Our families favorite way to prepare Thanksgiving! Herb Butter Roast Turkey is easy, flavorful, and no-fail! Don’t be intimated by preparing Turkey for your Thanksgiving feast, this recipe is actually pretty darn easy! If you are looking for the ultimate showstopping turkey, try my Bacon Turkey with Bacon Turkey Gravy!
So when it comes down to it, I am not a fan of turkey brining for the holidays, or any other day for that matter. Not because of the end result, but because of the process. It requires significant preparations as well as extra room in your fridge and if you are anything like me, there is never enough room in my fridge to store a turkey brining in a bucket! (not to mention around Thanksgiving when I am preparing 100 other dishes too!) . So we have always roasted ours. The roasting process still takes time, but with this method, we take a beautifully flavored herb butter and smear as much as possible under the skin of the turkey. While it is roasting, the butter melts and slowly drips down and bastes the turkey naturally. This makes the skin taste amazing!
How to Roast Turkey
Well, first, you need your herb butter ready to go. I like to use a food processor to finely chop all of the herbs before mixing it into the butter. Set that aside and focus on the turkey. Remove all of the “extras”, including the neck and the giblets. Do with these as you wish.
Next up is securing the turkey. Depending on where you buy the turkey, the legs may already be bound together. If not, you may need some kitchen twine. Bind the legs together and tuck the wing tips under to secure them for roasting. If you decide to skip this step, you will at least have a good dinner conversation. Untucked, the wings stretch out and reach for the sky. Kind of like the bird is trying to fly away. I’ve made this mistake before and never again.
Turkey Roasting Time
How long do you roast a turkey? This is a tricky question. The amount of time to cook a turkey depends on your oven, the size of the turkey, how often you baste it (opening and shutting the oven effects cooking time). For this recipe, we cooked it for about 2.5 hours. That was a 15 lb turkey, basting a couple of times. (The basting isn’t essential, I’m just a midwestern girl and can’t help myself. But the butter UNDER the skin helps to create a self-basting turkey!)
If you are cooking a larger bird, I would increase the time. At the end of the day, you are going to be looking for a specific temperature. Using a meat thermometer is a must! Make sure to insert it into the thickest part of the bird, and that the tip doesn’t touch the bone. I like to take my turkey out of the oven at 160°F and not 165°F. I find that when the turkey rests for 30-minutes on the counter it will hit 165°F on its own.
Herb Butter on Roast Turkey
To make this the juiciest bird ever, your butter application is key. Smear the butter mixture under and over the skin. You will gently pull back the skin of the turkey, without completely detaching it. Smear the herb butter mixture under the skin as much as you can. This is what creates the slow butter drip and the natural basting process. Reattach skin as much as you can, and then smear again on the outside of the skin. Basically, butter just goes everywhere. Leave no space unbuttered! During the roasting process, this butter will pool at the bottom of the pan. (You can baste every hour if you want, but it’s not necessary.) Don’t worry about those extra pan juices though, we are going to turn them into a delicious savory gravy!
How to Make Turkey Gravy
I don’t know why people skip making their own gravy. It is so simple and far more rewarding than the stuff in a jar. We reserve some of the original herb butter and mix in some flour to make a thickener. Here are the easy steps to turning turkey juices into gravy.
Pour drippings through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl, discard anything solid.
Set aside 2 1/2 cups of the pan drippings for the gravy.
Melt the reserved chilled butter in a saucepan over medium heat; whisk in flour, and cook, whisking constantly, 1 to 2 minutes.
Gradually add pan drippings to saucepan, and bring to a boil, whisking constantly.
Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until thickened.
The gravy pairs well with everything from turkey to mashed potatoes to stuffing. Check out this list of holiday menu items!
Herb Butter Roasted Turkey
- 1 fresh whole turkey
- 1 large lemon, juiced (about 3 tablespoons) and zested (about 1 teaspoon)
- 1/2 cup (1 stick or 113g) salted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 medium shallot
- 8 leaves sage
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoons fresh rosemary
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 cup dry white wine, one you like to drink!
- 1 cup chicken broth
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup flour
- In the bowl of a food processor, zest and juice the lemon. You should have about 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and 1 teaspoon zest.
- Add butter, shallots, sage, rosemary, thyme and garlic. Process until very smooth and herbs are minced. Reserve and chill 1/4 cup herb butter.
- Heat oven to 425°Fahrenheit.
- Remove giblets and neck from turkey and discard. Drain cavity well; pat dry with paper towels. It's important to get the skin dry so that the butter will adhere!
- Gently loosen and lift skin from turkey breast without totally detaching skin. (you can use rubber gloves here!) Rub 3 tablespoons herb butter under the skin.
- Place turkey, breast side up, in a roasting pan. (Some choose to elevate their bird, I set mine directly in the pan.)
- Tuck or tie ends of legs together with kitchen string; tuck wingtips under. Rub entire turkey with remaining herb butter. Sprinkle cavity and outside of turkey with the salt and pepper.
- Pour wine and chicken broth into roasting pan. If you do not want to use wine simply double the amount of chicken broth.
- Bake in your oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
- Reduce temperature to 325° F and cook 2 to 21/2 or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion of thigh registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit. (If you are taking the pan out and letting rest for 30 minutes at least, you can take the turkey out at 160°F. If you are not resting the bird remove it at 165°F.)
- Baste as needed.
- Shield with aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning, if necessary.
- Remove from oven, and carefully transfer turkey to a serving platter. I use rubber gloves and large tongs for a quick and easy transfer. Cover with a foil tent and let stand 30 minutes.
- Pour drippings through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl, discarding solids.
- Reserve 2 1/2 cups pan drippings.
- Melt reserved chilled butter in a saucepan over medium heat; whisk in flour, and cook, whisking constantly, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add reserved 2 1/2 cups drippings to saucepan, and bring to a boil, whisking constantly.
- Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until thickened.
- Turn burner to lowest setting and stir occasionally until ready to serve the gravy.
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