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The Best Oven Baked Turkey Recipe – The Secrets To Moist & Tender Turkey

Now that we are on the countdown to our Thanksgiving celebration, I thought I would share my favorite oven baked turkey recipe. Moist and tender turkey that turns out perfect every time.

Although I know that there are several different ways to prepare the main dish for Thanksgiving dinner, this is the easiest method that will give you excellent results. And unlike all those other methods, there are few ingredients required and no special equipment that you need to purchase.

Instead, there are only 5 ingredients required to make the turkey mouth watering delicious. And I would bet that you already have them in your kitchen!

oven baked turkey carved
Moist and delicious oven baked turkey.

As much as I love to smoke all sorts of meat in our smoker, including Smoking A Turkey, not everyone will have the time or equipment to do so. And even though the outdoor deep frying method is still popular, that again requires specific equipment and safety regulations.

Instead, I would have to say that for most of us, baking a whole turkey in the oven is the preferred method of cooking the family dinner for Thanksgiving. However, instead of buying an injector kit to pierce liquid into the meat of the bird during the cooking process, I prefer to take a more natural and simplistic approach to making an oven roasted turkey.

Therefore, in this recipe, you will not find any crazy or special ingredients. Nor will you need to go out and buy a special dish, smoker, fryer, or injector kit.

Simply use what you have in your kitchen to make the most delicious turkey that you have ever had!

The Secrets To Moist Oven Baked Turkey

There are 4 simple secrets to making the best oven roasted turkey. And it all begins the night before you cook the turkey.

1. Brine The Turkey

In order to make the best turkey that you have ever had you must allow the thawed turkey to soak in the brine. Allowing the turkey to soak in a salt water bath overnight helps to break down the tissue in the meat.

Once the fibers break down the moisture can seep into the meat itself, making it extremely moist.

Brine can easily be made with a simple salt water bath. However, you could also add in a few other items to flavor the brine.

For instance, feel free to chop up an onion, celery, or even a lemon or two and add it to the water. The important step here is that before you bake your turkey in the oven that it has adequate time to soak in the brine.

turkey in brine
The first key to success is to brine the turkey overnight in a salt water mixture.

However, before you make the brine be sure that you have a large pot, container, or an available cooler to allow the bird to be completely submerged in the liquid. It is important that each section of the turkey has enough time in the brine to become nice and tender.

Once you remove the turkey from the brine, rinse it under cold water. This is the only time that you should ever rinse a turkey.

Be sure to rinse the entire bird, including the cavity. Then pat the skin and cavity dry with paper towels before proceeding to the next step.

2. Herb Butter Rub

Once the turkey has been removed from the brine and has been rinsed and dried there is one more step required before it is time to bake the turkey in the oven. In order for the meat to be extra moist and have great flavor, an herb butter mixture is applied underneath the skin.

Although it is a messy job, massaging the butter mixture directly on the surface of the turkey meat allows it to absorb additional flavor and moisture while it is roasting.

In addition, the butter contains fat and when it melts it will be absorbed directly into the meat. And this is especially important for the white meat of the breasts which can traditionally become dry when baked.

herb butter
Apply the butter right on top of the meat and then any leftover butter can be used on top of the skin.

3. Baste The Turkey

Now comes the debatable subject of whether or not you should baste a turkey. And the answer is yes!

Just like Grandma always used to do, use a turkey baster to baste your turkey during the cooking process. However, it is best to wait at least one hour before you open the oven door for the first time.

Then baste the turkey every 30 minutes after the first hour of cooking time with the drippings in the bottom of the roasting pan.

4. Let The Turkey Rest

Finally, the key to making the BEST oven baked turkey is letting the bird rest after you take it out of the oven.

This sometimes is the hardest part as your family and friends might be anxious for Thanksgiving dinner. However, allowing the bird to rest under the lid of the roasting pan or under aluminum foil will give the meat time to reabsorb liquid that has been expelled during the cooking process.

The average size turkey needs to rest for 20 minutes before it is carved. Therefore, use this time to continue to baste the turkey as it sits and use the remaining drippings to make Homemade Turkey Gravy.

The Best Oven Baked Turkey Recipe

*Complete recipe instructions including specific measurements, cook temperatures and times are located in a printable recipe card at the bottom of this article. However, be sure to keep reading for helpful tips and tricks when making this recipe.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 whole turkey, thawed
  • 1 cup Kosher salt
  • 1 cup of butter
  • 4 teaspoons dried sage
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped garlic
basting turkey
After the first hour of baking, baste the turkey every 30 minutes.

INSTRUCTIONS:

To make the brine

1. Boil 4 cups of water and add salt, stirring until dissolved. Add 8 cups of cold water to the mixture and let cool to room temperature.

2. Prepare thawed turkey by removing neck, tail, and giblets and save for broth if you would like.

3. Lower the turkey into a large pot, container or cooler lined with a food grade plastic bag. Add the brine to the container. If the whole turkey isn’t submerged, make more brine, cool, and add. Place the container in the refrigerator and cover for 8-12 hours.

*If you don’t have enough space in the refrigerator, add ice to the brine and ice frequently to keep the turkey cold.

Make the butter rub

Now it is time to make the herb butter rub. As mentioned before the butter will be applied directly on the meat of the turkey before it goes in the oven to bake.

In a food processor, add butter, sage, thyme, and garlic. Pulse until the mixture is smooth. If you don’t have a food processor, you can mix the herb butter by hand.

This mixture can be made up to 4 days ahead of time. Just be sure to store it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Then let it come to room temperature before applying it.

oven baked turkey
The turkey is ready to come out of the oven when the internal temperature reaches 160°F.

Prepare the turkey

Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Lift the turkey from brine and rinse under cold water. Pat the skin and cavity dry with paper towels.

Then slide your fingers between skin and flesh of turkey to make pockets of space at the breast, back, and leg areas.

Using your fingers, slide about half of the herb butter under the skin in all the pockets. Evenly spread the butter across the meat.

Then rub the remaining butter on the outer surface of the turkey. This will help the skin become nice and crisp.

Place the turkey on a roasting rack, breast side up. Tie the legs of the bird together with butcher’s twine and tuck the wing tips under.

Place the pan in the oven and let the turkey bake, uncovered for 1 hour. After the initial hour baste the turkey every 30 minutes with the pan drippings.

If the skin begins to brown too much, cover it with aluminum foil.

Continue to cook and baste until a meat thermometer inserted straight down through thickest part of breast and inner part of the thigh registers 160°F. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and let the bird rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.

Thanksgiving oven baked turkey
Be sure to let the turkey rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.

Average Cook Time for A Whole Turkey

*Cook time varies with size of turkey and individual ovens, however general timeframes are as follows:

  • 8-12 lb turkey: 2 3/4-3 hours
  • 12-14 lb turkey: 3- 3 3/4 hours
  • 14-18 lb turkey: 3 3/4 -4 1/4 hours
  • 18-20 lb turkey: 4 1/4 -4 1/2 hours
  • 20-24 lb turkey: 4 1/2 -5 hours

Enjoy!

Mary and Jim

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The BEST Oven Baked Turkey Recipe

oven roasted turkey

How to make an oven roasted turkey so that it turns out moist and delicious every time.

Ingredients

  • 1 whole turkey, thawed
  • 1 cup Kosher salt
  • 1 cup of butter
  • 4 teaspoons dried sage
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped garlic

Instructions

To make the brine

  1. Boil 1 qt. water and add salt, stirring until dissolved. Add 2 qts. of cold water and let cool to room temperature.
  2. Prepare thawed turkey by removing neck, tail, and giblets and save for broth if you would like.
  3. Lower turkey into a large pot/container (we use a food grade 5 gallon bucket). If whole turkey isn't submerged, make more brine, cool, and add. Place in refrigerator and cover at least 12 hours. *If you don't have enough space in the refrigerator, add ice to the brine and ice frequently to keep cool.

To make the butter rub

  1. In a food processor, add butter, sage, thyme, and garlic until smooth. *You can also do this by hand and up to 4 days ahead of time - storing in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

To prepare the turkey

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).
  2. Lift turkey from brine, rinse under cold water and pat dry.
  3. Slide your fingers between skin and flesh of turkey to make pockets of space at the breast, back, and leg areas.
  4. Using your fingers, slide about half of herb butter under skin in all the pockets. Rub remaining butter on the outer surface of the turkey.
  5. Place turkey on a roasting rack, breast side up. Tie legs and bend wing tips under.
  6. Roast turkey for one hour. Then baste every 30 minutes with pan drippings, until a meat thermometer inserted straight down through thickest part of breast and thigh registers 160°F.
  7. Remove the pan from the oven and let the turkey rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Notes

*Cook time varies with size of turkey and individual ovens - general timeframes are as follows: 8-12 lb turkey: 2 3/4-3 hours; 12-14 lb turkey: 3- 3 3/4 hours; 14-18 lb turkey: 3 3/4 -4 1/4 hours; 18-20 lb turkey: 4 1/4 -4 1/2 hours; 20-24 lb turkey: 4 1/2 -5 hours

Recipe courtesy of Old World Garden Farms

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

10

Serving Size:

1 grams

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 172Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 52mgSodium: 6196mgCarbohydrates: 1gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 1g

Nutritional Information is to be used as a general guideline only . Nutritional calculations will vary from the types and brands of the products used.

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