Herb Roasted Turkey


Total Time:

3 hours 10 minutes



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.

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 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!

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

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.

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

Gaby Dalkin
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 3 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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  2. Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence

    Such a pretty spread!! I’m definitely more of a sides man though. I could fill up my plate with sides alone. Last year, however, Jorge made an amaaaaazing smoked turkey. So juicy with a pleasant smokiness. Perfect with cranberry sauce! Perhaps we’ll switch up the flavorings this year for lemon and herbs. The combination above sounds so good!

  3. Shelby

    Good instructions! Your Thanksgiving table looks beautiful! The compound butter seems to be the solution I need to cover the whole bird with herbs. Thanks.

  4. Georgia Abela

    Everything looks so yummy. Very similar “recipe” to what I usually do and this year was utterly amazing. So my family said!!
    I am up here in Canada so we have already had our Thanksgiving and have to wait until Christmas for more yummy turkey.
    Nice to have a recipe to look at instead of my just eye balling everything.

  5. Monika

    The suspense might kill me! This sounds and looks fabulous, but I am waiting for the STUFFING!!!!!!

  6. Nicole

    The carrot dish in the picture looks delicious – do you have a recipe for that as well?

  7. Kelley @ Chef Savvy

    Wow what beautiful pictures! Great recipe for roasted turkey. Perfect for the upcoming holiday!

  8. Chris

    Can’t wait to see all the recipes 🙂 Love how you incorporated lemon and herbs in the turkey! (I always brine too – makes such a difference!)

  9. Heather christo

    That bird is over the top gorgeous GabY!!! I can’t wait for all of the delicious Thanksgiving recipes to come!

  10. Em | the pig & quill

    Um, this spread just made all the (good) bad thoughts happen in my head. Seriously — hubba hubba!

  11. Amanda Jane

    WOW, what a spread you’ve got there!! The turkey sounds absolutely incredible, I have been using a Martha Stewart no-fail recipe for years but THIS might just have to make its way to my table this year. Thanks so much for sharing!

  12. Santuzzas

    That’s gorgeous! I am italian and this year i would like to organize an italian thanksgiving at my maison. I will definetly try your turkey recepie. Thank you Gaby!!! 🙂

  13. Anetta @ The Wanderlust Kitchen

    Holy cow! That turkey looks amazing. I’m kind of well known in my family for botching the Thanksgiving turkey (so humiliating as a food blogger, I know), so I’m thrilled to have your recipe this year. I can’t imagine how much work went into putting together that whole Thanksgiving spread (and getting it all in one shot!). I just finished my Easter projects and have been living off of ham for the past week. #foodbloggerproblems

  14. Rachel – A Southern Fairytale

    I’m coming to your house for Thanksgiving, Gaby! GORGEOUS <3
    That sounds incredible. I'm firmly on team brining 😉

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  16. mary beth

    Hi Gaby, Regarding the dry brining–the instructions say to refrigerate 24 hours for the dry brine but, it also says if you prefer to brine overnight to reduce the salt by half. Just want to check–if you are only dry brining for 24 hours (which will cover my overnight) you would use the full amount of salt? Also, in you’re opinion is the dry brine as good as the liquid brine? This will be my first time trying the dry brine and wanted to see what you think about the comparison. Thank you so much! Mary Beth

    • Gaby


      Yes – dry brine is just as good as the liquid brine 🙂 Easier too since it doesn’t require a giant vat of liquid sitting in your fridge.

      I usually go with 1 tablespoon of salt per 5lbs… so if you have a 15 lb bird, use 3 tablespoons of salt for the brine along with the spices! Hope this helps!!

  17. Lynn

    Beautiful bird! I cannot do any citrus – so sad! Do you think eliminating the lemon that it would make a huge difference? Any thoughts to a substitution?

    • Gaby

      you could totally skip the lemon if you needed to! The herbs will still make it totally delish 🙂

  18. Heather

    Hi Gaby! I’m a longtime reader/lurker of your site. Tonight I made this turkey (no brine) and it was amazing! This was my first time making a turkey (and I’m 35!) and it turned out amazing! Also, I am a big fan of your banana chocolate chip bread. I’ve made it so much that I no longer have to read the recipe. Everyone I bake it for absolutely loves it. Thank you for such great recipes!

    • Gaby

      Yay!!! So glad you loved it!! It’s seriously my fav turkey 🙂 xx

      Oh and that Banana Bread – obsessed!!

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  22. Greg

    OK. I have decided to go with this recipe for my turkey for Thanksgiving. Narrowed down from 8 candidates of wet brines, dry brines, etc. This is the first year that I get to have Thanksgiving since the mid-2000’s. If I want a quick trial run on a chicken, do I just scale the ingredients based on weight, i.e. 14-16 lb turkey to 4 lb chicken means that I use one fourth of the amount of ingredients. Right? Then cook chicken like normal.

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  27. Marg

    this recipe looks great. just a question…every year I rub my turkey with compound butter. but it ALWAYS sticks to my hands and I can’t get it to stick to the turkey! What am I doing wrong? Is my turkey too cold? too wet? is the butter too cold? should I oil my hands?? This drives me insane!!

    • Gaby

      same thing happens to me!! I spray my hands with cooking spray so it doesn’t stick – and I blot the turkey with paper towel so it’s not too wet!

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    I totally practiced my turkey recipe this weekend but you were way ahead of me doing it in August! Way to go lady. I am so impressed with your planning ahead! How lucky are your guests?!

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  35. Grace

    Need to make this dairy-free!! For the compound butter, can I substitute with Earth Balance, or is there a better alternative that gives a similar taste?

  36. Danielle

    Hi Gaby! This looks delish! I am hosting a Friendsgiving this Friday night but since I work Friday’s I wont have time to cook a whole turkey 🙁 I was going to get those huge turkey breast pieces from Costco but I was wondering if I can still use this recipe with some modifications to cook to breast pieces. But I’m not sure how to navigate that, please help! lol

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