How To Cook a Turkey Like a Boss
Learn how to cook a turkey like a boss with this easy step by step guide! Moist turkey, savory herbs, and a crispy skin make this the best roast turkey recipe you’ll ever try.
Disclosure: This post that shares tips on how to cook the perfect turkey contains affiliate links for your convenience. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
How to Cook a Turkey Like a Boss
I’ll never forget my first turkey dinner. I had no idea how to cook a turkey so I called my mom and got the how-to over the phone. I now make 3-4 turkeys a year (it’s my husband’s favorite), and I want to share my tips and tricks for cooking a turkey perfectly with all of you.
Cook the turkey and enjoy an incredible family meal, then pack up the leftovers for a few days of microwavable turkey dinners!
To complete a full Thanksgiving or turkey dinner spread, check out my Pumpkin Apple Pie-in-a-Pie recipe and Gluten Free Stuffing.
Why You’ll Love This Roast Turkey Recipe
- Easy – Cooking a turkey in the oven is surprisingly simple to do — no need to be intimidated!
- Moist – This roast turkey recipe cooks the turkey by weight for perfectly cooked, moist turkey every time.
- Delicious – Savory herbs, buttery, moist meat, and crispy skin make this turkey a fan favorite.
Items You’ll Need to Make An Oven Roasted Turkey
I have included affiliate links for your convenience.
- Turkey Lifter
- Paper Towels
- Basting brush
- Meat thermometer
- I like to use digital thermometers so there’s no second-guessing myself.
- Garbage bags
Ingredients Needed for Cooking A Turkey
- Turkey – If you have a frozen turkey, be sure to safely thaw it. Check out this guide for how to thaw a turkey.
- Onion – Remove the head and slice in half.
- Head of Garlic + 4-5 Cloves – Remove the top of the garlic to expose the cloves.
- Butter – 2 Tbsp mixed with the salt, pepper, rosemary, and sage.
- Salt and Pepper – To taste.
- Rosemary – 2 fresh sprigs.
- Sage – 2 fresh sprigs.
- Poultry Seasoning – Optional but recommended!
How to Roast A Turkey
TBK’s Pro Tip: First things first — get everything you need out on the counter so you’re not scrambling with icky poultry hands touching everything!
Prepare the Turkey
Pre-heat your oven to 325.
Note your turkey’s weight and suggested time. Before you unwrap your turkey (I buy mine frozen), note how much it weighs and the suggested cooking time. In this case, my turkey is 8.8kg (19.4 pounds).
Unwrap your turkey in the sink (you want somewhere for all the juices to go).
Unhook the legs out of the wrap provided (sometimes it’s made out of turkey skin). Don’t cut the skin, as you will need it later. If it doesn’t come with a skin wrap, you can simply use foil or tie them back together with twine later.
Take out the neck and giblets. You can discard these or use them to make stock.
Rinse the turkey inside and out with cool water. Lift up the turkey and allow it to drain any debris or loose meat.
Dry inside and outside your turkey with paper towels. You want your turkey to be as dry as possible before putting it in the oven. Discard the paper towels.
Season the Turkey
This recipe does not call for stuffing the turkey with stuffing. Instead, I use herbs and vegetables to flavor the turkey.
Prepare stuffing veggies. Slice the onion in half and cut the top off the head of garlic. Place the head of garlic and 2 onion slices into the cavity of the turkey.
Make the butter mixture. Combine the butter with the salt and pepper, plus rosemary and sage (if using), until soft.
Spread butter mixture under the skin by loosening the skin from the meat. Then, you’ll take a handful of butter (feel free to glove up first), and slide your hand under the skin to spread the mixture around. Be sure to cover the breasts, thighs, and any nooks and crannies.
Season the outside of the turkey with salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning (if using).
Wrap the legs back up. Use the skin wrap previously discussed or secure with foil or twine. Keeping the legs tightly closed keeps moisture from escaping from the cavity, which will help keep your turkey moist.
Place turkey in the roasting pan if you weren’t preparing the turkey in the pan already. Wash your hands, then disinfect your sink and anything else the raw turkey touched.
Roast the Turkey
Place the roasting pan in the preheated oven. Roast uncovered — about an hour to an hour and a half — until the skin is beautifully brown and crispy.
Cover the turkey if the skin is getting too brown, or if some parts seem to be cooking faster than others. You can use a lid if your roasting pan came with one, or you can tent your turkey with foil.
Baste the turkey. If you’d like, baste your turkey with the juices that have drained when you go to cover it. Note that basting adds flavor to the skin, but also adds moisture, which will reduce the crispiness. I rarely baste my turkey because I like my skin crispy.
Finish roasting for 2 1/2 – 3 hours, or until internal temperature reaches 165 and the juices run clear. Most frozen turkeys come with suggested cook times based on weight, so be sure to note your suggested cook time.
How to Cook A Turkey in the Oven to Be Moist
How to cook a turkey in the oven to be moist: the key to cooking a moist turkey is to cook it low and slow. Cook at a lower temperature (like 325) for longer, rather than cooking at 425 for less time. Blasts of high heat zap the moisture out of your turkey.
As for cooking times, I usually roast mine for a total of 3 1/2 – 4 hours. The exact, perfect time to cook your oven roasted turkey will depend on weight. I cook until the meat thermometer reads at least 165F in the breast (180 in the thigh), but it usually reads 170 in the breast.
Usually, the frozen turkey will have a suggested cook time. If yours doesn’t (like mine this time around), refer to this chart:
Allow your turkey to rest for at least 30 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to settle so they don’t run while you’re carving (keeping the meat nice and moist).
While you wait, you can get the gravy and other sides ready!
That’s it — now it’s time to carve that sucker up and enjoy a feast with your family and friends.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do I serve with my roasted turkey?
I have so many side dish recipes that go well with turkey! Try my homemade turkey stuffing and turkey gravy, or add traditional sides such as a salad, mashed potatoes, buns, cranberry sauce, or roasted vegetables!
What do I do with the leftovers?
Turkey leftovers? Use any leftover meat to make my Homemade Turkey Vegetable Soup, Creamy Turkey Soup, or replace the chicken with turkey with this Chicken Zoodle Soup.
And you can never go wrong with a good old fashioned turkey sandwich!
How do I prevent my turkey from drying out?
See my above instructions for how to cook a turkey in the oven to be moist.
If your oven roasted turkey still has a tendency to turn out dry and overcooked, pull it out and check the temperature before you typically do. You can always cook it for a few more minutes, but you can’t take time back once it’s overcooked.
However, avoid checking the temperature too often. Every time you open your oven to check the temperature or baste, you release heat, requiring your turkey to cook for even longer. You want to cook low and slow, but you still don’t want to cook it for too long.
More Turkey Recipes
Roast Turkey with Prosciutto, Rosemary, and Roasted Garlic
20 Mouthwatering Ground Turkey Recipes
How to Cook a Turkey Like a Boss
- 1 12-14 lbs turkey thawed (if bought frozen)
- 1 onion
- 1 head of garlic + 4 to 5 cloves
- 2 sprigs rosemary and sage each
- 2 tbsps butter
- Salt & pepper
- Optional: poultry spice
Preheat oven to 325
- Prep the turkey by unwrapping, rinsing, and patting dry. Make sure the neck and bag of giblets are out.
- Place turkey in the roaster.
- Cut the onion in half, and cut the top off the head of garlic. Shove in the cavity. (If you are stuffing the turkey, do this instead.)
- Go in between the skin and the meat and add butter, garlic, herbs. The additional garlic cloves can be slid under the skin whole or chopped up. I prefer a rough chop.
- Rub the skin with salt, pepper, some sage (or poultry seasoning if you have none).
- Wrap the legs back up with the skin.
- Roast, uncovered, for an hour or until the skin is getting beautifully brown and crispy.
- Cover it with the pan’s lid or foil and roast for 2 1/2 – 3 hours, or until or until 165F in the breast (180 in the thigh) and juices run clear.
- When you take it out of the oven, let it stand (covered) for at least 30 minutes before carving.
Also, be sure to check out my Enormous List of Cooking and Baking Must Haves.
What’s your favorite side dish that goes along with turkey dinner?
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Seriously going to use this when I cook a turkey solo…
It’s so easy Tonya 🙂 … and then you have leftovers and different meals for days!
I do not stuff my turkey either. I love what you have done though. I am going to try that this time around.
It cooks quicker this way 😉 More time for turkey!
Yum! I can can almost smell it. Now I want turkey. This is a problem since it is just me and Evan on Monday so I’m not making one.
If I still lived an hour and a half away – I would so invite you guys for turkey dinner.
FIRST OF ALL!! The way to make a turkey like a boss is to marry the right man!! LMAO!! My DH make a wicked turkey!! He uses all the wonderful techniques you have, but his special technique is to add bacon to the outside!
My husband asked me to do that this year. Maybe I’ll try it on Christmas 🙂
I can’t believe how easy you made this look. This is the perfect post to be reading right about now – because my cousin and I are going to do our very first Thanksgiving prep together this year. I was super nervous – but I will just have my handy dandy phone with me – set to this page, and you will make me look so good 🙂 Thank you!!
You can do it Debbie! It’s really easy. You just have to prep it and forget it! It does all the work itself.
This is a great tutorial, I will admit, I hate cooking the turkey here, always make my husband do it even though I know that it can be so easy! I like though that you don’t stuff it!
I just hate getting my hands all nasty so I make sure i have bleach, lysol wipes ready plus the tap stays running haha.
Thanks for the skills! This will come in handy for Christmas this year 🙂
You’re welcome! I cannot wait for Christmas Dinner…countdown is on.
Thank you so much for this!! I did everything you said yesterday, and I was able to make an awesome turkey dinner! My husband said it was the best he’s ever had! You have no idea how much this means to my family! I lost my grandmother in March of this year, and she always made the turkey and dressing for every holiday. I wanted to find a good recipe and do a practice run before thanksgiving so I knew what I was doing. Making the turkey helps me remember everything my grandmother did for my family, and I can never thank you enough for this step by step tutorial!
Brandi I am so happy I could help you! Your comment made my day, thank you so much 🙂
Enjoy your turkey leftovers 😉
I was wondering how much butter you suggest when adding it under the skin?
I don’t measure I just put a glob here and a dab there. You can’t go wrong!
Awesome, thank you so much Randa! I can’t wait to try this recipe. It’s been a few years since I made a turkey dinner
You’re welcome. Have a beautiful turkey dinner!
2 questions please:
1.) do you peel the head of garlic you stuff in teh cavity or leave it whole and unpeeled?
2.) do you cook the bird with the turkey lifter?
Thank you, I’m looking forward to trying this!
Yes! I toss the whole head in there, no peel. I just cut the top off so the garlic oils are easily released!
Yes I do cook the bird with the lifter, the silicone lifter I use is safe to use with heat.
Happy cooking Becky!!
Thank you for posted step by step detailed instructions! Doing this today!! Wish me luck!!
Good luck Marie! You will do great 🙂
I might be on duty for cooking this year……bookmarked just in case that happens!
I hope you’re on duty 🙂 I LOVE cooking up turkey dinners!
You make it look so easy! Thank you for sharing. Do you think or have you ever, prepped the turkey like this the night before?
No I haven’t prepared it the night before. I’ve made the stuffing the night before, held it in a bowl so it was ready for the morning but that’s it. It honestly doesn’t take long to do it before you chuck it in the oven 🙂
I haven’t made a turkey in a while, but I did use your post before and it was fabulous. Thank you.
What type of garlic do you use under the skin (minced fresh, powder, salt..)?
Cloves, I slice them in half and jab them in there. You can do whole cloves too.
Last year I got turkey cooking advice from 3 people. Combined they made the most epic turkey the world has ever known.
A) For the instructions? my good friend referenced your post. It was done EXACTLY when predicted, perfectly. LOVED LOVED LOVED the garlic inside and under the skin recommendation.
B) Bacon lattice. Yes you heard me. Get a pack of THICK-cut bacon. Weave it in a grid on top of your bird. Then follow your instructions. It is crunchy, delicious, and bastes that bird the whole time it’s in the oven. Heaven. Got the skin perfectly browned.
C)Inside – I used your advice but added to it my friend the chef’s advice – add a Grapefruit and a pack of the Kroger “poultry herbs”.
Im telling you, i’ve never made a bird before and this will be my pattern from HERE UNTIL THE END OF TIME.
This year I’m trolling your post for side dishes : ). THANK YOU AGAIN!
Alice! Thank you so much for your kind words! Reading this makes me so happy. Bacon makes everything better hey? I made a turkey gravy once with prosciutto, herbs, and white wine once and that was really yummy!
Try the stuffing 😉 It’s my family’s recipe.
Never thought about using the skin to hold the legs. Good tip!
Glad you found it helpful!
Do you let the turkey thaw before you do anything or put it in the oven still frozen? Cooking easter dinner for the first time
Always thaw it completely 🙂 If it’s too late to thaw in the freezer, thaw it in a sink full of water and replace the water often. Have a great Easter 🙂
So how many times should you base the Turkey while cooking it…making this today on Thanksgiving
I don’t baste it, my mother and grandmother never did either 😉
Did you get a pre-brined turkey?
No I don’t.
Do you let it sit with seasoning overnight or all in the same day
I do it all the same day 🙂
Looks great! Just wondering how garlicky it tastes and if would be good with less?
I don’t find it too garlicy, but feel free to add less!
Do you put the actual garlic cloves under the skin?? or do you mince them up and put them under the skin??
I’ve done both. Both work. My favorite way is to slice each clove into 2-3 pieces (I get more out of the garlic that way).
Hey so I am making my first Turkey super nervous but excited! So I’ve been looking at the comments and I was wondering if when you add the garlic in the inside if you peel it or leave it unpeeled?
Congrats on your first turkey! I chop the top off (about 1/2 inch) and then throw the whole thing in.
Do you put whole garlic cloves under the skin in addition to the head of garlic in the cavity? And do you put the whole sprigs of rosemary and sage in under the skin? Then do you pull that stuff out at the end? Thank you.
Hey June, Yes and yes!
You can chop the herbs if you would like. I’ve done both 🙂
Great post! Creates a beautiful turkey. Thank you!
I’m so happy this worked for you 🙂
I was wondering if you cook this in a turkey cooker or if you have tried and if it is the same as a regular oven? Thanks
I used this recipe to make my first Thanksgiving turkey. It was anazing! I had lots of compliments and it was very juicy, tender, and had lots of flavor. Thanks so much for sharing ❤️
This year is a different kind of Thanksgiving. I made this turkey and my family all voted it amazing. I also thought it was way better than your average turkey. I had taken a plate to my grandmother on Thanksgiving who couldn’t be with us. Just heard from her that she thinks it was the best turkey she ever ate!! This from the matriarch of Thanksgivings past! Suffice it to say, this is my Thanksgiving turkey recipe until the end of time:)!
Made this for Thanksgiving and it was wonderful!! Very moist and delicious! Thank-you !
I had a 15.84lb turkey this year and cooked it according to the graphs and suggestions from this recipe and it was done in about 2 hours (so by 11am) but it wasn’t dry and everyone loved it! next time I think I will cook it at a lower temperature for little longer. I used Kerrygold butter and added in some garlic herb butter. Use more garlic cloves and a whole onion. I put leftover butter in a small saucepan and every 30 minutes I used it to baste the turkey.
This was the best turkey I have ever made… and I would consider myself a basic cook. It was moist with a h8nt of garlic.. everyone raved about it! Thank you!