Rating: 5 stars 4.8
160 Ratings
  • 5 star values: 140
  • 4 star values: 15
  • 3 star values: 3
  • 2 star values: 1
  • 1 star values: 1

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.

Recipe Summary

prep:
20 mins
cook:
3 hrs 5 mins
additional:
10 mins
total:
3 hrs 35 mins
Servings:
24
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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. 

How to Cook a Turkey

How to Cook a Turkey
Credit: Allrecipes

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
Credit: Sara Tane

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

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: 

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

Ingredients

24
Original recipe yields 24 servings
The ingredient list now reflects the servings specified
Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

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

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

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

  • 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).

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

Nutrition Facts

355 calories; protein 45.5g; carbohydrates 1.5g; fat 17.2g; cholesterol 136mg; sodium 603.5mg. Full Nutrition
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