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This is the only guide you’ll ever need to making the perfect, juicy, naturally low carb turkey for Thanksgiving. From choosing your turkey to thawing to brining to the rub and roasting time, we’ll cover everything for the best garlic butter herb roasted turkey ever.
How Much Turkey Per Person?
I developed this garlic butter herb roasted turkey recipe using my favorite All-Natural Turkey from Jennie-O. I can always count on it for quality without any weird added ingredients or sugar-y pre-made brine.
And since I’ve been testing this recipe since August (seriously!), I opted to test with smaller 12-pound turkeys. It was just my little family of four eating them. Okay, and some helpful friends, but most people prefer to wait for Thanksgiving to enjoy their garlic butter herb roasted turkey. 😉
Needless to say, we had a lot of leftovers. There aren’t really any turkeys small enough to feed 4 people without having extras.
Still, if you’re reading this, chances are that you’re probably making your garlic butter herb roasted turkey for an actual Thanksgiving meal.
So, you need to know how big a turkey to get, right? 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|
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!
Turkey Thawing Times 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 the garlic butter turkey rub, 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.
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?
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.
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 the butter with the garlic, sea salt, black pepper, and fresh herbs.
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 covered to prevent burning anyway, and then uncover toward the end.
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|
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.
What To Serve With Butter Herb Roasted Turkey
What to serve with roasted turkey if you’re having a low carb keto Thanksgiving dinner? There are plenty of options!
Here are a few classic favorite keto low carb Thanksgiving recipes:
- Sugar-free cranberry sauce – a must with your garlic butter herb roasted turkey!
- Keto cauliflower stuffing
- Gluten-free green bean casserole
- Low carb sweet potato casserole
- Garlic parmesan keto biscuits
- Keto pumpkin cheesecake – the most delicious way to finish your Thanksgiving!
And, I’ve served these to my larger non-low-carb families with great feedback. Hope your family will enjoy them as much as mine!
Easy Garlic Butter Herb Roasted Turkey Recipe:
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More Low Carb Recipes To Love
Tools To Make Garlic Herb Roasted Turkey:
Click 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. You can also try this one as a budget option.
- 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
The best garlic butter herb roasted turkey recipe ever - with tips on how to brine turkey, a chart for how long to roast turkey, how much turkey per person, and more.
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- 2 gallons Water *
- 2 1/2 cups Kosher salt *
- 12 lb Whole turkey *
- 1/2 cup Butter (softened; use ghee for dairy-free, paleo or whole30)
- 1 tbsp Fresh sage (chopped finely)
- 1 tbsp Fresh rosemary (chopped finely)
- 1 tbsp Fresh thyme (leaves only)
- 4 cloves Garlic (minced)
- 1 tsp Lemon zest
- 1/2 tbsp Sea salt
- 1/2 tsp Black pepper
RECIPE TIPS + VIDEO in the post above, nutrition info + recipe notes below!
Click 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.
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).
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.
Check the chart above 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.
Nutrition Information Per Serving
Where does nutrition info come from? Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy, sourced from the USDA Food Database. You can find individual ingredient carb counts we use in the Low Carb & Keto Food List. Carb count excludes sugar alcohols. Net carb count excludes both fiber and sugar alcohols, because these do not affect blood sugar in most people. We try to be accurate, but feel free to make your own calculations.
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