Herb Roasted Turkey


Total Time:

3 hours 10 minutes



It’s time. Thanksgiving is upon us. Lemme break it… we’ve got 14 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.

Herb Roasted Turkey from www.whatsgabycooking.com (@whatsgabycookin)

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.

Herb Roasted Turkey from www.whatsgabycooking.com (@whatsgabycookin)

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 family, 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!

Herb Roasted Turkey from www.whatsgabycooking.com (@whatsgabycookin)

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.

Herb Roasted Turkey from www.whatsgabycooking.com (@whatsgabycookin)

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

Looking for the perfect moist and delicious turkey recipe, look no further! This herb roasted bird is incredible and will leave you with the best drippings for gravy!
5 from 10 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs
Total Time 3 hrs 10 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 12 people


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.


Trying to save some time - make the compound butter a few days ahead of time and keep it stored in the refrigerator until it's time to use

Photo by Matt Armendariz / Food Styling by Adam Pearson / Prop Styling by Stephanie Hanes // Recipe by What’s Gaby Cooking

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Recipe Rating


  1. Michelle

    Is it necessary to have the Turkey sit on a wire rack in your roasting pan? I have a roasting pan but no wire rack.

    • Gaby

      yes you need a rack so it doesnt sit in its juices. you could raise it up a bit by rolling up some tin foil and creating a make-shift rack

    • Judi

      No, Your turkey will cook well without a rack but the bottom skin will not crisp up like it will on the rack as the turkey bottom sits in the juices. But I also like that I get more juice as the juice doesn’t evaporate from cooking on the hot bottom of the pan.

  2. Laura Synan

    How do you cut your turkey to make it look so good in the serving platter?

    • Jessica

      I like to cut the breast first after it’s been resting. Then cut into sections. Then plate on serving platter.

  3. Molly

    When it calls for 2 “handfuls” of the herbs, is that the same as bunches? When they’re sold already separated into bunches twist-tied together, 2 feels like a lot but maybe not?

    • Gaby

      2 bunches is great – its a lot of herbs!! makes the best gravy

  4. Susan Robustelli

    5 stars

    We are serving a bone-in turkey breast. Can you still spatchcock? If so, does it reduce the cooking time?

    • Gaby

      no need to spatchcock just a breast – that’s only for a whole turkey

  5. Kate

    5 stars
    Made this for a small group of friends and it was a HIT! This was our first time ever making a turkey so we were nervous but it turned out perfect! The herb butter makes it SO flavorful it was out of this world!

  6. Vicki Brault

    I’m nervous about making sure my turkey is done but not dry. I’m confused about the finished temperature. Is it done at 175 degrees, or 160 for breast and 165 for thighs?

  7. Beth

    When you say coarse salt do you mean Diamond Crystal or coarser like Morton’s or something entirely different than those two?
    Thank you!

  8. Jennifer

    Random question. Do you slather the compound butter underneath the skin or just on the top? Thanks!

  9. Kate

    Gaby, so excited to make this turkey this week!! Do you have any recommendations for adjusting the time/temps for an 8-9 lb bird?

    • Gaby

      yes baking times per pound are in the actual blog post / write up portion of this page

  10. Heather Tidwell

    Hi Gabby,
    I always brine my turkey but I just read this post and you recommend using a plain turkey. Normally I just buy the store brand or a Norbest. Costco had Butterball turkeys for $.99 lb and I happened to read this after I purchased the turkey. Can I brine a Butterball turkey or will that be too much?

    • Gaby

      was it brined previously? if not, then yes!! If it was, then I would reduce the salt by half

  11. Katherine

    What do I do if my turkey isn’t producing juice to baste with? It’s just sitting in the pan, but no juices gathering at the bottom.

    • Gaby

      because the lemons are delicious in the bird!! and infuse flavor

  12. Kathy

    5 stars
    The turkey was amazing, so moist and delicious.
    I did have a problem with the compound butter not able to massage it into the skin. I did get some under the skin, however., but the majority just lay in clumps on the bird.
    I used fresh herbs from the grocery, sold in small bunches, as a previous cook wrote in about.
    The butter mixture was at room temp.
    Again, it was delicious but looked strange and the clumps seem to just stay throughout the roasting process.
    Anyone else have this problem?

  13. Dan

    5 stars
    This was a phenomal bird and got a lot of compliments on how flavorful the turkey was. My turkey was prebrined so I did the dry rub omitting the salt. Used a countertop roaster and it turned out perfect. I also made the mushroom stuffing (awesome!) and the gravy also omitting the salt in those as well. Perfect blend of fall spices. Thanks for the guidance I am a total amateur but served a professional turkey dinner!

  14. Rachael

    5 stars
    This is has become my go to thanksgiving turkey recipe. So moist and flavorful! So long dry and full thanksgiving turkey

  15. Jan

    5 stars
    Gaby, thanks so much for being my bible for Christmas dinner this year! Everything I made was from your Thanksgiving menu, and it all came out great! The turkey was especially moist and flavorful, even the breast, which I was sure would be dry-ish. I’ve never cooked the whole meal before and it was so fun! I’m so glad I depended on you this year so cheers and happy boxing day!