It’s time. Thanksgiving is upon us. Lemme break it… we’ve got 21 days until Thanksgiving. That means every day from here on out is going to be Thanksgiving related. We’re kicking it off with the star of the show – my succulent Herb Roasted Turkey. It’s perfectly moist and has the crispiest skin… you’ll make annually from here on out.
There’s a ton of planning to do before the big day! Good thing I’ve been working away to create the most epic Thanksgiving spread for you the past few months. Whoever thinks being a food blogger is glamorous should have seen what it looks like to recipe test a 16 pound Herb Roasted Turkey in August. It wasn’t pretty.
But it’s all worth it now because the whole thing is coming to WGC! You’re getting a perfectly cooked turkey, the best mashed potatoes to EVER grace your table, and a stuffing to end all stuffings, Tons of side dishes that you’ll want to devour plus a few fun desserts that no one will be expecting! I’ve taken all the guess work out of Thanksgiving this year! So whether you’re hosting the entire thing yourself, or if you just need a side dish or dessert to bring over to someones house… you’re covered! Nothing is super complicated or time consuming – just 100% delicious!
If you ask my husband the most important part of Thanksgiving, he’d tell you it’s the bird. So that’s what we’re starting with today! Let’s dig in…
Should I brine my turkey?
Yes, 100% absolutely. It really does make a difference in how the bird cooks. Since turkeys are generally a lean type of meat, the brine really ensures that the meat won’t dry out which makes for a juicy bird. It also allows some flavors to infuse into the bird before roasting. If you’ve never brined a bird before, here’s everything you’ll ever need to know about brining a bird! This is also a helpful process if you’re using a frozen turkey!
Also make sure to pull out the giblets and neck before brining so you don’t forget them inside the bird before roasting.
Can I brine a frozen turkey?
You sure can! In fact, that’s a great way to start thawing a bird. It’s about 5 hours of defrosting time per pound of turkey – so plan accordingly.
Should I stuff my turkey?
This is just a personal preference. I prefer to stuff my turkey with citrus and herbs rather than stuffing. I just find the stuffing is better outside the bird, and I like the citrus and herbs inside the bird to lend extra flavor and infuse the bird from the inside out.
How to cook a turkey:
As you’ll see in the recipe below, I love slathering a turkey with a compound butter. A compound butter is basically room temperature butter that’s been mixed with garlic, herbs, salt and pepper. That butter then gets slathered on the bird and helps create the most delicious crispy skin. The drippings from the compound butter also help make a SUPER delicious gravy.
You’ll need a large roasting pan too. I like one that’s fitted with a metal rack so it’s easy to place the turkey on/off the rack and access the drippings when the time comes to make gravy!
What temperature to cook a turkey:
I start my oven at 450 degrees F to crisp up the skin and then reduce the heat to 350 degrees to continue cooking the bird until done.
If you need to crisp up the skin a bit at the end, you can crank up the heat to 450 again for the last 10-15 minutes to get it a bit more crispy.
Turkeys need about 15-18 minutes of cooking time per pound. Once the bird is cooked, thighs should register at 165°F (74°C) and the breasts should register at 160°F (71°C). As soon as the bird hits these temperatures, take it out and let it rest for at least 30 minutes before carving.
A couple things you want to keep in mind:
A meat thermometer is helpful so you know exactly when the turkey is done. In fact, for a turkey I love the really cheap ones that you get from the super market that you leave in the bird the entire cooking process and pop out when it’s done. Simple!
Turkey holds pretty well so you can time it to be done an hour or so before dinner time. That way you have time to let it rest, carve it and plate it.
Check out the full What’s Gaby Cooking menu here along with the master prep schedule to keep things organized and on track!
Herb Roasted Turkey
For the Herb Roasted Turkey
- 1 14-16 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
For the Homemade Gravy
- 1 recipe Turkey Gravy
For the Herb Roasted Turkey
- If you are using a frozen turkey, remove the turkey from the freezer a few days before Thanksgiving and let it thaw out in the refrigerator. (If you are brining the turkey - see the link above on steps)
- When you're ready to roast the bird, remove the turkey from the brine / refrigerator, remove the giblets from inside, 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.
- Once the turkey is prepped, place it in a large roasting pan, breast side up on a metal rack.
- 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. Tie the legs together with a bit of kitchen twine and place the bird into the oven and roast for 30 minutes at 450 degrees F.
- After 30 minutes, 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.
- If the turkey is done but isn't quite golden brown yet, crank the heat up to 450 degrees and blast it for 15 minutes to crisp up the skin.