THIS IS IT! How to Cook a Turkey. I’ve been roasting turkey for more than 15 years, and this post combines the best of my learnings so you can roast the perfect, juicy turkey of your dreams.
I’ve come a long way since cooking my first turkey for Friendsgiving at the age of 22.
From wet brines to dry brines, to roasting at different temperatures, to basting/not basting, turkey bag/no turkey bag, covered/uncovered, I HAVE TRIED IT.
This post tells you exactly what you need to know!
Follow this post and you’ll cook a perfect turkey that is moist, not dry every single time.
Let’s talk turkey!
Roast Turkey Timeline
Start at least 24 hours ahead for a thawed turkey and up to 5 days ahead for a frozen turkey.
- 4 to 5 days before roasting. Thaw the turkey.
- 1 to 3 days before roasting. Brine the turkey using a wet turkey brine (1 day before) or a dry brine (2 to 3 days before).
- 1 day before or the morning of roasting. Refrigerate the turkey uncovered to dry the skin.
- 1 hour before roasting: Preheat the oven; let your turkey come to room temperature; stuff and tie the turkey, then place it on your roasting pan.
- Roast the turkey (2 to 3 hours). The timing will vary depending on its size. See How Long to Cook a Turkey for details. Plan on between 2 and 2 ½ hours total for a 14- to 16-pound bird. Start at a high temperature (450 degrees F for 45 minutes), then reduce to 325 degrees F.
- Let the turkey rest (30 minutes). Cover the turkey with aluminum foil to help it retain heat.
- Make the gravy. Or heat up pre-made gravy. This Turkey Gravy recipe uses the drippings; this Mushroom Gravy can be made entirely in advance, no drippings required.
- Carve the turkey. See our turkey carving tutorial for step-by-step photos.
Now, let’s look at each step in detail.
Buy Your Turkey
Whenever possible, I prefer to purchase a fresh turkey from a local butcher for two great reasons.
- The quality is usually much better than standard frozen turkey (not to mention your purchase supports local farmers and businesses).
- You don’t have to deal with finding space and time to thaw the turkey.
As far as the size of turkey to buy, you can plan on 1 1/2 pounds per person, or 2 pounds per person if you have big eaters and/or want leftovers. See How Much Turkey Per Person for more.
Thaw Your Turkey
If you purchase a frozen turkey, you must thaw it first.
- Plan on 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey.
- You also can try a quick thaw method: see FAQs below.
You cannot roast frozen turkey.
- The outside meat, especially the breast meat, will be very dry by the time the inside is cooked to a safe temperature.
Brine Your Turkey
The best way to keep your turkey from drying out is a) not to overcook it and b) BRINE IT.
- Brining alters the structure of the meat, such that it can absorb and retain more moisture.
- It also flavors the turkey, especially the skin.
I honestly think that most people find turkey dry or cannot cook turkey because they don’t bother to brine it.
I’ve cooked a turkey without brining, and while it was edible, you simply cannot create turkey that is moist throughout (including moist white meat) unless you brine it first.
You can choose either a wet brine (turkey is soaked in a seasoned saltwater solution for 12 to 24 hours) or a dry brine (a mixture of salt and seasonings, such as herbs and lemon zest, is rubbed on the turkey and allowed to sit for 24 to 48 hours).
- I prefer a dry brine because it is much less messy than a wet brine and still has great results.
- If you are in a hurry, wet brine works more quickly and arguably produces a *slightly* juicier, more plump turkey than a dry brine.
Dry Out the Skin
While not 100% necessary, uncovering the turkey and allowing it to sit uncovered in the refrigerator the day before or even several hours before roasting helps the skin dry out, resulting in crispier skin.
- If you are using a wet brine, you will need to rinse off the brine first or the turkey will be too salty.
- If using a dry brine, you do not need to rinse it off.
Stuff the Cavity
To flavor and perfume your bird, fill the cavity with a variety of herbs and aromatics.
- Onion and/or Garlic. Split the garlic in half and cut the onion into wedges. No need to peel either, as they will be discarded.
- Apple Slices. They give the turkey fall fruitiness (no need to peel or core).
- Carrots. For an extra dimension of natural sweetness.
- Herbs. Add several springs of fresh thyme, sage, and/or rosemary.
At the holidays, fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme are often sold together in an herb pack called “poultry mix.”
Tuck the Wings
Start by pulling out the wings, then bending and tucking them underneath the neck end of the turkey will prevent them from burning. See photos above.
Tie the Legs
To help the turkey roast evenly, use kitchen twine (or if you don’t have any, a rope of aluminum foil) to snugly tie its legs together.
Fill the Roasting Pan
To flavor your turkey even more, scatter any extra aromatics that don’t fit in the cavity in the bottom of a large roasting pan. They’ll mix with the drippings to create fabulous pan juices.
- The best roasting pan for turkey is at least 16 inches long and 4 inches deep, with big sturdy handles so it’s easy to lift (this is a good option).
- If you will be roasting a turkey that is 20 pounds or more, purchase a roasting pan that is at least 18 inches.
- If you don’t own a big roasting pan, purchase a disposable aluminum roasting pan from the grocery store.
Place a Rack in the Pan, then the Turkey on the Rack
Using a rack elevates the turkey off of the surface of the pan so the air can more evenly circulate.
Butter It Up
Brush the outsides of the turkey liberally with melted butter and season with pepper.
Butter helps the skin become beautifully golden and adds fantastic flavor.
Add Liquid to the Pan
Pouring liquid into the roasting pan helps keep the turkey moist and gives you more juices to use for gravy or for serving at the end.
Cook the Turkey
The best way to cook turkey in the oven is to start it at a high temperature to crisp the skin, then reduce the temperature until the turkey is succulently juicy.
First: Cook the Turkey at 450 Degrees F for 45 Minutes
Starting the turkey at a high temperature results in better, crispier skin.
Then: Reduce the Oven Temperature to 325 Degrees F and Keep Roasting
325 degrees F is the best temperature for roasting turkey.
- Any higher for a prolonged period and the delicate white meat will cook too quickly.
- Any lower, and some of the juices can slowly dry out (and it will take much longer).
325 degrees F is the sweet spot for cooking turkey!
Check Your Turkey for Doneness
Per the FDA, turkey is considered cooked at 165 degrees F.
The turkey’s temperature will continue rising as it rests.
- I recommend cooking turkey until the internal temperature of the breast registers between 150 and 160 degrees F on an instant read thermometer.
- At this point, the thigh temperature may be higher, which is OK since turkey thigh meat is more forgiving. Ideally, the thigh won’t be hotter than 170 degrees F, but don’t stress if it is.
Turkey Cooking Times (DON’T OVERCOOK THE TURKEY!)
The rule of thumb for cooking a 14- to 16-pound turkey at 325 degrees F is 10 to 12 minutes per pound of turkey.
- A 14- to 16-pound turkey takes 2 to 2 ½ hours to roast. Add or subtract time if your turkey is larger or smaller.
- Check early! You can always keep roasting, but if you overcook a turkey, it will be dry.
- Anticipate a range. Turkey cooking times vary by oven and by bird no matter how many times you’ve done it. Expect a range (AND CHECK EARLY!)
- Note that if you are opening and closing the oven often towards the end, this can extend the cooking time for 30 minutes or more. Be flexible and don’t stress!
For a complete overview, see How Long to Cook a Turkey.
Let the Turkey Rest
Resting turkey meat for a minimum of 20 minutes is MANDATORY.
- When you rest turkey, the juices reincorporate into the meat.
- If you cut right away, all of those beautiful juices will run away onto your cutting board.
I prefer to cover my whole turkey with foil while it rests (the skin still stays crispy, even covered), but if your turkey is overcooked, you may want to leave it uncovered. It will still stay plenty hot.
Make the Gravy
While the turkey rests is the perfect time to make gravy.
- If you’ll making Turkey Gravy with drippings, separate the fat first (I use a fat separator).
- You can also make gravy 100% in advance and just reheat it on the stove. See make-ahead Mushroom Gravy also coming soon!).
Carve the Turkey
For a complete step-by-step, see How to Carve a Turkey.
- If possible, use a great big cutting board with grooves like this.
- Even after the turkey rests, it will still be super juicy, so the grooves help.
- Eventually, I invested in an electric knife because it makes carving speedier, but a sharp knife (like a chef’s knife) will do the job.
Bask in the glory.
You cooked a MOIST Thanksgiving turkey that your friends and family will rave about for years to come!
Turkey Cooking Tips & Tricks
- Any Brining is Better Than No Brining. Even a few hours is better than skipping brining altogether.
- If You are Short on Time, Use a Wet Brine. Wet brining works faster than dry brining, so if you are short on time (have 12 hours or less), do a wet brine.
- If You Forgot to Brine. Salt and pepper the outside of the turkey GENEROUSLY (including inside the cavity). Mash a stick of softened butter together with chopped fresh herbs, lemon zest, and salt and rub it under the turkey skin. Brush the turkey with melted butter prior to roasting.
- Cook the Stuffing Outside of the Bird. I know some like cooking stuffing inside the cavity, but it can be a hazard because the stuffing also has to reach 160 degrees F, and if it’s not there yet, you’ll overcook the turkey (plus there is never enough to go around!). Make a pan of Cornbread Stuffing instead (technically if the stuffing is cooked outside of the bird it is called dressing, but by any name, it’s delish!).
- Don’t Bother Basting. Pouring wine or stock in the roasting pan prior to cooking will keep it plenty moist (in a total pinch, you can pour water in the roasting pan).
- Shield the Turkey Breast. About 1 hour into roasting, shield the breast only with aluminum foil. This will help protect the white meat and keep it moist.
- Don’t Cover the Turkey Completely. You want that skin to crisp, so it needs to be exposed to heat.
- DO NOT OVERCOOK THE TURKEY. The magic number is 155 degrees F for the breast (and up to 165) and 160 degrees F for the thigh.
- Use an Instant Read Digital Thermometer. Do not use the pop-up kind (these are inaccurate). This one is inexpensive and does the job; this one is my absolute favorite and well worth the investment.
- Skip the Gravy. If it stresses you out, don’t make it! Follow this recipe and your turkey will be so moist, you won’t need it. You can spoon the juices from the roasting pan onto your meat instead.
- Roasting Pan. It’s essential that you have something large enough and (ideally) sturdy enough to support your turkey.
- Electric Knife. Makes carving the turkey so much easier.
- Cutting/Carving Board. This cutting board holds your turkey in place and keeps the juices from running all over your counter.
- Apron. Keep your clothes stain-free for Thanksgiving dinner with a cute and washable apron.
Complete your Thanksgiving spread with a collection of fabulous side dishes.
- Mashed Potatoes. Crockpot Mashed Potatoes and Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes are sure to be a hit.
- Sweet Potatoes. Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole and Glazed Sweet Potatoes are irresistible.
- Scalloped Potatoes. Scalloped Potatoes with Goat Cheese. Crockpot Scalloped Potatoes.
- Cranberry Sauce. A classic part of a Thanksgiving spread! Try my Cranberry Orange Sauce or Cranberry Orange Relish.
- Brussels Sprouts. Free up oven space with these Crockpot Brussels Sprouts, or serve these fan-favorite Maple Bacon Brussels Sprouts.
- Salad. Everyone will make room on their plates for Winter Salad or Apple Walnut Salad.
- Stuffing (er, Dressing). Keep the oven free for your turkey by making this Crockpot Stuffing. We also love this Chestnut Stuffing.
- Dessert! From Sweet Potato Pie to Pecan Pie Bars, you can’t go wrong.
For even more options, check out our complete collection of Thanksgiving Side Dishes.
Roast turkey will pair well with Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Chardonnay, Riesling, or Champagne. If possible, provide your guests with a couple of options.
- To Store. Refrigerate turkey in an airtight storage container or ziptop bag for up to 4 days. To keep the meat moist, drizzle a little of the turkey pan drippings or broth over the top before refrigerating it.
- To Reheat. Wrap the turkey in an aluminum foil pouch, sealing it at the edges. Drizzle turkey drippings or broth over the meat before sealing. Warm the pouch in a baking dish in a 300 degrees F oven.
- To Freeze. Freeze turkey in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Meal Prep Tip
Up to 1 day in advance, chop the aromatics (minus the apples). Refrigerate them in an airtight storage container until you’re ready to stuff the turkey.
For leftover turkey recipes everyone will actually WANT to eat, check out my extensive list of Leftover Turkey Recipes.
Frequently Asked Questions
If your turkey hasn’t thawed completely, you can do a flash thaw to thaw it safely: Submerge your packaged turkey in an ice water bath (your sink, a large bucket, or even a cooler will work), ensuring the water stays between 33 degrees F and 38 degrees F. Check it constantly to ensure it stays ice cold. This method will still take a while (about 8 hours for a 15-pound turkey), but it will be much faster than the times listed above and result in tender meat.
If your turkey is just a little bit frozen and you are doing a wet brine, you can place it in the brine while it is still partially frozen; the brine will help it thaw. You also can dry brine turkey if it’s slightly frozen (it won’t thaw as quickly as wet brine turkey). In either case, be sure your turkey is completely thawed when it’s time to roast.
Both have their pros and cons. A dry brine produces crispier skin, but it doesn’t work as quickly or add *as* much moisture. A wet brine helps make the meat ultra moist and works quickly, but it can be quite messy.
No, you do not need to rinse your turkey, unless you are rinsing off a wet brine. Rinsing the turkey has no benefits and can actually cause bacteria to spread to your sink and countertops.
I recommend cooking a turkey uncovered to start. This allows the skin to crisp up. I do like to tent my turkey breast with aluminum foil after about 1 hour to deter overcooking to protect the delicate white meat.
There is no need to use a turkey bag for your roasted turkey. Using a bag won’t allow the skin to get as crispy, so I prefer making my turkey without one.
I am team butter, because it has the best flavor and turns a beautiful golden color. Some argue that because the butter’s milk solids can burn, it is better to use oil, but I have not had any issues with an off taste in my turkey, even when I start it at a high temperature. If you’d like to be 100% safe (and go above and beyond), you can brush your turkey with clarified butter, which is butter with the milk solids removed.
Plan on 1 1/2 to 2 pounds per person, depending upon whether or not you want leftovers. See How Much Turkey Per Person for more.
Now you have it: Everything you need to know to cook moist turkey in the oven that will have your guests gushing, without the stress.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS! If you try this roast turkey recipe, I’d love to hear how it goes!
How to Cook a Turkey
- 1 14- to 16-pound turkey THAWED (see notes for other bird sizes, thawing, and be sure to plan ahead!!)
- 1 brine Dry Brine Turkey or wet Turkey Brine recipe (I use dry 99% of the time)
- 3 medium carrots scrubbed
- 2 red apples
- 1 large yellow onion
- 1 lemon
- 1 head garlic
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter melted
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bottle of dry white wine such as Sauvingon Blanc or Pinot Girgio
- 1 to 3 days Before Roasting: Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey and discard or save for gravy (recipe coming soon!). Brine the turkey, using either a wet brine or a dry brine (wet brine goal is 12 to 24 hours; dry brine goal is 24 to 48 hours; ANY brining is better than none).**
- 1 Day Before or the Morning of Roasting – Let the Skin Dry Out: For a wet brine – Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse thoroughly. Pat very dry with paper towels, then place on a rimmed baking sheet or shallow pan to catch any drips. Place in the refrigerator, uncovered. For a dry brine – Uncover the turkey (it will already be on a baking sheet) and return to the refrigerator. For both methods – Let the turkey sit uncovered in the fridge until you are ready to roast—a few hours if you uncovered it that morning, or for up to 24 hours. This step dries the skin, which is important in order for it to crisp. The skin will turn somewhat translucent as it sits.
- 1 Hour Before Roasting – Let Come to Room Temperature – Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature. Now is a good time to make sure you removed the plastic attachment from the legs.
- 30 Minutes Before Roasting – Preheat the Oven to 450 degrees F – Place the rack in the lowest position and move or remove any other racks that are going to get in the turkey's way. Preheat to 450 degrees F. Let it preheat for a good 20 to 30 minutes to make sure it's screamin' hot.
- Chop the Aromatics – If the carrots are large, cut them in half lengthwise, then chop into 1-inch pieces. Cut the apples, onion, and lemon into eights (no need to peel anything or to core the apple). Cut the head of garlic in half crosswise (that's horizontally through the cloves), then break each half into 4 big pieces (no need to peel).
- Stuff the Cavity – Stuff the turkey cavity with all of the thyme and about half each of the carrots, apples, onion, lemon, and garlic. Scatter the remaining carrots, apple, onion, lemon, and garlic in the bottom of a very large roasting pan.
- Tie, Butter, and Pepper – Tuck the turkey's wings underneath its body by stretching them up and tucking them under the turkey's body (as if the turkey were stretching its wings up and behind its neck). With kitchen twine or (in a pinch) a rope of aluminum foil, tie the legs snugly together. Place a rack in the roasting pan (see blog post above to make your own rack using foil), then lift the turkey onto the rack. Brush the turkey all over with the melted butter. Sprinkle with black pepper.
- Add the Wine + Roast at a High Temperature for 45 minutes – Place the turkey on the lowest oven rack. Carefully pour the wine into the roasting pan, leaving at least 2 inches of open space at the top of the pan (if you're using a large pan, the whole bottle should fit). Roast the turkey at 450 degrees F for 45 minutes.
- Reduce the Oven Temperature to 325 degrees F – If you have one that is oven safe, insert a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh without it touching bone (a digital one with an alarm set to 160 degrees is ideal; if you don't have one, no worries a regular meat thermometer is great). Roast the turkey for 1 to 1 ½ hours more (a 14- to 16-pound turkey will need 2 to 2 ½ hours total roasting time), until the thigh registers at least 160 degrees F and up to 180 degrees F and the breast is at least 155 degrees F (and no more than 165 degrees F) on an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat without the thermometer touching bone – per the FDA turkey is considered cooked at 165 degrees F, but its temperature will rise as it rests. DO NOT OVERCOOK THE TURKEY. I remove mine at 155 F for the breast and 160 F to 170 F for the thigh. If the breast starts to get too dark or is progressing much more quickly than the thigh, tent the breast only with foil (I fold foil into a triangle with the point facing the legs). Check early to be safe, and see How Long to Cook a Turkey for more information.
- Let Rest – Transfer the turkey to a cutting board. Cover and let rest for at least 20 to 30 minutes. If you are making Turkey Gravy, do it now—the turkey will be so juicy, it's not strictly necessary for the meat.
- Carve, Serve, Bask in the Glory – Carve the turkey and serve with the pan juices and/or gravy. Listen to your friends oohhh and ahhhh. YOU DID IT!
- TURKEY THAW TIMES: For every 5 pounds of turkey, plan on 24 hours thawing in the refrigerator (that’s 3 days thawing for a 15-pound bird). For faster thawing, place the turkey in a cold water bath and change the water every 30 minutes. This will still take about 8 hours for a 15-pound turkey. Because it’s hard to have a turkey hogging the refrigerator for such an extended period, I prefer to purchase turkey fresh from a local butcher or the farmer’s market (check with your grocery’s meat department too; they may be able to order or thaw one ahead for you). You also can thaw turkey in a cooler, provided it is kept below 40 degrees F.
- BE FLEXIBLE. A LOT will affect your turkey cooking times (including if you open the oven a lot towards the end to check the turkey’s temperature, which is understandable). Give yourself grace and a buffer in case the time goes over.
- IF YOUR TURKEY IS LARGER OR SMALLER THAN 14 to 16 POUNDS: Plan on 10 to 12 minutes per pound when roasting at 325 degrees F. Since this turkey starts at a higher temperature, I recommend subtracting 15 minutes for every pound less than 14 pounds (so if your turkey is 13 pounds, check 15 minutes early; if it’s 12 pounds check 30 minutes early, etc). and adding 10 minutes for every pound (if your turkey is 17 pounds, plan on 2 hours, 10 minutes to 2 hours 40 minutes, if it’s 18 pounds, 2 hours 20 minutes to 2 hours 50 minutes, etc.). Turkey times are not 100% predictable no matter how many times you’ve made them, so have some snacks and drinks on hand, hang with guests, and enjoy the process.
- SHOULD I DO A WET OR DRY BRINE? **I have done both brining methods and am partial to the dry brine for the ease. The wet brine produces a turkey that is a *little* juicier and plumper but both methods make excellent, juicy turkey.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate turkey in an airtight storage container or ziptop bag for up to 4 days. To keep the meat moist, drizzle a little of the turkey drippings or broth over the top before refrigerating it.
- TO REHEAT: Wrap the turkey in an aluminum foil pouch, sealing it at the edges. Drizzle turkey drippings or broth over the meat before sealing. Warm the pouch in a baking dish in a 300 degrees F oven.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze turkey in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
- The nutrition information is based on the turkey meat and butter.
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Sauces & Dressings
Question: What is benefit of wine rather then broth in bottom of pan? I am a wine fan and like a bit in sauces etc. Thank you I plan on trying your recipe
Hi Frances! The wine gives the turkey a little extra flavor by perfuming it from below, and it makes for stellar drippings you can use to make gravy or to spoon over the turkey. That said, you’ll have delish results with broth too, so take your pick.
As someone whose family will roast a turkey off season, brining makes a huge difference! I love the way this recipe breaks down the timeline and explains different tactics to get your desired results. For those skittish about using an entire bottle of wine, Costo’s Kirkland wines are great affordable wines for cooking and for drinking.
Hi Elizabeth! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
Followed your tips here and created a delicious Turkey dinner while my daughter was home from SanFran. Love the wine addition! Turned out with juicy perfection! This will be my go-to guide from now on. Thanks for putting it all in one place; the brining, the cooking, the carving, everything I need to do for a scrumptious Turkey dinner! Yum!
Paul, I am so happy to hear this and honored the recipe was a part of that special visit. Thanks for letting me know!
We used this to practice for Thanksgiving. It was our first time making turkey and came out PERFECTLY!
Practice turkey? I LOVE IT!!! So happy to hear it worked so well for you Elaine, thank you!
I was always too intimidated to cook a turkey, but now I know I can!!
YES Andrea, YOU GOT THIS!
I get most of my recipes for my family dinners from Well Plated, so I knew this turkey would live up to my high standards. WOW! The most delicious turkey yet. Cannot wait to return to this recipe every year. Also this guide for timing is spot-on and so helpful for an anxious cook like me.
I am tearing up!!! Thank you Melissa!
Hi Erin- I love your emails and so many good recipes! I was wondering if you can help us all out as there are no turkeys to be found this year- and if you do find one it is astronomical in price. I’m thinking of ham…. Thanks for all you do!
Hi Karen! I’m not sure where you live but my local Aldi has them for $1.07 a pound which is awesome for a turkey! For ham recipes here you go: https://www.wellplated.com/?s=ham
THE best turkey recipe I’ve tried. And, it was very easy to follow and make. I would use this recipe again!
Kenzie, THANK YOU!!!! Knowing you’d make it again is the best review I could ask for. I appreciate it!
made for Friendsgiving and everyone said it was the juiciest turkey they’ve ever had.
So happy to hear that Chris! THANK YOU!
Great recipe with great tips!!!!!
Hi Jim! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
Erin’s recipes are always well explained, easy to make and most important, delicious! You must try this recipe—it’s a keeper!
Hi Sarah! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
My husband got so excited to make this turkey, and it did not disappoint! Juicy and so full of flavor. It will definitely be a go-to for years to come.
Thank Megan, I am so so happy to hear that!
Followed this post as a test for my Thanksgiving dinner, after switching between so many different methods over the years. This turkey was fantastic; best I’ve ever cooked! It’s straight forward, filled with flavors, and foolproof.
So happy to hear Danielle! THANK YOU!
This turkey is going to be a staple each Thanksgiving! We host 35 people each year and received such great feedback on this turkey when we tried it. If you follow the recipe exactly the turkey comes out moist, which is always a struggle when preparing most years! Such a great recipe to add to our thanksgiving!!
Hi Liz! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
I’m a newbie to cooking a turkey, but not a newbie to your recipes! I use them weekly for our family, so I was so excited that you put this together. I’m taking over “turkey duty” for our big family… no pressure… so I did a test run in prep for the larger crew. My husband said you wouldn’t know that I’d never done this before. COUNT IT! My kiddos loved it too… BONUS! Thanks for making my life easy! :)
Hi MC! That makes me so happy to hear! YAY!
Made for Friendsgiving and it was so good! After wet brining for years, I tried this dry brine and will never go back. 14 pound bird was done in a little more than 2 hours.
Alex, I am so glad you gave dry brining a try and that this recipe was a hit! Thanks for taking time to leave this detailed review.
Erin’s recipes always provide amazing, creative, sure-fire ways to make a crowd pleaser – and this one is no exception!! Best. ever. turkey!
Heather, thank you!! Happy Thanksgiving!
Hi Erin! Fellow Milwaukee resident here :) First off, where in the area do you get your turkey from?! Secondly, I have never dry brined a turkey before nor have my parents. They always would lather up the bird with butter before roasting. If you dry brine, is the butter on the bird not necessary? Or could I do both? Your thoughts are appreciated! Thanks!
Hi Amanda! So nice to meet you. GREAT questions. 1) I love ordering my turkey from Bunzel’s. I can get it fresh and don’t have to fuss with thawing, plus there’s no last minute scramble (I already called to place my order for Friendsgiving and pick it up tomorrow). Sendick’s is a good option too, although their birds are frozen so you’ll want to build in thaw time. 2) Brining is EVERYTHING. I’ve done the load-it-up with butter only and…it’s just not as moist, even if you cook the turkey perfectly. Brining changes the meat chemically in a way you can’t achieve with butter alone. That said I LOVE brushing the turkey generously with butter for that golden color and flavor. Do a dry brine + butter just like this recipe instructs. You won’t go back!
Will a 16 inch pan work for a 20lb turkey? Why do you recommend an 18” inch pan? Thanks!
Hi! A 16-inch pan will be a tight squeeze for a turkey that large. You can always measure your turkey when you get it and if it won’t fit, you can use a disposable roasting pan or borrow a larger one from a friend.
Easy to follow instructions and my turkey turned out perfectly and tasted amazing! Can’t wait to do it again for my guests next week.
Hi Claudia! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
Thank you Well Plated for this easy to follow step by step guide to roasting the perfect turkey. The notes were super helpful, especially about adjustments for different weights, and the pictures and videos helped me visualize the instructions. My turkey came out so deliciously juicy I just wanted to ‘gobble’ it all up! Loved the addition of the wine and the wine recommendations too. 😁 With so many flavors at the Thanksgiving Dinner, wine pairing is hard to do, and I totally agree with your suggestion of a Pinot Noir (ones from Oregon especially), and I find a youngish Beaujolais works well too. Thanks again for sharing this. Your recipes are always awesome!
Hi Simon! So happy to hear that you had great results! THANK YOU!
Thank you for all of your advice. I loved the way the veggies, fruit, seasoning (dry brine was awesome) and wine made my house smell wonderful while it was cooking. I refer to your site and cookbook often and am very grateful to you.
Hi Christine! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
Super simple and easy-to-make! Everything I need to know to make an awesome bird for the big day! Woohoo!
Hi Patrick! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
Our turkey has always turned out quite dry until this one. Easy to follow, juicy meat.
Hope you enjoy it Jess!
I failed to get a photo but my turkey looked just like this photo! Directions are easily followed. Results delicious! I had never poured a bottle of wine into the roaster- great idea! I had never tried a dry brine- also fabulous. Thank you!
Hi Joan! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
Wine and turkey? Yes! Another delicious recipe my family loves Thanks for bringing me confidence in the kitchen.
Hi Jamie! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
Wow! This turkey recipe was a hit! It is so hard to find a good way to cook a turkey without frying it out and this was spot on. The flavors were outstanding, followed it exactly and turned out perfect! We will continue to use this recipe for Al future thanksgiving!!
Hi Liz! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
I love the dry brining method you recommended. Easy and with delicious results.
Hi Netti! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
The best, most comprehensive step by step directions for making a delicious and moist turkey I have ever seen !! I have been making turkeys for over 20 years and this one was by far my best. So many great suggestions and tips for novice as well as experienced cooks. Well done Well Plated !!
Thank you so much Karen!
Loved this recipe. Saved me from serving a Griswold family turkey. Save the neck for me, Clark!
Hi Joey! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
One of the juiciest turkeys I have ever had. Great recipe, perfect amount of detail to help even a novice in the kitchen.
Hooray! SO happy to hear it Tyler, thank you!
I have a guest that cannot eat any dairy. Can I brush the turkey with olive oil instead of butter?
Absolutely Lisa! That would be delicious. Use extra-virgin or canola, both will work.
I’m using your recipe this year (including dry brine)! My turkey is BIG! It’s 29 pounds. I’m trying to figure out the cooking time for this large bird. After the 45 minutes at 450 degrees, how much longer (approximately) at 325? I’ve read over your instructions, but I’m a little perplexed. Appreciate your help!
Hi Lisa, I am so excited you are trying this recipe and WOW, that is a big bird!! To be totally honest, this is going to be tricky, because white meat cooks faster than dark and you have quite a lot of it. Definitely give yourself a buffer and expect a range. For sure tent the breast with foil at 1 hour to keep it from overcooking. The largest bird I’ve ever done is 26 and that took a little over 3 1/2. Closer to 4 hours seems right for your bird. I’d temp it at 3 1/2 to gauge the progress. From there, try not to open the door *too* much towards the end, as that will extend it. Definitely pull at 155/160 for the thigh (the breast will be done by then). Brining will help with this a lot. Good luck and please let me know how it goes!
Quick follow up: The times I provided are TOTAL times (including the 45 minutes at 450 at the beginning).
Hi Erin! I can’t wait to try out your turkey recipe! Question: Can this recipe be used for just a turkey breast (7.5 pounds)? I’m hosting a small group of friends this year, and don’t need the big turkey. Thanks!
Hi Casey! You can definitely follow this post (and might I suggest this air fryer turkey breast for some additional pointers) on cooking a turkey breast. https://www.wellplated.com/air-fryer-turkey-breast/ Hope you enjoy it!
Thank you Erin! QQ- I’m cooking just a bone-in, skin on breast (10 lbs; not a full turkey). Can I follow your recipe advice (i.e. cook to 155, do the brine). That’s all they had left at the store! Thank you!
HI Katie! You can definitely follow this post (and might I suggest this air fryer turkey breast for some additional pointers) on cooking a turkey breast. https://www.wellplated.com/air-fryer-turkey-breast/ Hope you enjoy it!
Erin- it turned out PERFECTLY! Thank you for the recipe and for your advice on cooking breast only. Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!!
YAY! So glad to hear it. Happy Thanksgiving!
Love the flavor of the meat from Erin’s wet brine method!
Hi! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
This guide was a slam dunk! It was our first time doing a turkey at home and, having tried many many many Well Plated recipes before, I knew this was a trustworthy source. This is IT! :)
Hi Dana! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
Wonderful recipe and the thorough directions were super helpful! I used the dry brine method and it was the best turkey I’ve ever made! Everyone loved it! This is how I will prepare whole turkeys from now on. Thanks Erin!!!
Hi Rebecca! So glad you enjoyed this recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
This was my first official time making the turkey for thanksgiving and it blew everyone’s mind. This step by step process and the dry brine recipe created the BEST turkey I have ever had and everyone agreed. I knew I could trust Well Plated because I have the cookbook and she always gives the most clear instructions. I was a fan before but now a fan for life! This is my forever turkey recipe! Besides being moist and flavorful, the turkey also looked amazing – golden crispy skin. I felt confident navigating the fact that every oven and every turkey is different since I had such great instruction. I regret not putting wine in the roasting pan, will do this next year. I am truly still in a high from last night’s celebration.
This makes me incredibly happy! THANK YOU Lourdes!
Erin always come through! Her recipes are delicious and easy to follow. We had a deep fried, smoked and THIS roasted Turkey. Erin’s was BY FAR the best, most flavorful and juicy!
Hi Kristina! So glad you enjoyed this recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
I made this recipe exactly as written with the dry brine and it was my BEST turkey ever (and I’ve many, many turkeys)!! I had a 29 lb turkey and cooking time was 4 hours total. Thank you, Erin, for answering my questions. So grateful to have finally found the easiest and best turkey recipe! Highly recommend!!
Hi Lisa! So glad you enjoyed this recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
I’ve never commented on a recipe before, but I had to say how fabulous this one turned out for me this Thanksgiving! I had several people tell me it was the best turkey they ever had, and my husband has said about ten times that he can’t believe how good it was. Thank you so much for such a great recipe!!
Hi Sarah! So glad you enjoyed this recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
HUGE Thank You! This was my first year cooking for my family and i followed the dry brine, how to cook & turkey gravy! Everyone LOVED it! It was so moist and flavorful and the instructions were full proof! My aunt who normally cooks for us said it was the best turkey she’s ever had!
Hi Becky! So glad you enjoyed this recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
I made the turkey using your wine tip. I added orange and lemon chunks in the neck for extra flavor. The turkey was FANTASTIC!! Thankful for you and your recipes!!
Hi Netty! So glad you enjoyed this recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
Dry brined using the salt/lemon zest/rosemary mix you recommended and followed you recipe (though I cooked it in a roaster oven to free up oven space for sides) and it was my best turkey ever! So flavorful and juicy! Been hosting Thanksgiving for 15 years for my family and this turkey is hands down the winner! My new go to! Highly recommend!
Hi Holly! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
This is only my second time making a Turkey and I didn’t have the roasting pan with a rack. This post was so helpful and answered all my questions, including how to make the rack our of foil. This recipe was not only delicious but amazing and I loved not having to baste the bird. Also I made the gravy recipe and OMG!!!
That makes me so happy to hear! Thank you Julianne!
Thank you for a detailed and easy method for cooking our turkey. No extra cooking time needed, perfectly done with a beautiful golden brown skin.
Hi Betsy! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
I made the wet brine for my fresh turkey this year and it was awesome! I’ve never used a brine before because I always baked a frozen store bought turkey. Thanks for such great recipes.
Hi Cathy! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
Thanksgiving turkey has mostly been seen as an obligation in my house until this year. I made the wet brined version, followed your directions, and ended up with a moist and flavorful bird (first time ever!) Even the leftovers were a hit. No suggestions for improvement or modifications–just make as the directions are written and you won’t be disappointed.
Hi CF! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
I WOULD GIVE THIS 10 STARS IF I COULD. I have never cooked a turkey in my life and this was AMAZING – truly the best turkey I’ve ever eaten AND EASY! Erin makes it so simple to follow the directions. I was 0% stressed and the guests were IMPRESSED. It was amazing. Also made her sweet potato souflee, cream cheese ball app, and crock pot mashed potatoes. AMAZING Thanksgiving dinner. Thank you Erin!
Hi Tara! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
Our turkey turned out amazing. This was my first time cooking a turkey, and I was so proud of how good it turned out. We did the dry brine a few days in advance. The directions were very concise and easy to follow for a first time turkey maker. My family loved it too. Oh, and the drippings from the turkey, with the white wine made the best gravey!!! Highly recommend!!!
Hi Emily! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
100% best way to cook a Turkey. Fool proof, so great. Will be the way I always cook my turkey in the future. I used the dry brown method with a fresh turkey (no thawing!) and it was excellent and juicy! I’m so glad this recipe has finally be shared 🤩🤩
Hi Brittni! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
Absolutely loved this!!!! It was easy to follow. I made it twice in one weekend. Loved the bottle of wine at the bottom, I might have snuck a small glass! Thanks for a great recipe
Hi Laure! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
For Thanksgiving, I made your dry brine, cooked the turkey with this recipe, and made your gravy. BEST turkey I’ve ever made. We’re doing it again for Christmas.
Hi Alisa! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!