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THIS IS IT! The best Thanksgiving Turkey recipe. I’ve been roasting turkey for more than 15 years. This post combines the best of my learnings so you can master how to cook a turkey in the oven to be moist, succulent, and the star of your feast. It’s 100% doable and easier than you think!

juicy roasted thanksgiving turkey on a platter for thanksgiving
Table of Contents
  1. How to Roast a Turkey: Your Ultimate Recipe and Guide
  2. Roast Turkey Timeline
  3. 1. Buy Your Turkey
  4. 2. Thaw Your Turkey
  5. 3. Brine Your Turkey
  6. 4. Dry Out the Skin
  7. 5. Stuff the Cavity
  8. 6. Tuck the Wings and Tie the Legs
  9. 7. Fill the Roasting Pan
  10. 8. Place a Rack in the Pan, then the Turkey on the Rack
  11. 9. Butter It Up
  12. 10. Add Liquid to the Pan
  13. 11. Cook the Turkey
  14. 12. Check Your Turkey for Doneness
  15. 13. Let the Turkey Rest
  16. 14. Make the Gravy
  17. 15. Carve the Turkey
  18. 16. DIVE INTO YOUR MOIST TURKEY!
  19. Turkey Roasting Tips and Tricks
  20. Turkey Tools
  21. Wine Pairing
  22. Thanksgiving Sides
  23. Leftover Ideas
  24. Frequently Asked Questions
  25. Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

How to Roast a Turkey: Your Ultimate Recipe and Guide

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 Thanksgiving turkey that is moist, not dry every single time.

Let’s talk turkey!

a roasting pan with perfect Thanksgiving turkey

Roast Turkey Timeline

Start at least 24 hours ahead for a thawed turkey and up to 5 days ahead for a frozen turkey.

You can also download my FREE Thanksgiving Guide, which includes a full menu and exact timing for your entire Thanksgiving feast.

  • 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°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.

perfect moist cooked turkey

1. Buy Your Turkey

Whenever possible, I prefer to purchase a fresh turkey from a local butcher for two great reasons.

  1. The quality is usually much better than standard frozen turkey (not to mention your purchase supports local farmers and businesses).
  2. 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.

  • For 6 to 8 people: get a 10-12 pound turkey
  • For 9 to 12 people: get a 14-18 pound turkey
  • for 12 to 16 people: get an 18-24 pound turkey

I do not recommend cooking a turkey that is less than 10 pounds; it’s hassle for the reward and you’re paying more for the bones than the meat.

If you’re looking for a smaller amount of turkey, check out my Air Fryer Turkey Breast or Crockpot Turkey Breast.

stuffed thanksgiving turkey

2. 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 for how to quickly thaw turkey.

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.
making a dry turkey brine

3. 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 keeps the turkey moist after cooking too.
  • Brining seasons the turkey, especially the skin.
  • 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 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 it (I used lots of garlic herb butter instead) and while it was edible, you simply cannot create turkey that is moist throughout (including moist white meat) unless you brine it first.

There are two exceptions to the brining rule.

  • If you have a kosher turkey you do not need to brine it. These are well-seasoned already and further brining can make them too salty.
  • If you have a turkey that is injected with a brining solution (most Butterball turkeys at the store already are), brining can still improve your results—cut back on the amount of salt, and brine for the minimum vs. maximum suggested time. I also find that a dry brine is better for pre-injected turkeys because it is less intense.
a turkey with dry brine

4. 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.
photos for how to stuff a turkey cavity before cooking

5. Stuff the Cavity

To season 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.

Tip!

At the holidays, fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme are often sold together in an herb pack called “poultry mix.”

how to tuck turkey wings

6. Tuck the Wings and Tie the Legs

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.

tying turkey legs for cooking

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.

aromatics in roasting pan

7. 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.
placing a turkey on a roasting rack

8. 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.

Roasting Turkey without a Rack

If you don’t own a roasting rack, you can make a rack out of aluminum foil:

  • Tear off two similarly-sized, large pieces of aluminum foil.
  • Tightly roll each piece into a cylinder, then form the cylinders into rings.
  • Lay the rings a few of inches apart in the roasting pan.
  • Place the turkey on top of the rings so that it’s elevated and its weight is evenly distributed.
brushing the outside of a turkey with butter for roasting

9. 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.

pour wine into a turkey roasting pan

10. 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.

Turkey Secret: White Wine

I learned this trick of roasting turkey with wine from my stepdad, Larry, who cooks the best turkey I’ve ever eaten.

  • To add wine, set the roasting pan with the turkey on the oven rack, THEN pour in an entire bottle of dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio (if you pour the wine in the pan before setting it on the oven rack, it’s harder to transfer without sloshing).
  • If you prefer not to use wine, add 4 cups of chicken or turkey stock to the pan instead.

11. 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°F for 45 Minutes

Starting the turkey at a high temperature results in better, crispier skin.

Then: Reduce the Oven Temperature to 325° F and Keep Roasting

325°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°F is the sweet spot for cooking turkey!

turkey temperature being tested for doneness

12. Check Your Turkey for Doneness

Per the FDA, turkey is considered cooked at 165°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°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°F, but don’t stress if it is.
a roasting pan with moist whole turkey

Checking Turkey for Doneness

The proper way to test your turkey for doneness is to insert an instant read thermometer into the thickest part of the breast and the inside part of the thigh.

  • When checking the thigh, stay as close to the bone as possible without actually touching it.
  • Make sure you are not poking through the skin all the way into the turkey cavity, which can cause your thermometer to register lower than the meat’s temperature.
  • Do not use the pop out thermometers that come with some turkeys; they are not very accurate and you’ll overcook the turkey.
  • A digital read thermometer like this one is inexpensive and well worth not ruining your turkey!
perfect cooked turkey on a platter

Turkey Cooking Times (DON’T OVERCOOK THE TURKEY!)

The rule of thumb for cooking a 14- to 16-pound turkey at 325°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.

Need your turkey faster? Make Spatchcock Turkey!

Thanksgiving roast turkey on a platter

13. 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.

14. Make the Gravy

While the turkey rests is the perfect time to make gravy.

plate with roast turkey

15. 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.
platter of carved turkey

16. DIVE INTO YOUR MOIST TURKEY!

Bask in the glory.

You cooked a MOIST Thanksgiving turkey that your friends and family will rave about for years to come!

roast turkey on a platter

Turkey Roasting Tips and 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, garlic, and salt and rub the garlic butter under the turkey skin. Brush the turkey with more 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°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°F for the breast (and up to 165°F) and 160°F for the thigh. If the thigh goes over, it will still be moist.
  • 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.
carved turkey on a platter

Turkey Tools

  • 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.

Wine Pairing

Roast turkey will pair well with Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Chardonnay, dry Riesling, or Champagne. If possible, provide your guests with a couple of options.

a plate with turkey and thanksgiving side dishes

Thanksgiving Sides

Complete your Thanksgiving spread with a collection of fabulous side dishes. Here’s 40+ Thanksgiving Side Dishes, that also go great with turkey-alternative, Crockpot Ham. A few favorites:

a platter with juicy turkey

Leftover Ideas

For leftover turkey recipes everyone will actually WANT to eat, check out my extensive list of Leftover Turkey Recipes.

Frequently Asked Questions

HELP! What Do You Do If Your Turkey Is Still Frozen?

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°F and 38°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. 

Can You Brine a Frozen Turkey?

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.

Is It Better to Wet Brine or Dry Brine a Turkey?

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.

Does Turkey Need to Be Rinsed?

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.

Is It Better to Cook Turkey Covered or Uncovered?

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.

Should I Use a Turkey Bag?

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.

Is it Better to Rub a Turkey with Butter or Oil?

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.

Should I Roast the Turkey Breast Up or Down?

For the nicest, most classic presentation and maximum crispy skin, roast the turkey breast side up. Some like to roast turkey breast side down, because the breast meat stays more insulated. If you decide to try it, do not attempt to flip the turkey over partway through roasting; it’s risky because the bird is so hot. Just embrace the odd appearance.

Now you have it: Everything you need to know to cook moist turkey in the oven that will have your guests gushing, FOOLPROOF, without the stress.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS! If you try this roast turkey recipe, I’d love to hear how it goes!

Thanksgiving Turkey

4.96 from 94 votes
How to cook the best Thanksgiving turkey in the oven. Moist, well-seasoned, and the centerpiece of your table. Includes video and step-by-steps!

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 2 hours 15 minutes
Total: 3 hours 30 minutes

Servings: 10 to 12 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 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

Instructions
 

  • 1 to 3 days Before Roasting: Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey and discard or save for gravy. 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°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°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°F for 45 minutes.
  • Reduce the Oven Temperature to 325°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°F 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°F and up to 180°F and the breast is at least 155°F (and no more than 165°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°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 GloryCarve the turkey and serve with the pan juices and/or gravy. Listen to your friends oohhh and ahhhh. YOU DID IT!

Video

Notes

  • 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° 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°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°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. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 10)Calories: 676kcalCarbohydrates: 0.003gProtein: 98gFat: 30gSaturated Fat: 9gPolyunsaturated Fat: 7gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0.5gCholesterol: 337mgPotassium: 1011mgSugar: 0.3gVitamin A: 392IUCalcium: 51mgIron: 4mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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203 Comments

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  1. 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

    1. 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.

      1. Hi Erin, Love all your recipes and have your book! We’re cooking a turkey today and I added the bottle of wine. It cooked off by the first 45 minutes so I added a ton of broth to the bottom of the pan so it wouldn’t burn. Should that have been correct? Thanks and have a wonderful Holiday!

        1. Hi Joanne, it shouldn’t all cook off and you should already start having some drippings from the turkey so nothing should burn. Happy Holidays!

  2. 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.5 stars

  3. 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!5 stars

    1. Paul, I am so happy to hear this and honored the recipe was a part of that special visit. Thanks for letting me know!

  4. 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.5 stars

  5. 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!

    1. 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

  6. THE best turkey recipe I’ve tried. And, it was very easy to follow and make. I would use this recipe again!5 stars

  7. Erin’s recipes are always well explained, easy to make and most important, delicious! You must try this recipe—it’s a keeper!5 stars

  8. 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.5 stars

  9. 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.5 stars

  10. 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!!5 stars

  11. 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! :)5 stars

  12. 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.5 stars

    1. 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.

  13. Erin’s recipes always provide amazing, creative, sure-fire ways to make a crowd pleaser – and this one is no exception!! Best. ever. turkey!5 stars

  14. 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!

    1. 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!

    1. 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.

  15. 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.5 stars

  16. 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!5 stars

    1. 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.5 stars

      1. 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!5 stars

  17. 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!!5 stars

  18. I have never cooked a turkey before and it made me nervous! Followed the recipe exactly and it was awesome! I’ll be making it again next year for sure!5 stars

  19. 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 !!5 stars

  20. One of the juiciest turkeys I have ever had. Great recipe, perfect amount of detail to help even a novice in the kitchen. 5 stars

  21. I don’t usually write reviews but this is phenomenal so I simply had to! The breast was so juicy when I sliced it, juice was just pouring out.5 stars

  22. 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!

    1. 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!

  23. 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!

    1. 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!

  24. 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!

    1. 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!

      1. Erin- it turned out PERFECTLY! Thank you for the recipe and for your advice on cooking breast only. Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!!5 stars

  25. First time making a turkey and this turned out FABULOUS! I brined my 16lb turkey for a day and a half, then let it dry out in the fridge until the next morning.5 stars

  26. 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! :)5 stars

  27. 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!!!5 stars

  28. 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.5 stars

  29. 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!5 stars

  30. 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!!5 stars

  31. 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!!5 stars

  32. 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!5 stars

  33. 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!!5 stars

  34. I tried wet brining my fresh turkey for the first time this year and it was a huge success! The turkey was so juicy and flavorful. Thank you so much for your help.5 stars

  35. I wish I could add more than 5 stars! I was so nervous making the Turkey this Thanksgiving for my in-laws but this recipe was SPOT ON! It was so juicy and delicious and had an excellent flavor. The whole house smelled amazing. We had a 20 lb Turkey and followed the directions/timing exactly and the results were absolutely perfect, saving the recipe for Christmas!5 stars

  36. 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!5 stars

  37. Never thought a turkey could be this moist and delicious. I finally found the perfect Thanksgiving turkey. Thank you so much!5 stars

  38. 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!!!

  39. 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.5 stars

  40. I’m so grateful for your detailed and easy turkey recipe. I hope nailed it on my first try. I’ll comeback here and update you with the results.5 stars

  41. 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.5 stars

  42. 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.5 stars

  43. 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!5 stars

  44. 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!!!5 stars

  45. 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 🤩🤩5 stars

  46. I am always looking for recipes online and I am so glad I tried this one! I followed the recipe exactly and the turkey was so moist. Thank you for this recipe!! We will be making it again for sure.5 stars

  47. 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 recipe5 stars

  48. I made this last Thanksgiving, my first turkey ever, and it was amazing!! So juicy, everyone loved it! I didn’t change a thing in the recipe and will make it the exact same way this Christmas. Thank you so much for sharing!5 stars

  49. I’m so grateful for the step-by-step procedure. I used to have trouble cooking turkey. I did the dry brine this time and followed your instructions and it’s juicy!!5 stars

  50. 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.5 stars

  51. Everyone loved this turkey! It’s the juiciest Thanksgiving Turkey I’ve ever had. I will be making this every year from now on!5 stars

  52. This recipe is fantastic just the way it is. It is super moist and the combination of seasoning and flavors is outstanding.5 stars

  53. I normally do not care for turkey because it’s dry, but this was AMAZING!! So juicy and great flavor! My family LOVED it!5 stars

  54. Made for friendsgiving and everyone said it was the most moist turkey they’d ever had!! Thanks for all of the step by step pictures they helped alot (I’m a newbie)5 stars

  55. I truly would have messed up this year without this recipe. I feel prepared now! Thank you so much! I am going to have one change – I’m cooking our 21 lb turkey on our pellet grill. I’m really nervous about that part because temperature of “fire” doesn’t hold as steady as in an oven. Please advise if you have any tips or changes based on cooking on a grill. Thank you so much for your website!5 stars

    1. Laurie, I have never used a pellet grill so I’m afraid I can’t give specific advice there. Have you made other things on your grill (maybe a chicken?). That could be a bit of a “test” to see if it finishes fasater or slower than you expect. That said, we’ve done smoked turkey on our Big Green Egg and it turned out great! (I’ll be publishing that recipe soon :) ). I’d say just be sure to monitor it and DEFINITELY make sure you brine it. If you want extra insurance, you might try rubbing some softened butter under the skin too. Good luck!! I’m sure it’s going to be DELISH.

  56. Had this for Friendsgiving last night and it was the best turkey anyone had ever had. I had an 18 pound bird and it finished at 2 hours 45 minutes on the dot (I did the first 45 minutes at the higher temperature as suggested).5 stars

  57. Followed this recipe for our Friendsgiving party last weekend. Really turned out great. Solid seasonings. Would definitely make it again. Thanks!5 stars

  58. I made this last year and came back to read it again for this year. I just wanted to say thank you for making the most comprehensive Thanksgiving turkey resource out there! Our turkey was so good last year, even though it was my first.5 stars

  59. This is seriously the best turkey recipe! I highly recommend using a fresh turkey, it tastes so much better than a frozen one. This is the first time I’ve made a turkey that was actually juicy all the way through! Thank you!5 stars

  60. Last year, I used this recipe exactly as you have it and it was delicious and wonderful! Everyone loved it and there were no leftovers! It was so beautiful. I just looked back to make sure I had this recipe saved.5 stars

  61. This turned out great. Family was very pleased with the flavor and moisture of the turkey. Turkey wasn’t dry at all.5 stars

  62. I’m returning to this recipe once again! Last Thanksgiving, when I hosted a dinner for my in-laws, they were astonished to learn that it was my first time making a turkey. This recipe proved to be foolproof, and the turkey turned out absolutely fantastic! It’s become my go-to, and I can’t thank you enough, Erin.5 stars

  63. Going to be trying this recipe out this year. Looks fantastic. Is the 45 minutes in the beginning counted towards the 10-12 mins per pound or does the 10-12 mins per pound start after you turn the oven down?5 stars

  64. We made this the first time this Thanksgiving and it turned out perfect. We ended up having to let it rest for almost an hour while waiting on some sides and it was still hot and so juicy. We will use this from now on!5 stars

    1. Hi! Did you reference the links to the brine? The post above also details exactly what a brine is. If you take some time to read it, I think the reicpe will make a lot more sense.

  65. This IS the best turkey! Timing was spot-on for our 16-lb bird. Juicy and delicious, and even the bird loved the bottle of wine used in the cooking!5 stars

  66. My turkey was pink all over and I followed the directions to the letter including temperature readings. Not impressed!2 stars

    1. Hi! Did you use a fresh turkey or frozen? That seems to make a difference. If your turkey hit the recommended internal temperature then it is safe to eat. This is a great article for understanding the science as to why poultry or pork look pink after cooking: https://modernistcuisine.com/mc/why-is-the-turkey-still-pink/ Hope this helps!

  67. Wow! We have turkey at Thanksgiving for the symbolism/tradition ONLY, as none of us would ever choose to eat turkey. Not this year! My husband followed this recipe. I made all the sides. This was by far the best we have ever had and EVERYONE ate it. My sides were really good and not that I care- but no one said anything about them- only raving about The Turkey!!! Yay!!!! We like turkey! 😊5 stars

  68. Used this turkey recipe for the first Thanksgiving I hosted – it’s PERFECT! I’ve never been a huge fan of turkey because I always feel like it’s dry and bland. This turkey is neither! This recipe is so simple and resulted in the most flavorful, moist turkey I’ve ever had.5 stars

  69. My first time making a turkey for Thanksgiving and followed Erin’s recipe exactly, with the addition of Alton Brown’s tip to place aluminum foil over breast during cooking. Turkey was absolute perfection and earned rave reviews from all of my guests! Thank you!!5 stars

  70. This is my second year using Erin’s turkey recipe with the dry brine and it’s been a hit every year! Somehow I have failed multiple times to cook a basic chicken but throw a 18lb turkey at me with Erin’s recipe and it turns out great! 🙈🙌 Thank you Erin for the very precise step-by-step instructions and a wonderful recipe! Everyone raved about the turkey this year! I will say, make sure you check the turkey EARLY! Mine was done 45min sooner than it should have been based on time per lb. Erin warns you to check it early in the recipe so at least she gave me a heads up :)5 stars

  71. I was the star of my Thanksgiving thanks to you Erin! This turned out SO tender. Even though it felt out of my comfort zone I’ve made so many recipes from you (because my husband loves them and always texts me them) it gave me the confidence to do it! Thanks you SO SO much for sharing your delicious recipes. We topped off the night with your apple crisp recipe and it felt amazing seeing everyone really enjoying it and going back for seconds saying it was one of the most delicious desserts they’ve tried.5 stars

  72. Easy to follow and turned out amazing! Our first time cooking Thanksgiving Turkey and couldn’t have been better.5 stars

  73. Did the dry preparation. Added butter under skin of breast. Substituted half wine with chicken broth. Turkey was delicious!! BUT needed longer cooking time than recommended. 14 lb turkey needed at least 3 hours. Legs should be tender enough to pull away from the cavity.4 stars

    1. Melinda, thanks so much for sharing! Every oven and turkey is a little different (yours could have had more dark meat than light or if you were opening and closing the oven a lot that changes things too). Either way, I’m glad you were pleased with the flavor at the end!

  74. I’ve never been a fan of Turkey, but everything I’ve made from my wellplated cookbook has been delish so I decided to try this recipe. It changed my mind and now I love roasted Turkey! We barely had leftovers, the family loved it!5 stars

  75. Dry brined my 20 lb. turkey for 36 hrs and cooked it as per instructions. It was the best turkey ever for me. Been cooking Thanksgiving turkey for at least 40 years. I’m very happy that I found this recipe on line. Thank you!5 stars

  76. I’d like to try this recipe for Easter. Can you still stuff the Turkey? Or will the stuffing be too salty?

    1. Hi Amanda! Yes, you can stuff it. We have some notes about it under section 5: Stuff the Cavity. Enjoy!

  77. I certainly wowed my guests with this recipe. Came out crispy tender and juicy. I just roasted the underside first for 20 min at 450* and then turned it over breast side up for 25min at 450* then turned it down to 325* for 1:45. Thanks for a great recipe. Will certainly use it again.5 stars