A whole roasted turkey, salted and slathered in a savory compound butter filled with rosemary, sage & thyme. The turkey is stuffed with garlic, onions & lemons for extra flavor, then is roasted until golden and extremely juicy. The compound butter gives the turkey a salty, herbaceous flavor that can’t be beat!
This post is sponsored by Foster Farms®.
Cooking a whole roasted turkey can feel really intimidating if you’ve never done it before. I like to think of it like a big chicken, and it feels more manageable. There are a few things to think about when roasting a whole bird. The main points are seasoning it properly, not overcooking it & giving it time to rest before carving. We’ll cover all of that below! All of these tips & tricks will result in a turkey that is unbelievably flavorful, and perfectly juicy.
This method and recipe can easily be adapted to use on a chicken, or even a turkey breast if you wanted a more lowkey thanksgiving meal.
So let’s talk turkey!
What kind of Turkey, Cooking Temperature & Tips
Choosing the right bird is where your success will begin. That paired with cooking it at the right temperature and ensuring you’ve implemented a few of my turkey tips will all lead to a perfect thanksgiving turkey.
Foster Farms is always my go-to when I want high quality, cage free, hormone and steroid free poultry. You can check out their selection of chicken and turkey products here. Their turkeys are always fresh & result in a delicious finished product. Depending on how many people you are feeding, you’ll need to get a smaller or larger bird. This bird was 12 pounds, which is enough to feed about 8-10 people, with some leftovers. So you can scale up or down to accommodate your crowd.
Finding the right cooking temperature for such a large bird is tricky because you want it to be high enough to get that crispy skin we all know & love, but not too high that the turkey burns before cooking through or dries out. The easiest way to get the best of both worlds is by preheating your oven to 450°. This gets the oven super hot, which is how you get the crispy skin. When the bird gets put into the oven, you drop the temperature down to 350° to cook the bird. This temperature allows the turkey to cook at a slower rate, resulting in a juicer turkey.
Aside from choosing the right turkey & making sure to cook it at the right temperature, there are a few extra steps you can take to ensure you have a perfect bird.
- Give your turkey enough time to thaw (if frozen) – a frozen turkey will take several days to thaw, so make sure to buy it with enough time to defrost it. For reference, my 12 pound turkey took 3-4 days to fully thaw.
- Liberally salt the turkey – Turkeys are very large & therefore need a good amount of seasoning to flavor the entire thing. It may feel like too much salt, but there is a lot of meat that needs to be seasoned so go for it! You’ll average about 1 teaspoon for every pound of turkey.
- Let the turkey come to room temperature – Before roasting, allow the turkey to come to room temperature. When the turkey is room temp, it helps cook more evenly when roasting. If a turkey (or chicken or beef) is ice cold when you pop it into the oven, it will take longer to cook, & it’s harder for the turkey to cook evenly.
- Make extra butter! – This is more of a ‘butter tip’ but I recommend making extra compound butter to serve at dinner with rolls, biscuits, cornbread, etc.!
What You Need To Make the Compound Butter
- Salted Butter – you don’t have to use salted butter, but you’ll have to season the butter, so I find it easier to just use salted butter!
- Rosemary – ensure you are using fresh herbs for this recipe.
How to Make Compound Butter
The compound butter is really what makes this recipe so delicious. It can also be made ahead of time so it’s one less thing to worry about on Turkey day. Just make sure the butter is at room temperature when it’s time to butter the turkey.
- Begin by chopping your herbs. Since rosemary has such hard needles, I recommend chopping the rosemary as finely as possible so there are no big chunks of rosemary. Sage & thyme are much softer and don’t need to be minced as finely.
- Add softened, salted butter to a medium bowl & add the chopped herbs. Stir to combine and set aside until it’s time to butter the turkey.
How to Salt & Butter the Turkey
The key to a juicy and flavorful turkey is all in the seasoning. Since turkeys are quite large, it takes a good amount of salt to flavor it. I like to liberally season the entire bird, inside and out, and let it rest for at least an hour before adding the compound butter. This allows the salt to penetrate into the meat, giving it more flavor.
The next step is to add the compound butter. When applying the compound butter, I like to add a layer under the skin of the breast, in between the meat and the skin. The easiest way to separate the skin from the meat is by carefully using your fingers to pull the skin away from the meat. Proceed slowly, as to not pierce or tear the skin.
Once the skin and meat have been separated, add a small dollop of butter to one hand and place it at the base of one side of the breast. Then, using your hands, press and smooth out the butter until the entire breast (both of them) are covered in compound butter. Then continue buttering the entire outside of the turkey. Including the legs, thighs, wings and underside.
Once the entire bird is covered in compound butter, it’s ready to be stuffed and trussed before going into the oven to roast.
How to Roast the Turkey
The last step before roasting the turkey is to stuff and truss it. The turkey is stuffed with aromatics to help flavor the inside and then it is trussed (tied together) to help it roast at a more even pace.
Stuffing & Trussing the Turkey
You can pretty much stuff your turkey with whatever you want, the turkey won’t really take on the flavor of the aromatics, it just helps to add a deeper flavor to the turkey itself. My go-to is always onion (you don’t even have to take the peel off), lemons and garlic. You could also use apples, leeks or oranges.
To truss the turkey, all you need to do is tie the legs together. Pull the legs together, cross them, then tie them up using kitchen twine. Next, tuck the wings under the bird (it’s a similar motion to a person putting their hands behind their back). Put your roasting rack into a roasting pan and add the turkey on top.
Time to Roast
While you prep the turkey, preheat the oven to 450°. This will ensure your oven is super hot when the turkey goes in, which is what helps to give the turkey a crispy skin. Once the turkey goes into the oven, lower the temperature to 350° to roast it. The roasting time will depend on how large your turkey is. It will take about 15 minute per pound, but every turkey is different so I recommend keeping an eye on it and checking the temperature after the first 2 hours. If you have a probe thermometer that can stay inserted in the turkey while it roasts, you’ll get a more accurate read which will result in a turkey that is perfectly cooked. I purchased mine on amazon for under $20 and it can be found here. My 12 pound turkey took about 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Carving & Serving the Turkey
The easiest way to ensure your turkey is extra juicy once its cooked, it to give it ample time to rest before carving. Just like when you roast a chicken or grill a steak, letting the meat rest before cutting into it allows the juices to redistribute into the turkey, resulting in a more juicy finished product. Carving a turkey can feel really intimidating since it’s so large, but I like to think of it like a chicken (the anatomy is very similar). You can watch a video here on how to carve a turkey.
For more thanksgiving recipes, check out my Harvest Chopped Salad or Crispy Brussels Sprouts.
Whole Roasted Turkey with Salted Herb Compound Butter
- Roasting Pan
- Roasting Rack
- Instant Read Thermometer
- 1 Foster Farms Fresh & Natural Whole Turkey
- Kosher Salt 1 teaspoon per pound of turkey
- 1 tablespoon Black Pepper
- 2 sticks, or 1 cup Salted Butter softened to room temperature
- 1 bundle Fresh Rosemary
- 1 bundle Fresh Thyme
- 1 bundle Fresh Sage
- 1 medium Yellow Onion for the cavity
- 2 medium Lemons for the cavity
- 1 head Garlic for the cavity
- Preheat your oven to 450°.
- Begin by prepping your turkey. Remove it from the fridge and discard any packaging. You will also need to remove the neck and giblets that are inside the cavity. You can dispose of those or use them to make gravy. Pat the turkey dry with a paper towel to ensure there is no excess moisture.
- Liberally season the turkey inside the cavity as well as outside the entire bird with salt and pepper. Let the turkey sit for 1 hour to allow the seasoning to penetrate the meat. This will result in a juicier turkey.
- While the turkey rests, prepare the compound butter. Finely chop half of your rosemary bundle, half the thyme bundle and half the sage bundle. In a medium bowl, combine the salted butter and chopped herbs. Stir until fully mixed and set aside.
- Next, prepare the vegetables for the cavity. Cut the onion into 6 equal pieces, quarter the lemon, and slice the entire garlic head in half, lengthwise.
- Once the turkey has finished resting, pat it dry one more time to remove any moisture brought out by the salt. Using clean hands or a pastry brush, slather the turkey in compound butter. Make sure to get the butter under the skin of the breast as well, to give the turkey extra flavor. This can be done by carefully separating the skin from the meat by placing your fingers in between the meat and the skin. Add the butter under the skin, and rub it all over the surface of the turkey. Continue slathering the butter all over the entire turkey (don't forget the bottom), until there is no more butter and the turkey is completely covered.
- Next, it's time to stuff the turkey, place the onions, lemons, and garlic inside the cavity of the turkey. Then truss it. This can simply be done by crossing the turkey's legs and tying the, together with kitchen twine/ Tuck the wings under the turkey (in a way that mimics a person putting their hands behind their back) then it's ready to roast.
- Place buttered and trussed turkey on a roasting rack, breast side up, in a large roasting pan, and place on the middle rack of your oven. Lower the heat to 350° and cook for 2-3 hours, until the thickest part of the thigh registers 165° on an instant read thermometer. The turkey will take about 15 minutes per pound, so the roasting time will depend on the overall weight of your turkey.
- Once the turkey is finished cooking, remove it from the oven and let it rest for at least 25-30 minutes before carving.
- Carve and serve.
I made this turkey this year for my small Thanksgiving gathering. It was PERFECT! The compound butter was SO good. I made extra and used it in my stuffing which really tied the dish together. I am definitely going to use this recipe again and again. Thank you Ashley!
I’m so glad you enjoyed Kirby! It’s always a pro move making extra butter!! Happy Holidays!