How to Cook a Turkey


Learn how to cook a turkey with this simple recipe. The biggest myth in American cookery is that a juicy, perfectly cooked turkey is difficult for the novice cook to achieve. Even if this is your first time, don't play scared; this will work! There is nothing to fear but the fear of dry turkey itself. Be sure to buy a meat thermometer before Thanksgiving; it will be the essential tool in the kitchen that day.

Prep Time:
20 mins
Cook Time:
3 hrs 5 mins
Additional Time:
10 mins
Total Time:
3 hrs 35 mins

Wondering how to cook a turkey the best and easiest way? We've got you covered. This top-rated turkey recipe is perfect for seasoned pros and beginners alike.

overhead view of a perfectly roasted whole turkey served on a platter with lots of fresh herbs. The turkey is served alongside mashed potatoes and gravy
Meredith Food Studio

How to Cook a Turkey

You'll find a full, step-by-step recipe below with detailed instructions for cooking the perfect turkey. But, for now, here's a brief overview of what you should expect when you follow Chef John's simple recipe:

Prepare the Pan

Place the chopped vegetables in the bottom of a shallow roasting pan. Place the turkey, breast-side up, on top of vegetables. Pat dry with paper towels.

Season the Inside

Mix salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Season the inside of the turkey with ⅓ of this mixture. Fold the wing tips under the bird. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the herbs and cook until fragrant. Remove the herbs (reserving the butter) and stuff them inside the turkey, then tie the legs with twine.

Season the Outside

Brush the bird with the melted butter. Sprinkle the butter-covered turkey with the remaining seasoning.

Roast the Turkey

Bake turkey, uncovered, in the preheated oven until no longer pink at the bone and juices run clear. Remove the turkey from the oven and allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.

How Long to Cook a Turkey

If you follow this recipe exactly, a 12-pound turkey should be done after about 3 hours. If your turkey is larger or smaller than 12 pounds, you'll have to adjust the cooking time (check out our Turkey Cooking Time Guide for exact times per pound).

Of course, you should always make sure to check the internal temperature before serving.

What Temperature to Cook a Turkey

This recipe produces perfectly juicy results at 325 degrees F. If your turkey is larger than 12 pounds, you'll have to raise the temperature if you'd like it to be done within three to four hours.

What Temperature Should Turkey Be When It's Done?

Testing Turkey Temperature
Sara Tane

An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, near the bone, should read 180 degrees F.

Learn more: How to Check the Temperature of a Turkey

More Turkey FAQs

Here at Allrecipes, we know a thing or two about cooking the perfect Thanksgiving feast — that's why we've made it our mission to answer your most burning turkey questions. Check out some of our best turkey tips, tricks, and guides from over the years:

· How to Brine a Turkey
· 3 Ways to Safely Thaw a Frozen Turkey
· How Much Turkey Per Person Do You Need?
· How to Truss a Turkey the Easy Way
· How to Smoke a Turkey
· How to Stuff a Turkey
· How to Carve a Turkey the Easy Way

Explore our entire collection of Thanksgiving Tips and Tricks.

Allrecipes Community Tips and Praise

"A last-minute Thanksgiving schedule change required that I find a set-it-and-forget-it turkey recipe," says Cooker-roonie. "This one was just the ticket! Fast, easy, and tasty. What a combo. This was my first time cooking a turkey and it's really nice to know that it doesn't have to be difficult!"

"Made a delayed Thanksgiving dinner today … absolutely the best turkey ever," raves Brenda Hadden. "So moist and flavorful. Try this recipe, drain the juices, and add chicken stock to make the gravy at the end."

"I made it on a rack instead of on top of veggies," says fwilburnfgmailcom. "No one could believe how beautifully golden and moist it was! It stayed moist through reheating for multiple days!"

Editorial contributions by Corey Williams


  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

  • 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped

  • 1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped

  • 1 (12 pound) whole turkey, neck and giblets reserved

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary

  • ½ bunch fresh sage, chopped


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

  2. Place onion, celery, and carrot in a large, shallow roasting pan.

  3. Place turkey, breast-side up, on top of vegetables in the roasting pan. Pat outside and inside of turkey dry with paper towels.

  4. Combine salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Season inside of turkey with about 1/3 of the salt mixture. Fold wing tips under bird.

  5. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until edges turn golden, about 2 minutes. Add rosemary and sage; cook and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.

  6. Place rosemary and sage inside cavity of turkey; reserve melted butter. Tie turkey legs together with twine.

  7. Brush melted butter over turkey. Season with the remaining salt mixture.

  8. Bake turkey, uncovered, in the preheated oven until no longer pink at the bone and juices run clear, about 3 hours. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, near the bone should read 180 degrees F (82 degrees C).

  9. Remove turkey from the oven and allow to rest in a warm area for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.

    close up view of a roasted turkey on a platter with herbs, next to gravy and mashed potatoes

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

355 Calories
17g Fat
2g Carbs
46g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 24
Calories 355
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 17g 22%
Saturated Fat 6g 28%
Cholesterol 136mg 45%
Sodium 604mg 26%
Total Carbohydrate 2g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 46g
Vitamin C 1mg 5%
Calcium 51mg 4%
Iron 3mg 17%
Potassium 486mg 10%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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