temperature is 175 degrees. The turkey should be golden brown at this point. If the turkey is not done, continue to cook it until the thermometer registers at 175 degrees F. It can take anywhere from 3 - 4.5 hours depending on the weight of your bird.
  • If the turkey is done but isn't quite golden brown yet, crack the heat up to 450 degrees and blast it for 15 minutes to crisp up the skin.
  • If the turkey is done and is beautiful and golden brown, carefully remove it from the oven and tent it with some foil while you prep the gravy and the rest of Thanksgiving dinner!

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  1. Liz @ Virtually Homemade

    Perfect timing – that’s my turkey! I’m so excited to finally get mine trussed correctly. It’s like swaddling a baby. Stretchy pants are a good idea 🙂

  2. lisa {smart food and fit}

    I appreciate the step by step pics, def. helps to have a visual. I love citrus with my poultry, nice twist on a traditional favorite! Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving! 🙂

  3. Monika

    That trussed up turkey isn’t going anywhere but onto my plate! Great tutorial!

  4. mailoha

    ive never made a turkey on my own before but don’t turkeys need to be “cleaned” before all of the roping happens?

    • Gaby

      Yup! The cleaning is in the directions part of the recipe 🙂

  5. Becky

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I used this (and made my own modifications) for my turkey today. It was my first time making a turkey and it turned out great!! So glad I stumbled upon this 😀

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  7. krystal gonzales

    would you recommend putting the herb butter UNDER the turkey skin? or is it best to just put it on top of the skin?

    • Gaby

      both!! I always try and squeeze a bit under the skin and then a generous amount on top!

  8. Natalie

    This will be my first year making a turkey without mom’s help (and I’m 27!). I’m going to try your recipe. Do I need to pull out all the insides from the turkey before stuffing it? Thanks!

    • Gaby

      Yes! All of the insides need to be pulled out! Depending on where you get your turkey, you could ask the butcher to do it for you!

      And good luck!! Let me know if you need any other help 🙂

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  12. Ashley Mullens

    Hi I was wondering if the turkey should be covered with foil while baking? I’m 22 and this is my first turkey by myself..I want a simple but delish recipe and I think this is it..I think my husbands family will be coming over for dinner this year so I really want to make sure it’s super good:D

    • Gaby

      No need to cover the turkey at first! After 2 hours you can throw some foil over it if it’s too brown 🙂 It’s literally my fav turkey recipe ever so I know you guys will enjoy it!! xx

    • ashley mullens

      Okay thank you so much for getting back to me!! I cant wait to try it:)

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  17. Jessica

    This looks amazing! I just love the looks of the skin and that compound herb butter looks exquisite. Unfortunately, I’m very sensitive to butter would you recommend olive oil or any other non-dairy alternative? I might be able to swing goat butter but it’s hard to find where I’m living… Thanks! 🙂

    • Gaby

      Hey Jessica! I’ve never tried it with olive oil but I think it would work great. You could also absolutely use a non-dairy substitute like smart balance or something like that and it would be just as delish!

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  19. 57ChevyChick

    Do you use a fresh turkey? I’ve already bought a frozen butterball turkey breast…I know they “shoot” lots of stuff into these turkey like salty water etc…really not sure what all they do put in them ! Will the drippings from a frozen turkey like this still make good gravy ? Beginner cook here so nervous about doing turkey this year…Thank you so much for any help..Really appreciated..

    • 57ChevyChick

      Gaby…Bless your heart for answering my question…I feel more confident now after getting this info from you…Hope you and your family have a blessed Thanksgiving. Thank you again…Martha

  20. Ashley Mullens

    Sorry to comment again but I’m SO nervous! 1st of all because it’s my first thanksgiving i have ever done all by myself and 2nd of all because it’s for my inlaws! Anyways my question is,if I would place the turkey in an oven bag(I’m just worried about it getting dry) would it still brown up nice? Thank you so much!

    • Kim

      Don’t use a bag you’ll end up with a soggy bird. Make it exactly as written by Gaby and you will have no problems

    • Gaby

      you can use a blender!! Or just chop the herbs and massage them into the butter 🙂

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  27. Jen

    I made this last year and will be making it again this year. It was so good! Thank you so much for the step by step directions & pictures! A definite help for my first turkey last year!

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  30. Kim

    please let me know what your advice is with using a roaster oven for this? Looks sooo good!! I would love to try to make this recipe for the first time! Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Kim

      Hi Gaby thanks for responding! I needed to save the oven space for my other dishes that will be served for Thanksgiving so we got a Hamilton Beach Electric Roaster Oven (Similar to a Nesco). I am soo nervous about it as this is the first time I am not using my regular oven to make the turkey! Thank you again for taking the time to give your advice!! You are soo kind! It is much appreciated! 🙂

  31. Nina

    I am sorry if this is a dumb question but I’m making this turkey tonight and it only takes 3 hrs to cook?

    • Gaby

      It depends on the weight but it takes minimum 3 hours. What’s the weight of your turkey?

    • Nina

      It’s 13lbs. Also, is the butter mixture a bit hard to distribute evenly on the bird?

    • Gaby

      butter needs to be at room temp so it can slather easily!! And it will take about 3-4 hours for the bird!! Do you have an turkey thermometer?

  32. Nina

    Yeah, you were right once the butter softened it was so much easier. Okay, great! I do have a thermoater I can use.

    • Nina

      Gaby, I wanted to give you an update from umm, last year! Hahaha, I made my first turkey dinner and I was like salivating when I found your recipe and I wanted to Thank You so much for the quick responses and the turkey came out amazing!!! I used your gravy recipe as well and it was absolutely delicious! I wanted to tell you that I am making this exact recipe again this year!

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  34. Varun

    Do you put any liquid in the bottom of the roasting pan, like chicken broth, so there is some moisture within the pan to circulate in the oven?

    • Gaby

      nope!! there is moisture from the lemon and the butter!!

    • Gaby

      yes – they’ll just stay in the cavity so you don’t have to worry about them. They’ll stay put when carving

  35. Monica S.

    Gaby – you helped make our Thanksgiving Dinner a success! Thank you! This recipe is amazing ! I have some great pics of the turkey in progress!