Basic Roast Turkey

In sifting through my “Thanksgiving” recipe cache I keep, I chose this recipe for turkey because it was so simple. I’ve made an herb-roasted turkey. I’ve done a dry-brined kosher turkey. I made roast turkey stuffed with herbs and veggies and brined beforehand. I overcooked some turkey legs in a crock pot one year. I baked a mile-high a ground-turkey “Shepherd’s Pie” once. And this year I wanted to go super simple and classic. Just a basic roast turkey which is what you see here.

My grandma clipped this recipe from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; it was published in 2013. This recipe is as good as any and was super easy. You just brush melted butter all over it (and I added some seasoning on top) and roast over a low-heat for a few hours, basting every 45 minutes. It’s basically a slam-dunk.


  • 1 12 to 18 lb. fresh (or previously frozen, thawed) turkey
  • 2 c. broth or water (I used chicken broth)
  • Melted butter
  • Herbs and seasonings (I used crushed rosemary, salt and pepper)

kitchen tools.

  • Roasting pan
  • Roasting rack
  • Turkey baster (or spoon)
  • Thermometer (most turkeys come with a button that pops out when the turkey is done these days)


  1. Remove the turkey from its wrapper or brine bag, drain its juices and pat dry with a paper towel. Check the body and neck cavity to remove the packaging and giblets. (I somehow removed the neck but failed to remove the bag of giblets so check both sides of the turkey.)
  2. Be sure the turkey’s legs are in a tucked position for even cooking. Many birds these days come with a plastic ring around the legs that keeps them in the correct position. If yours doesn’t, you can secure with some cooking twine. Place the bird onto the roasting rack breast-side up. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  3. Brush the turkey with butter. This ensures a brown and crispy skin; sprinkle with seasonings and/or herbs. Pour the 2 cups of broth or water into the roasting pan and place the turkey in the oven.
  4. Every 45 minutes, remove turkey from oven and use the baster (or a spoon) to scoop liquid drippings from the pan and drizzle over the whole turkey. This has the effect of cooling the turkey’s surface and helps keep the breast and thigh meat cooking at the same rate. A bird between 12 and 18 pounds will take approximately 3 to 4 ¼ hours to roast. If your bird has a red button stuck in the breast, it will pop out when the turkey is done but you can check the temperature to be certain.
  5. When checking the turkey’s temperature, check in three places: the breast, outer thigh and inside thigh. The meat should reach a minimum of 165 degrees in the thigh; 180 degrees, breast.
  6. Once the meat is cooked to the appropriate temperature, remove it from the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or platter to sit. (Save the juices from the roasting pan to use in the gravy if you’re making gravy. Who doesn’t make gravy?)
  7. Tent the turkey with aluminum foil for 20 to 30 minutes so that the meat firms and juices are re-absorbed. Carve the turkey, sort the meats and display on your platter and serve.

Refrigerate leftover turkey (and other Thanksgiving dishes) within two hours of the turkey’s carving time to ensure food safety. Eat leftovers stored in the refrigerator within 3 to 4 days (or freeze up to 4 to 6 months). Turkey leftovers are the first to go in my house. I swear the dogs eat more turkey than I do!

Recipe rating: 

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