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This is the only guide you’ll ever need to making the perfect, juicy herb butter turkey for Thanksgiving. From choosing your turkey and thawing, to brining, rubbing, and roasting time, we’ll cover everything for the best herb roasted turkey with garlic butter rub. Don’t forget the cranberry sauce and turkey gravy!
I recommend making a larger whole roasted turkey than you need, so that you’ll have leftovers! Save them for leftover turkey casserole, add to soups, or stack with keto bread for sandwiches. And if you want your bird on the table even faster, try making spatchcock turkey instead!
This easy roasted turkey recipe was originally published on November 2, 2018, and the post was republished in October 2020 to add updated pictures and useful tips.
How To Make Roasted Turkey
This garlic butter roasted turkey is surprisingly simple to make! Just 4 simple steps:
- Brine turkey. Stir together water and kosher salt in a large stock pot. Add turkey to the pot and making sure it’s submerged, refrigerate for 10-12 hours.
- Make herb butter. Mash together butter, sage, rosemary, thyme, garlic, lemon zest, sea salt, and black pepper. (You can also use any combo of compound butter here.)
- Season turkey. Drain the water and pat dry with paper towels. Place the turkey into a roasting pan on top of a rack. Gently separate the turkey skin from meat, and spread the half of the herb butter under the skin and the other half over the top of the bird.
- Roast turkey. Check the cooking chart below for exact time, and cook until it reaches 165 degrees F, or cook until it reaches 150-155 degrees F, remove from oven, and tent. This will result in the most juicy roasted turkey, and the temperature will continue to rise to 165-170 degrees F.
How Long To Thaw a Turkey
Although some people buy fresh turkeys, the majority are frozen. So before you make your garlic butter herb roasted turkey, you need to thaw it first.
Not surprisingly, how long to thaw a turkey will depend on its size. Either way, you want to plan a few days ahead because it might take a long time!
How long to thaw a turkey – chart by weight:
Here is a general guideline for how long to thaw a turkey based on weight:
- 4 to 8 pound turkey: 1 to 2 days
- 8 to 12 pound turkey: 2 to 3 days
- 12 to 16 pound turkey: 3 to 4 days
- 16 to 20 pound turkey: 4 to 5 days
- 20 to 24 pound turkey: 5 to 6 days
- 24 to 28 pound turkey: 7 to 8 days
- 28 to 32 pound turkey: 9 to 10 days
After your turkey has thawed completely, you can brine it.
Can you brine frozen turkey?
You probably can, but more than about a day is too long to brine it, whereas it would take longer to thaw unless you have a really tiny turkey.
So, it’s best to just thaw your turkey and then brine it after. If you must combine them, then only place your thawing turkey into the brine for the last 10 to 12 hours, when it’s almost fully thawed.
How To Brine a Turkey
Before we get to rubbing your garlic butter turkey, you need to brine your turkey. There are a million and one recipes for turkey brine, as well as trendy methods like dry brining.
But if you learn about how turkey brine works, you’ll know that the only absolutely critical aspect of a turkey brine is the SALT!
Salt particles are much smaller than anything else you can put into a brine, so they will more readily pass into the meat than any herbs, spices, or broth that you put into your brine. However, you can try this one, or a gluten-free brined turkey (swap the brown sugar with Besti Brown), if you still want other add-ins in your turkey brine.
Why do you need salt in turkey brine?
The reason a brine works – and the reason it’s not the same thing as just soaking in water – is the salt.
Salt performs three important functions in the brining process, all of which play a role in making your garlic herb roasted turkey more juicy:
- Salt dissolves the muscle proteins, so they don’t contract as much during cooking (which would squeeze out moisture).
- Salt water creates an imbalance between the moisture in the turkey and outside of it, causing the turkey to draw in more water through osmosis.
- Salt water seasons the turkey all the way through the inside, instead of just a superficial salt on the outside.
How much salt in turkey brine?
To calculate the amount of salt for a turkey brine, we need to consider the amount of water rather than the size of the turkey itself. This is because all we really care about is the concentration of salt, so that osmosis can take effect.
The right concentration of salt is about 6 percent of the water weight. For each gallon of water, that would be 1.25 cups Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt or 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp of Morton Kosher Salt, Real Salt Kosher Salt, or most brands of sea salt. But, who wants to calculate that, right?
Turkey brine salt chart:
Here is a chart showing how much salt to use:
|Turkey Weight||Water Volume||Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt||Morton’s Kosher Salt, Real Salt Kosher Salt, or Sea Salt|
|8 to 12 lb||2 gallons (7.6 liters)||2 1/2 cups (450 grams)||1 3/4 cups (~438 grams)|
|13 to 17 lb||2 1/2 gallons (9.5 liters)||3 1/4 cups (570 grams)||2 1/4 cups (~563 grams)|
|18 to 22 lb||3 gallons (11.4 liters)||3 3/4 cups (675 grams)||2 3/4 cups (~688 grams)|
|23 to 27 lb||3 1/2 gallons (13.2 liters)||4 1/3 cups (780 grams)||3 cups + 2 tbsp (~781 grams)|
|28 to 32 lb||4 gallons (15.1 liters)||5 cups (900 grams)||3 1/2 cups (~875 grams)|
Typically, kosher salt is recommended, but since I use sea salt so much in my recipes, I also included the equivalent amount of sea salt. It’s actually the same amount needed as some brands of kosher salt.
How long to brine turkey?
There is a sweet spot for how long to brine a turkey, which is generally 8 to 12 hours. If you do less time, the brine won’t have enough time to fully do its thing.
If you keep the turkey in brine for much longer than 12 hours, it will absorb too much salt and you risk it getting too salty.
How To Make Garlic Butter Turkey Rub
Garlic butter turkey rub is actually really easy and basic! But, it does an amazing job at locking in moisture in addition to the brine. Not to mention adding So. Much. Flavor.
To make the garlic butter turkey rub, simply mash together:
- Minced garlic
- Sea salt
- Black pepper
- Fresh herbs – You can really use almost any herbs for turkey, but I recommend fresh sage, rosemary and thyme.
Place your turkey onto the roasting rack and slide your hand underneath the turkey skin near the cavity. Continue to slide your hand between the skin and the turkey itself, everywhere you can, to separate the skin from the meat. Go over to the sides where the legs are, too. Be careful not to tear the skin.
Once that’s done, rub half of the garlic butter turkey rub underneath the skin and the other half over the skin. Don’t forget the sides!
The butter has a tendency to stick to your hands, but just spread it as best you can. It’s a little effort to do, but so worth it.
How Long To Roast Turkey
How long to roast turkey depends on its size and the oven temperature. Some people prefer low and slow at 325 degrees, others blast the turkey at 425 or 450 degrees and then reduce the temperature afterward.
My method for garlic herb roasted turkey works best at 350 degrees, as higher temperatures will burn the butter and herbs. You’ll need to start with the turkey uncovered to roast the top, and then cover it to prevent burning.
Turkey roasting time chart:
Here is a chart for how long to roast turkey covered at 350 degrees F. Start by roasting the turkey to brown the skin, then cover it and continue roasting for the remaining time.
|Turkey Weight||Roast Uncovered First For This Long||Then Cover and Roast For||Total Time|
|8 to 11 lb||45 minutes||1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours||2 1/4 to 2 3/4 hours|
|12 to 14 lb||45 minutes||1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours 15 minutes||2 1/2 to 3 hours|
|15 to 17 lb||45 minutes||2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours||3 1/4 to 3 3/4 hours|
|18 to 21 lb||45 minutes||3 hours to 3 hours 30 minutes||3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours|
|22 to 25 lb||45 minutes||3 hours 30 minutes to 4 hours||4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours|
|26 to 30 lb||45 minutes||4 hours to 4 hours 45 minutes||4 3/4 to 5 1/2 hours|
FYI: These times are for an unstuffed turkey. If your turkey is stuffed, add about 45 to 75 minutes to the covered roasting time (1 hour on average).
Some methods for roasted turkey say to roast it covered first and then uncover at the end, but I recommend the other way around. Then you can ensure that the skin is browned and then cook for the right amount of time after to cook the meat all the way through without risking too much browning.
This works best if the foil is tented when covering but not tightly against the turkey. If yours ends up touching it and the skin isn’t as crisp as you like at the end, you can always broil it for a couple of minutes to crisp it up, but I’ve never needed to do so.
This chart is a good starting point, but please use a meat thermometer to know for sure when your oven roasted turkey is done.
How To Know Roasted Turkey Is Done
The best way to know that a roasted turkey is done is to use a meat thermometer. I prefer a meat temperature probe so that I don’t have to keep checking on it.
The USDA recommends cooking the turkey until it’s 165 to 170 degrees F in the coolest part of the bird, which is usually the thickest part of the thigh. Be careful not to touch the bone when measuring the temperature, because this can skew the reading.
However, you will need to rest your garlic butter roasted turkey after you take it out of the oven for about 20 minutes, to ensure that the juices stay in when you cut into it.
And, the temperature actually continues to rise about 15 degrees while the turkey rests!
Therefore, some people (me included!) prefer to remove the turkey from the oven when it’s at 150 to 155 degrees F, cover it with foil, and let it rest for 20 minutes to reach the safe 165 to 170 degrees F mark. Just make sure it does reach safe temperature before eating.
How Much Turkey Per Person?
I originally tested this garlic butter herb roasted turkey recipe with 12-pound turkeys, because it went through a few iterations and even a small one was a lot of food for us to get through. But when you’re making turkey for Thanksgiving, you might need more than that, depending on how many people you’ll have.
To figure out how much turkey per person, a general guide is 1 pound per person, or 1.5 pounds per person if you want leftovers. Of course, this accounts for bone weight too, so each person wouldn’t actually be eating an entire pound of meat.
Chart for how much turkey per person:
|Number of People||Whole Turkey Weight||Whole Turkey Weight To Have Leftovers|
|8 people||8 lb||12 lb|
|10 people||10 lb||15 lb|
|12 people||12 lb||18 lb|
|14 people||14 lb||21 lb|
|16 people||16 lb||24 lb|
|18 people||18 lb||27 lb|
|20 people||20 lb||30 lb|
Leftover Roasted Turkey Ideas & Storage
You’ll probably be making this garlic butter roasted turkey for Thanksgiving, but if you’re like most people, you’ll probably have leftovers.
How to use leftover turkey:
Store your leftover turkey in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. Here are some ideas for what to do with leftover turkey:
- Leftover Turkey Casserole – My favorite way to use leftover roasted turkey, green bean casserole and cranberry sauce all in one dish.
- Soups – Turkey makes a great swap for chicken in soups! Try using it in chicken florentine soup or buffalo chicken soup.
- Sandwiches – Use your favorite bread and add mayo, or even cranberry sauce. I make mine with keto bread.
- Salads – Add roasted turkey to just about any side salad to make it a meal, or just like in soups, swap turkey in place of chicken. Try it in cobb salad, caesar salad, or chicken salad.
Can you freeze it?
Absolutely! You can freeze leftover roasted turkey for at least 2-3 months for best flavor, and use it in the same ways as the leftover ideas above.
What To Serve With Butter Herb Roasted Turkey
What to serve with roasted turkey? I’m focusing on options for a low carb Thanksgiving dinner, but even if you aren’t, these options are a delicious way to add a healthy option to your table:
- Sugar-Free Cranberry Sauce – A must with your garlic butter herb roasted turkey!
- Keto Turkey Gravy – Simple and thick!
- Cauliflower Stuffing – All the same flavors in traditional stuffing, made with roasted cauliflower.
- Roasted Garlic Green Beans – An easy side dish for everyone at the table! You could also make Keto Green Bean Casserole with a bit more effort.
- Low carb Sweet Potato Casserole – Can you guess what stands in for sweet potatoes in this low carb version?
- Keto Pumpkin Cheesecake – The most delicious way to finish your Thanksgiving!
Along with this butter turkey recipe, I’ve served these side dishes to larger groups of family and friends who weren’t following low carb at all, with great feedback. Hope your family will enjoy them as much as mine!
Tools To Make Garlic Herb Roasted Turkey
Tap the links below to see the items used to make this recipe.
- Stock pot – Light and large enough to brine your turkey, in quality stainless steel.
- Roasting pan with rack – The pan to roast your turkey in. A must! Here is a higher end option if you want to splurge.
- Turkey baster – Optional, but basting a few times during roasting can make your turkey more juicy.
- Meat temperature probe – Stick this into the thickest part of the turkey thigh, set the temperature, and it will beep when the turkey is ready. It comes with 2 probes, so you can stick them in 2 parts of the turkey for safety, or even use them simultaneously if you have a dual oven. It’s also great for grilling next summer!
- Turkey lifter forks – To lift your turkey from your roasting pan to the serving platter.
Easy Garlic Butter Herb Roasted Turkey Recipe
Easy Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe
Learn how to make the best herb roasted turkey recipe – complete with tips on how to brine turkey, a chart for how long to roast turkey, easy herb butter turkey rub, and more.
Tap underlined ingredients to see where to get them. Please turn Safari reader mode OFF to view ingredients.
Tap on the times in the instructions below to start a kitchen timer while you cook.
In a large stock pot large enough to fit the turkey, stir together 2 gallons (7.5 L) of water and 2 1/2 cups (128 g) kosher salt. Submerge the turkey in the brine. Refrigerate for 10 to 12 hours.
When the turkey is done brining, drain the water and pat dry. Place the turkey onto a roasting pan with a roasting rack.
Garlic Herb Butter Turkey Rub:
In a small bowl, mash together the softened butter, sage, rosemary, thyme, minced garlic, lemon zest, sea salt and black pepper.
Use your hands under the skin of the turkey to separate the skin from the meat underneath. (Be careful not to tear the skin.)
Spread half of the butter all over the turkey underneath the skin. Spread the other half over the skin all over.
How To Roast Turkey:
Position the oven rack on a low position, so that there is enough room for the turkey. The top of the turkey should end up just slightly higher than the middle when placed in the oven later. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees F).
Place the turkey in the oven and roast. Check the roasted turkey time chart in the blog post for the amount of time to roast without foil and the remaining time with foil. For a 12 lb turkey, that's 45 minutes uncovered followed by about 2 1/4 hours covered. To cover, tent the top of the turkey with foil, shiny side out, making sure no turkey is peeking out, and return to the oven.
Check that the roasted turkey is done with a meat thermometer – it should read 165 degrees for the safest option. For the most juicy turkey, aim for 150-155 degrees, and then cover in foil immediately after removing from the oven. Let the turkey rest, covered in foil, for about 20 minutes to come up to 165 to 170 degrees before serving.
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