There's a crisp breeze in the air which means Thanksgiving and Christmas will soon be here.
If you're searching for the juiciest, Best Baked Turkey Recipe to ever grace your holiday table, then look no further!
When it comes to oven-baked turkey, the meat can sometimes turn out flavorless and dry. That is not the case for this recipe!
The Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe
Allow me to introduce you to the best Thanksgiving Turkey recipe you will ever make from scratch! With an easy liquid flavor injection and garlic herb butter rub (dry brine), you will be blown away by how tender, juicy, and flavorful each slice is.
Using only basic ingredients, you will not have to search all over town for some unique seasoning just to make this recipe. Simple is best!
Instructions for an easy turkey gravy are also included in this recipe. (It is equally as creamy, silky, and delicious as my Country Cream Gravy, just without the grease.)
Speaking of dessert; oh wait...who said dessert? Oh, I did. Speaking of dessert, my Homemade Pumpkin Pie and Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes are full of warm fall spices and make the perfect Thanksgiving day treat! And don't forget my fluffy Ambrosia Salad and Strawberry Jello Salad to add a pop of color to your holiday table.
Why You'll Love It
- Most of the prep work is done 1-2 days in advance
- Simple ingredients
- Full of flavor
- Tender and juicy
- Easy, no-fuss cooking method
- Beautiful golden skin
- Makes delicious drippings for gravy
What You'll Need
This recipe uses simple ingredients you probably already have on hand or can easily find at your local grocery store. (For measurements, please scroll down to the recipe card below.)
- whole turkey - the star of the show! Make sure it's completely thawed before preparing and baking.
- butter - salted butter is recommended for this recipe
- chicken broth - used for the flavor injection and the turkey gravy. It's also added to the bottom of the roasting pan to add steam and moisture while baking.
- olive oil - added to the garlic herb butter rub for golden brown skin that doesn't dry out
- lemon juice - for a fresh, citrus flavor
- vegetables - onion, celery, and lemon are stuffed inside the bird's cavity for aromatic flavor and moisture
- herbs - parsley and sage
- seasonings - garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and ground black pepper
Frequently Asked Questions
Both methods produce juicy, tender meat. However, since the dry brine is rubbed directly onto the skin (and usually under it), more flavor is able to penetrate the meat.
A frozen turkey takes 1 day per 4-5 pounds of weight to fully thaw in the refrigerator. So a 10-pound turkey should take 2 days to thaw, and a 12-pound turkey should take 3 days to thaw. (Always add an extra day to prepare, season, and brine your turkey.)
Most turkeys come with a plastic tie, called a hock lock, that holds the legs together. Leaving it on makes preparing and stuffing the bird more difficult. I recommend removing it.
To truss or not to truss, that is the day-old question. The answer is simple, it's up to you.
While crossing and tieing the legs together may help the breast cook more evenly and looks more presentable on the table, leaving them untied may help the legs cook better.
I prefer to tie the legs together so that the skin over the hip joint doesn't over brown and tear.
Cooking at a lower temperature for a longer period of time cooks the meat more evenly. For this reason, I recommend cooking the turkey at 325°F.
There are so many variables that can affect your cooking time. If you prepare your turkey according to this recipe and bake it at 325°F, you should start checking for doneness after cooking for 13-15 minutes per pound of turkey.
The bird is done when the internal temperature of the breast reaches 165°F and the juices run clear. Be careful not to overcook the meat or it can turn out tough and dry.
I usually pull mine out of the oven at 160°F internally, cover it with foil, and allow it to finish cooking at room temperature.
The general rule of thumb is to baste every 30 to 40 minutes. However with this recipe, the turkey is covered for most of the cooking time, so you only need to baste it once.
For a perfectly juicy turkey, do the following: inject with liquid flavor, apply a dry brine, keep covered for most of the cooking time, baste on the last hour, don't over-bake, and allow it to rest at least 20 to 30 minutes before carving.
There are so many ways to do this. I prefer to use colorful veggies and sugared cranberries that people can snack on while waiting for everyone to be seated at the table.
How to Bake a Turkey in the Oven
Here are the steps and process images for how to make this recipe. (More detailed instructions are in the recipe card below.)
Prepare the Turkey
Prepare your thawed turkey 1 to 2 days ahead.
If there is a plastic hock lock holding the legs together, cut and remove it. (It can interfere with seasoning and stuffing the turkey.)
Remove the gizzards from inside the bird's cavity. (There should be a neck and a bag of organs. Save these for giblet gravy or simply throw them away.)
Then, rinse the turkey with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
Stir the chicken broth, melted butter, and garlic powder together in a small bowl.
Using a meat injector syringe, draw up the liquid and slowly inject it over the breasts and thighs.
Garlic Herb Butter Rub
Place softened butter, olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, sage, salt, and ground black pepper into a medium bowl. Stir together until smooth and creamy.
Using your fingers, gently separate the skin from the breasts. (Be careful not to tear the skin.) Do the same for the thighs.
Rub the herb butter under the skin, in the cavity, and all over the front and back of the turkey.
Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight or for up to 2 days.
Allow the turkey to warm up at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking. (This makes the butter rub adhere better to the skin and helps the turkey bake more evenly.)
Preheat the oven to 325°F
Stuff the inside of the cavity with the halved celery ribs, a halved lemon, and a quartered onion.
Optional: Tuck the wing tips up and underneath the back. (This helps the meat cook more evenly.)
Optional: Cross the legs and tie them together with kitchen twine or unwaxed dental floss. (I didn't have either so I used 2 strips of bacon.)
Place the turkey on a roasting rack inside a large roasting pan and cover it with foil. Bake in the center of the oven at 325°F for 13-15 minutes per pound of turkey.
During the last 60 minutes of cooking, remove the foil, baste, and finish cooking uncovered. The turkey is done when the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
Allow the turkey to rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving. (This will allow the meat to reabsorb its juices and make it extra tender and juicy.)
Recommended Cooking Tools
- large roasting pan - Use a large roasting pan with a roasting rack inside of it. If you don't have a rack, simply add ruff-cut veggies to the bottom of your pan. This will allow hot air to circulate underneath the turkey for a more even bake.
- meat injector syringe - can be found at most grocery stores or online
- large serving platter - Choose a rectangle or oval platter that's about 4 inches longer than your turkey.
- carving knife - For perfectly smooth slices of meat, your knife needs to be extra sharp.
Leftover turkey should be stored within 2 hours of cooking. Place in an airtight container and store inside the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
Other Recipes You'll Love!
- Cornbread Chicken and Dressing
- Homemade Pumpkin Pie
- Ambrosia Salad
- Sugared Cranberries
- Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes
- Easy Christmas Punch
- Leftover Mashed Potato Pancakes
- Soft Dinner Rolls
Be sure to check out my how-to video in the recipe card below!
The Best Baked Turkey Recipe
- 10-12 pound whole turkey
- ½ cup chicken broth
- ½ cup (1 stick) salted butter (melted)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
Garlic Herb Butter Rub
- 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter (softened)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3 Tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
- 1 Tablespoon dried parsley
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons dried sage
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 celery ribs (halved)
- 1 lemon (halved)
- 1 sweet onion (peeled and quartered)
- 1 cup chicken broth
- ¼ cup (½ stick) butter (salted)
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups turkey drippings (strained) and/or chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
Prepare the Turkey
- Prepare the thawed turkey 1 to 2 days ahead of time.
- If there is a plastic hock lock holding the legs together, cut and remove it. (It can interfere with seasoning and stuffing the turkey.)
- Remove the gizzards from inside the bird's cavity. (There should be a neck and a bag of organs. Save these for giblet gravy or simply throw them away.)
- Rinse the turkey with cold water and then pat dry with paper towels.
- Stir the chicken broth, melted butter, and garlic powder together in a small bowl.
- Using a meat injector syringe, draw up the liquid and slowly inject it multiple times over the breasts and thighs.
Garlic Herb Butter Rub
- Place softened butter, olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, sage, salt, and ground black pepper into a medium bowl. Stir together until smooth and creamy.
- Using your fingers, gently separate the skin from the breasts. (Be careful not to tear the skin.) Do the same for the thighs.
- Take half the butter rub and stuff it underneath the skin over both the breasts and the thighs. Press your hand on top of the skin and smooth the rub out evenly under the skin.
- Take the other half of the butter rub and spread it all over the front, back, and inside cavity of the turkey.
- Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight or for up to 2 days.
Bake the Turkey
- Unwrap the turkey and place it on a roasting rack inside a large roasting pan. (If you don't have a roasting rack, simply place extra vegetables under the turkey so that hot air can circulate underneath it producing a more even cook.)
- Allow the turkey to warm up at room temperature for 30 minutes. (This makes the butter rub adhere better to the skin and helps the meat bake more evenly.)
- Preheat the oven to 325°F
- Stuff the inside of the cavity with the halved celery ribs, a halved lemon, and a quartered onion.
- Optional: Tuck the wing tips up and underneath the back. (This helps the turkey cook more evenly.)
- Optional: Cross the legs and tie them together with kitchen twine or unwaxed dental floss. (I didn't have either so I used 2 strips of bacon.)
- Adjust an oven rack so that the turkey sits in the center of the oven. Pour chicken broth into the bottom of the pan, cover with foil, and place on the center oven rack.
- Bake the turkey at 325°F for 13 to 15 minutes per pound, then start checking for doneness. During the last 60 minutes of cooking, remove the foil, baste the turkey, and finish cooking uncovered. Remove from the oven when the internal temperature of the breasts reaches 160°F. Cover with foil and allow to finish cooking on the counter at room temperature.
- Allow the turkey to rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving. (This will allow the turkey to reabsorb its juices and make the meat extra tender and juicy.)
- Carefully drain your turkey drippings through a strainer into a heat-proof bowl. Let it sit at room temperature until the fat collects on top. (Place in the refrigerator to speed up this process.) Skim off the fat and discard.
- Place a medium saucepan over medium heat and add butter.
- Once butter melts, add flour and whisk together while cooking for 2 minutes until lightly browned. (This will prevent a "floury" taste to your gravy.)
- Add 3 cups of your strained turkey drippings to the saucepan. (If you don't have enough, supplement with chicken broth. Keep extra on hand in case the gravy gets too thick.) Whisk together and let the gravy come to a slow simmer. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, whisking frequently, until slightly thinner than your preferred thickness, and then remove from heat. (It will continue to thicken as it cools.)
- Stir in salt and ground black pepper.
- Spoon over sliced turkey meat and enjoy! Happy Holidays!
- Make sure your turkey is fully thawed before preparing and cooking it. A frozen turkey takes one day per 4-5 pounds of weight to fully thaw in the refrigerator. So a 10-pound turkey should take 2 days to thaw, and a 12-pound turkey should take 3 days to thaw. (Add an extra day for preparing, seasoning, and brining.)
- If you prefer fresh herbs over dried ones, substitute 1 Tablespoon of fresh for each teaspoon of dried.
- Leftover turkey should be stored within 2 hours of cooking. Place in an airtight container and store inside the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
*Nutritional facts are calculated by third party sources and are not always accurate. If you are on a special diet, we highly recommend you calculate these values personally.