Roasting a turkey can feel intimidating, but my Herb Butter Thanksgiving Turkey is a simple and easy recipe. Smothering the turkey in herb citrus butter before roasting produces a beautiful, flavorful turkey every time. The best part of the recipe is that there is no brine required!
Brining, which consists of soaking your turkey overnight in a saltwater solution, is a great technique for a juicy bird. I can’t deny that it works, but I’m a big fan of my no-brine recipe for two reasons.
My biggest complaint with brining is that I never have the right container for submerging an enormous turkey in liquid. This brings me to the second problem - making that massive container fit in the already-packed fridge. My Herb Butter Thanksgiving Turkey is a no-brine recipe that is still super moist and juicy!
The herb butter is loaded with plenty of salt, pepper, herbs, and orange zest. It packs a punch! The trick to getting the herb butter flavor into the meat of the turkey is rubbing the butter underneath the skin, on top of the skin, and inside the cavity. The turkey cavity is also stuffed with onions, garlic, orange, and herbs to permeate the flavors from the inside too.
The recipe for Herb Butter Roasted Turkey is short and sweet. Please use only fresh herbs in this recipe! Dried herbs are not a great substitute here.
- Salt & pepper
There are a few key steps to preparing the perfect roasted turkey for Thanksgiving.
- Thaw the bird! If you overlook this step, there really is no way to rush it. The safest way to thaw a whole turkey is in the fridge so that the entire bird is exposed to the same temperature. Check out this article and infographic below for more details on thawing a turkey.
- Take the turkey out of the fridge for 30-60 minutes before it’s time to go in the oven. You don’t want the bird going into the oven ice cold.
- Make the herb butter.
- Prepare the turkey by covering it with butter inside and out and stuffing the cavity with herbs and veggies.
- Cook the turkey. I recommend 13 minutes per pound using my cooking technique.
- Rest the turkey. Cover the cooked bird loosely with foil and allow it to sit at room temperature for an hour before carving and serving. If you try to slice it fresh from the oven, all the juices will run out leaving you with a very dry turkey.
If you don’t like any of the herbs I recommend in the recipe, feel free to swap them out for herbs you like. You need 3 tablespoons of finely chopped herbs to make the compound butter. Feel free to pick herbs that you and your family enjoy.
A roasting pan with a rack is ideal for roasting a turkey, but it’s not required. I would recommend using a large Dutch oven if you don’t have a roasting pan. You can also use a rimmed sheet pan if that’s all you’ve got but keep an eye on the juice that accumulates in the pan to make sure it doesn’t overflow.
I would argue that a meat thermometer is a must for this recipe (or roasting any meats). The only way to know if your turkey is done is to use a meat thermometer. Check out this link to purchase a digital thermometer if you don’t already have one.
If you’ve never roasted a whole turkey before, here are few key things to remember.
- Allow plenty of time for thawing your frozen turkey. Check out the infographic above and add a day to be safe.
- Be sure to check the inside of the turkey cavity before you start prepping the turkey. Typically, the turkey neck and a bag with the giblets are inside. Remove everything before stuffing it with the herbs and veggies.
- The only way to be certain that your turkey is done is with a meat thermometer. I’ve linked to a great digital one here. Suggested cooking times in the recipe can vary based on your bird, oven, pan, etc.
- Plan for your turkey to rest for an hour after cooking. Resting ensures all of the juices redistribute back into the turkey instead of running out onto your cutting board when carving.
Herb Butter Turkey is an absolute stunner on any Thanksgiving table. You’re sure to serve up a juicy, well-seasoned turkey if you follow this recipe. Don’t forget to check out some of my favorite Thanksgiving sides like Traditional Southern Cornbread Dressing and Green Bean Casserole from Scratch.
The only real reliable way to know if your turkey is cooked is a digital thermometer. You'll also use this tool all the time throughout the year to ensure your meats are always perfectly cooked.
Herb Butter Thanksgiving Turkey
- 14 lb whole turkey thawed completely
- 10 sage leaves divided
- 10 thyme sprigs divided
- 1 Tb flat leaf Italian parsley finely chopped
- 1 orange
- 1 stick of butter softened
- 1 tsp pepper
- 2 tsp salt
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 yellow onion
- Remove the turkey from the fridge to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes while you prepare the butter.
- Remove enough thyme leaves from the stem for 1 tablespoon roughly chopped. Leave the remainder on the stem and set aside.
- Finely chop 3 of the sage leaves by stacking the leaves in a neat pile, rolling up in a tube and slicing across. Reserve the remaining 7 sage leaves.
- Add the chopped parsley, thyme, and sage to the butter in a small mixing bowl. Zest the orange and add to the bowl. Last, add the salt and pepper and mix well until combined.
- Preheat the oven to 425°. Line the bottom of a roasting pan with foil or parchment paper. Set the rack on top and spray it with nonstick baking spray.
- Remove the gizzards and anything else from the cavity of the turkey. Rinse the bird with cold water and dry with paper towels. Set the turkey in a roasting pan with a rack, skin side up.
- Using your hands (kitchen gloves are recommended), smother the entire turkey with the herb butter. Be sure to cover the outside and inside the cavity completely. Don't forget to put butter underneath the skin too.
- Cut the orange and onion into quarter segments. Once the turkey is buttered, stuff the turkey cavity with the orange, onion, thyme, sage, and whole garlic cloves.
- Place the roasting pan into the oven and immediately turn the oven temperature down to 350°.
- Plan to cook the turkey for 13 minutes per pound. A 14-pound bird needs to bake for about 3 hours. Baste the turkey every 30 minutes starting after the first hour.
- Start checking the internal temperature 30 minutes before you expect the turkey to be cooked. Check the temperature at the deepest portions of the breast and thigh. It is cooked once the internal temperature reaches 165°.
- Once fully cooked, take the roasting pan out of the oven, remove the turkey to a cuttng board and loosely cover it with foil. Reserve the drippings for gravy. Allow the turkey to rest for one hours before carving.