How to Roast a Thanksgiving Turkey (with Herbs and Citrus)

Today we’re talking all about How To Roast A Thanksgiving Turkey. If you’ve never done it before it may seem a little bit intimidating! But don’t worry we’ve got you covered on all you need to know. And if you have roasted a turkey before, scroll on down because we’ve got a great turkey recipe that is full of citrus and herbs and is sure to be a hit on this years Thanksgiving table.

Thanksgiving TurkeyHow to Roast a Turkey

You know you’ve reached adult status when it is finally your turn to cook the Thanksgiving turkey. But it can be so intimidating if you’ve never cooked one before. So we are going to break down all the steps you need to know so you can confidently know How to Roast a Turkey for Thanksgiving using our Herb and Citrus Turkey recipe with gravy.

Here’s what you need to Roast a Turkey:

  • 1 -12 to 14 lb turkey, defrosted
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh Herbs: Sage, Parsley, Thyme
  • Butter
  • Citrus: Oranges and Lemon
  • Garlic
  • Turkey or Chicken Stock

Thanksgiving Turkey

Let’s talk about the turkey!

Let’s get down to business and start with what kind of turkey you should buy. Hands down the best tasting turkey is going to be from your local trusted farm or meat share. Yes, they are definitely more expensive but it is so worth it to buy better quality and better tasting meat. You should look in to this as soon as possible as people tend to order these birds ahead of time. If you don’t have a source locally, you can seek out a good quality bird, preferable organic and heritage breed. You can buy fresh or frozen, but if you are buying frozen make sure you leave it in your refrigerator to thaw for 1 full day for every 5 pounds. An average turkey is about 12-14 pounds, which would need 3 days! Make sure to place the turkey in a container that will catch any exuding liquid.

Thanksgiving Turkey

Do you have to brine a turkey before cooking it?

No! But we like to! Our brining method doesn’t involve dunking the whole turkey in a salted water bath though! We love to infuse the turkey with extra flavor (our recipe usescitrus and herb) and moisture (via salt) but find it easiest to use a dry brine method. See below and the recipe on how exactly we do it!

How to Prepare a Turkey for Roasting

You’ll want to start the day before to dry brine the turkey. First you remove the giblets and neck, then you dry off the turkey as best you can. Season the cavity generously! Like, really, use more salt than you think. Then rub the citrus herb butter under the skin and on top of the skin. Stuff your remaining citrus, herbs and garlic inside of the turkey and truss it up. To truss it you simply tuck the wings underneath so they do not burn, and then tie together the legs with kitchen twine.

Baked turkey recipe with all the fixings

Should You Stuff Before Baking a Turkey?

We do not recommend stuffing a turkey. While many people may have strong feelings on this, stuffing a turkey forces you to cook it longer than the turkey needs so that you can bring the stuffing up to a safe temperature. We’d rather have a properly cooked bird and separately (and safely) cooked stuffing. We have our traditional Easy Gluten-Free Turkey Stuffing recipe, or our new Gluten Free Cornbread Stuffing.

How to Roast a Turkey

We like to give the turkey a big blast of heat in the beginning of the cooking time to get a nice crisp skin. We start the turkey off at 450ºF for 30 minutes and then reduce heat to finish cooking at 325ºF for a total cooking time of about 2-1/2 to 3 hours. Make sure to baste the turkey every so often (about every 45 minutes) with a turkey baster or a pastry brush, and cover the turkey with aluminum foil if the skin is getting to crispy, but we didn’t find this to be necessary at the lower cooking temperature.

We use our Thermapen in the kitchen every day, but there is no greater day to own one of these than turkey cooking day. It’s a little bit of an investment, but it lasts nearly forever and it is a surefire way to know that a big bird like this is done. To tell if a turkey is done insert and instant-read Thermapen thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone. It should read 165ºF and the juices that run out of the bird after you remove the thermometer should be clear, as opposed to pink.

Best oven roasted turkey recipe for thanksgiving

How to Carve a Turkey

It’s best to wear a pair of kitchen gloves and have a clean kitchen towel or paper towels handy during carving as there tends to be some juice that runs out while you are carving. Basically aside from the breast meat you always want to deconstruct the bird at the joint. A perfectly cooked turkey will be easy to deconstruct because the joints will break apart easily. We like to remove the pieces in this order:

  1. Breast meat
  2. Drumsticks
  3. Wings
  4. Thigh meat
  5. Extra meat left on the bones

How to Make a Gravy from Pan Juices

For this recipe we are basically just doubling our Easy Gluten Free Gravy with additional steps on how to get the juices!

  1. You first want to get the fat separated from the broth.
  2. Then you measure out the remaining broth and add turkey stock until you get the correct amount of liquid.
  3. Then you cook a portion of the skimmed fat with cornstarch and add the remaining broth and stock.

Thanksgiving TurkeyTools we used in this recipe:

Check out some other Thanksgiving related posts:


How to Roast a Thanksgiving Turkey (with Herbs and Citrus)

Prep Time 00:25 Cook Time 03:00 Inactive Time 12:00 Total Time 15:25 (includes bringing) Serves 8


  • 1 -12 to 14 lb turkey,
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 small bunch of sage 
  • 1 small bunch parsley 
  • 1 small bunch thyme
  • ½ cup grass-fed butter, softened
  • 2 oranges, zested and sliced into 4 pieces each
  • 2 lemons, zested and sliced into 4 pieces each
  • 1 head garlic, sliced whole horizontally
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 - 3 cups turkey broth, divided
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch


The day/night before:

  1. Prepare the herbs by finely dicing 1 tablespoons of each sage and parsley and picking 1 tablespoon of thyme leaves. Set aside the remaining herbs.
  2. In a small bowl mash together softened butter, chopped sage and parsley and picked thyme leaves, zest of lemons and oranges and 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of ground black pepper and set aside.
  3. To prepare the bird: Remove the neck and the giblets from inside the turkey and discard or save for another use. Place the turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan and using paper towels dry the skin. Gently run your fingers underneath the skin of the turkey breast to separate it as far back as you can, without breaking through the skin. Dry in between with a paper towel. Generously season the cavity of the bird with salt and pepper. 
  4. Rub half of citrus and herb butter underneath the skin of the turkey breast as far back as you can and rub the remaining all over the top of the bird. Season again the outside of the bird generously with salt and pepper.
  5. Stuff the cavity with the remaining lemon wedges, orange wedges, horizontally sliced garlic head and herbs as much as you can fit. 
  6. Truss the turkey by tucking the wings underneath the turkey and tie together the legs with kitchen twine as tightly as you can.
  7. Transfer the turkey to the refrigerator, uncovered, overnight or for a maximum of 24 hours

The day of:

  1. Take the turkey out of the refrigerator an hour before you plan to roast it.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 450ºF.
  3. Add 4 cups of water to the bottom of the roasting pan.
  4. Bake the turkey, uncovered for 30 minutes.
  5. Reduce the heat to 325ºF and continue to bake. Bast the turkey occasionally and add any broth to make sure the liquid stays about 1/4" high, if needed. Cover the top with aluminum foil if the turkey is browning too quickly.  Roast until the turkey is cooked through (with an instant-read thermometer registering 165ºF in the thickest part of the turkey), for about  2-1/2 to 3 hours total. (see note)
  6. Once done, let the turkey rest for a least an hour.

To make the gravy:

  1. When cool enough to handle tip any juices from the cavity of the bird into the roasting pan and set bird aside on a cutting board to cool, tented with foil. Set the roasting pan and accumulated juices over two medium flames, add 1 cup of water and scrape up any browned bits from the pan.
  2. Carefully strain out the broth into a large glass measuring cup or medium glass bowl and place in the refrigerator to separate the fat from the broth. You should have about at least 2 cups of broth.
  3. Once cooled down, the fat should rise to the top and you should be able to separate most of it out. Reserve 3 tablespoons of fat and discard the rest. Measure out the remaining broth and add turkey stock until you get 4 cups total of liquid.
  4. In a medium sauce pan add 3 tablespoons fat and whisk in cornstarch.  Slowly whisk in broth/stock until it is nice and smooth and bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To carve the turkey:

  1. It's best to wear a pair of kitchen gloves and have a clean kitchen towel or paper towels handy during carving. With a carving knife and tongs remove the breast meat first by carving it out. Slice the breast meat across the grain and lay on a platter.
  2. Slice through the skin of the drumsticks and bend them back until you can cut through the joint. Set on platter.
  3. Flip the bird over slice through the skin on the wing and bend back until they break, and cut them off.
  4. Cut the thigh meat toward you and bend back until the joint is exposed and cut through it to remove it. Cut the bone and all the joints out of it, and then slice through the meat against the grain, like you do the breast meat.
  5. Pick off any remaining meat from the bird and set aside for leftovers the next day, or to serve.

Recipe Notes

  1. To baste the turkey either use a turkey baster, or use a pastry brush.
  2. We truly recommend a high quality instant-read thermometer, like the Thermapen. It's a little bit of an investment, but it lasts forever and it is a surefire way to know that a big bird like this is done. To tell if a turkey is done insert and instant read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone. It should read 165ºF and the juices the run out of the bird after you remove the thermometer should be clear.
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Lastly, where do we get our turkey?

  • ButcherBox
  • Order by 11/17 to get it free!
  • How to order? Click here & get a free turkey with your first box!
  • Three different box size options!
  • Their turkeys are humanely raised on family farms in a stress-free environment. They are never given antibiotics or growth hormones and are fed only a vegetarian diet.

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