Herb Butter Roasted Holiday Turkey

November 16, 2018
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Everyone needs a holiday turkey recipe they can rely on without fail! This is my go-to recipe for every Thanskgiving.

In partnership with ThermoWorks, I’m going to walk you through the entire turkey roasting process with helpful tips to make it successful. All opinions expressed here are my own. 


Thanksgiving isn’t affectionately called Turkey Day for nothing! This bird is the star of the show and anchors the whole feast, and in this recipe, I’ll be walking you through the process. If this is the first Thanksgiving that you’ve been tasked with preparing the turkey, don’t fret. Poultry prep is definitely one of those things that seems much more complex than it actually is, and I’m here to help!

With the right tools, you take out the guesswork of something that can feel so intimidating, like cooking a holiday turkey. If there’s one kitchen tool I can’t live without on Thanksgiving, it’s a reliable digital thermometer (or two!). I swear by my ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4 and ChefAlarm for making a perfect roast turkey every time. Having a reliable thermometer is like having an insurance policy on your holiday turkey!


  • I’m sure you’ve heard the tip to take the temperature of your turkey once it’s ready to come OUT of the oven, but you’ve probably never heard the tip to take the temperature of your turkey before it goes IN to the oven. This ensures that your turkey isn’t still frozen on the inside. The temperature range you’re aiming for is 37º-40ºF.  In this range, you’re turkey is completely thawed and ready for cooking.
  • Positioning is important when it comes to cooking your bird. I like cooking it upside down –  or breast side down. By flipping it over, the dark meat on top exposed to the higher temps and the breast meat is situated underneath where it will stay nice and moist.  When cooked this way, you’ll have no need ladle on the gravy when it comes to breast meat. For juicy white meat and soft, buttery dark meat, you’re looking for a 15-degree difference between the doneness temperatures of the breast meat and the thigh meat, so roasting your turkey in this position is one way to ensure all of your turkey will be perfectly cooked.
  • The secret to crispy, golden brown skin is using paper towels to make sure your turkey is super dry on the exterior before seasoning it. Don’t skimp on the salt and pepper. If there were ever a time to salt and pepper liberally…this would be it!
  • Use an oven safe thermometer like the ChefAlarm which will alert you when your turkey is ready. Make sure you insert it in the right place, the breast meat, avoiding any bone. Set the high temp to 157, and it’s ready to go. The cable and probe are oven safe. Once your ChefAlarm goes off and it’s ready, confirm temperature with your Thermapen. Remember, the breast meat and the thigh meat should be at different temps – 157ºF for breast meat, and 172ºF or above for the thigh meat.
  • Don’t forget to let your turkey rest at least 20 minutes to maintain its juiciness.


I’ve selected a 10-12 lb turkey for this recipe, which should be an ideal size for most families. Keep in mind that roughly one pound of turkey will feed one person, and if you’re planning to have leftovers (who isn’t?!) then plan for a 1.5lb:1 person ratio. If you are looking to switch up your leftovers, why not transform them into my Turkey Roast Dip with Melted Gruyere? It’s perfect for lunch after a long morning of scouting out deals if you’re a Black Friday shopper because it’s a flavorful meal that requires little effort after your big cooking day.


Butter can be one of your best friends in the kitchen and if used effectively, it’s an ingredient that need not be shied away from. Most home cooks are often left wondering why their food doesn’t quite taste as delicious as restaurant cooking, and the secret is the high heat of industrial kitchens… and butter! The key to the beautiful finish of my turkey is exactly this. When we rub butter seasoned with fresh herbs between the meat and skin of the turkey it crisps up nicely while also helping to keep the turkey moist without needing to baste. Getting that butter underneath the skin will permeate the meat with those big flavors resulting in flavorful, juicy meat throughout.


I’ve mentioned it before, but I can’t stress this enough: every home cook should invest in an instant-read thermometer. I rely on my ChefAlarm and Thermapen, because they’re precise every single time. These amazing tools are going to save you from a lot of headaches by telling you exactly when your turkey is done which we should be judging based off of internal temperature. The turkey will continue to cook for a bit after you’ve pulled it out of the oven, making it food safe without being overcooked, so it’s imperative to remove at the right time. As we go to let it rest make sure your foil cover isn’t too tight, because we want to lock in the turkey’s juices without sacrificing that crispy skin. With this last little exercise in patience, you’ll definitely be ready to feast!

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Herb Butter Roasted Holiday Turkey

  • Author: Kelsey Nixon
  • Total Time: 2 hours 50 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x


A super simple way to make a classic holiday centerpiece. Every home cook should have a roast turkey recipe in their repertoire, and this one can’t be beat!


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 (10- to 12-pound) fresh turkey (neck, giblets, and liver removed)
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion, quartered
  • ½ bunch fresh thyme
  • ½ bunch fresh rosemary
  • ½ cup fresh sage leaves, torn
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed


  1. Preheat the oven to 350º F.
  2. In a small bowl, combine 1 stick of the butter and the chopped sage, thyme, and rosemary. Cube remaining stick of butter and set aside.
  3. Put the turkey on v-shaped rack in a large roasting pan. Pat it dry. Working carefully so that you don’t tear the skin, smear the herb butter evenly underneath the skin of the bird. Season the outside and inside the cavity liberally with salt and pepper. Loosely fill the cavity with the cubed butter, onion, whole herbs, and garlic. Tie the legs together with string and tuck the wings under the turkey.
  4. Roast the turkey breast side down until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 172º F and the breast reaches 157ºF and juices run clear, about 2 ½ hours. Transfer the turkey to cutting board or platter, tent with foil, and let stand 20 minutes before carving.
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes

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