Divine Dinner Party

Simple Roast Turkey Recipe: the Best Traditional Roasted Turkey

Without a good, simple roast turkey recipe, you can always get lucky making a turkey, and end up with something wonderful or flavorful. But it can also be an absolute nightmare.
Think I'm being dramatic? Well, maybe I am a bit. But the truth is, there are just too many things that can go wrong when baking a turkey. Sometimes the turkey comes out shoe-leather dry. Sometimes it burns to a crisp. Sometimes the flavors seem bland. And sometimes it just seems like too much work!

Fortunately, with a few tips for cooking a perfect turkey and this simple roast turkey recipe, you can make a successful, flavorful turkey without a whole lot of fun. When a creature tastes this good, after all, it doesn't need a really complex recipe to shine.

Try the recipe below! Or check out some of my other pages for tips in cooking a turkey, including:

I've got all of those and tons more in my "How to Cook a Turkey" Bible.

Turkey Safety First!

Before I go into my simple roast turkey recipe, let's talk a bit about turkey safety.

Thawing the Turkey. When using any poultry product, it's very important to follow suitable processes for thawing and cooking your bird. First, while you can use the water method of defrosting the turkey, it's much safer to do so in the refrigerator. This is going to take longer. A fifteen pound turkey needs to sit in the refrigerator for 3-4 days to fully defrost.

Check this page for the best ways to thaw out a turkey.

Stuffing the Turkey. When you're ready to cook the turkey, wash your hands thoroughly and then rinse and dry the bird. Note that it is not suggested that you stuff the turkey until just prior to cooking, or you'll risk bacteria growth. And don't pack the stuffing in too tight!

Keeping Surfaces Clean. Your work isn't done quite yet, though. Remember to clean up the work space, especially any areas that the turkey or its juices have touched-- you don't want to spread bacteria around.

Assuring Proper Doneness. Make sure to cook the bird at 325-350 degrees F to kill bacteria, and before serving the turkey the meat needs to reach a temperature of 165 degrees for it to be fully done (a fifteen pound stuffed bird requires about three hours to reach this temperature). Taking these steps makes sure that no one will accidentally get sick from the turkey.

The BEST Simple Roast Turkey Recipe

Simple Roast Turkey for ThanksgivingIt's nearly impossible to go wrong with this utterly flavorful yet wonderfully simple roast turkey recipe. The herbs and flavorings used combine to lend a subtle richness to the bird... but with no one flavor standing out. The only thing your guests will truly taste is a wonderful turkey.

Oh, and this is probably THE best roasted turkey recipe if you want to make a great gravy from the drippings. Find out how to do just that right here.

A 10-pound bird will make enough to serve about 10 people without much left over. Making a large bird? Double the ingredients and adjust the turkey cooking time accordingly.

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1 (10 lb) turkey (thawed or fresh, giblets/neck removed)
1 C. chicken broth

For the Skin:
1/4 lb. butter (not margarine!), melted
1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 lemon, juice of
1 lemon, zest of
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

For the Cavity:
Fresh thyme (about a whole bunch)
1 lemon, quartered
1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
1 head garlic, cut in half across the middle of the cloves

Instructions: 1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

2. In a small bowl, combine the melted butter, chopped thyme, lemon zest, and lemon juice.

3. Place the turkey breast-side-up on a large but shallow-sided roasting pan with a rack.

4. To stuff the cavity, first sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Use plenty! Then insert the lemon, bunch of thyme, onion, and garlic.

5. To flavor the skin, spoon or brush the butter mixture all over the outside of the turkey. Sprinkle to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

6. With a bit of kitchen string, tie the drumsticks together and tuck the wings over. This helps to encourage even cooking.

7. Pour the chicken broth into the bottom of the pan.

8. Roast the turkey 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the internal temperature when tested with a meat thermometer reads 165 to 170 degrees F.

9. Remove to a platter, cover with a tent of foil, and let rest for 20-30 minutes before carving.

10. Carve the bird (find tips on carving a turkey here) and enjoy this wonderfully simple roast turkey recipe!

Nine Tips for Creating the
Best Roasted Turkey Recipe

1. Fresh or Frozen: Fresh turkey is wonderful but you can only get it a day or so ahead of your event. In that regard frozen turkey is a little more convenient, but it takes a while to thaw. Consider your schedule then choose what's best so you're not rushing.

2. How much is Enough? I like to allow for over one pound of turkey per person so there will be leftovers to enjoy. Don't like having lots of leftovers? Make a bit less.

3. Stuffing and dressing: if possible make your stuffing a day ahead of time. The flavor improves overnight. By the way this advice goes for your side dishes too. Anything that can safely be pre-prepared gives you more liberty on the day when you want to be visiting with family and friends.

4. Processed ingredients: When you're pressed for time there is nothing wrong with using jarred gravy or canned carrots! You can easily dress up the gravy's flavor with some turkey drippings and glaze the carrots by adding butter and sugar when you warm them up. Chances are, nobody will know-- especially if you have a flavorful, simple roast turkey recipe like this one to dazzle them.

5. Season all-around. Don't just put seasoning on the turkey's skin. Get some under the skin (mixed with butter or oil for moisture) and some in the cavity so that the flavor gets all the way through.

6. Heat it up. If you like crunchy skin and really moist meat, pre-heat your oven to 475 degrees and put your turkey into it, uncovered, for about 15-20 minutes at the beginning of the cook time. That will seal in the juices and make a lovely crisp skin.

7. Don't be over-anxious. Giving your turkey time to rest when it comes out of the oven is a great way to keep it moist.

8. Fast Clean up: if you don't want to wrestle with your normal roasting pan, you can buy disposable pans at the supermarket. NOTE: if you have a big bird, seriously consider doubling these so they don't crumple when you're trying to baste etc. Or place one in the bottom of your regular roasting pan to make clean-up a breeze.

9. Lingering Leftovers? If you've doubled this simple roast turkey recipe for a huge bird and are looking at a lot of leftover turkey, it need not be wasted. Think along the lines of canning up some turkey soup, or wrapping and freezing the meat for sandwiches. Also turkey is an ideal substitute for chicken in any recipe.

Find more suggestions for cooking a perfect turkey every time at Turkey Cooking Headquarters!

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There are lots more simple roast turkey recipes and ideas here at Divine Dinner Party. Check out:

Perfect Thanksgiving Roast Turkey


The Best Ways to Cook Turkey

Cute Decorative Turkey

Cooking a Whole Turkey
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Free Holiday Turkey Recipe Guide to How to Cook a Turkey

If it's a fat bird with a beard (no, I don't mean your Aunt Marjorie), we can help you cook it. Click on the icon above or click here to get started with recipes and tips on how to cook a turkey for Christmas, Thanksgiving, or any time of year.

Coming Up...

Hippity, Hoppity,
Easter's on its Way

The date for Easter falls on April 20th this year!

Take a look at Easter Dinner and Party Planning for recipes, edd dye tips, assembling Easter baskets, and more!

And plan to make this adorable...

It's so cute, it may be the best thing you do this Easter.


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After all, what better way to pass on your knowledge than to share it with other hosts and hostesses?

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