Butter And Herb Roast Turkey

October 6, 2011

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday -- I slow-bake an 18-20 pound turkey at 325°F in my huge granite ware pan. The turkey is cooked with the steam that builds up in the pan, and then basted and finished on high heat to crisp and brown the skin. The meat is tender and juicy and very tasty. I don't load the compound butter with lots of garlic and herbs, just enough to flavor the turkey very delicately. The picture is of a chicken made following the recipe. sdebrango

Food52 Review: I've roasted no more than three or four turkeys over the last 10 years; we discovered frying them and were hooked. When I saw this recipe, however, I was intrigued, roast a turkey and not baste it? How could that be? Well, it was amazing! I took the liberty of roasting a 14-pounder, cut the roasting time a bit and used only about 3/4 of the compound butter (which is truly amazing in its self). I struggled to keep from peeking and basting, but followed sdebrango's directions and just cranked up the heat and basted with the compound butter once. What resulted was moist breast meat, succulent dark meat and somewhat crispy skin. This one's a keeper!!! - inpatskitcheninpatskitchen

Serves: 10 or more


Compound butter

  • 16 tablespoons salted butter at room temperature
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme leaves removed
  • 3 chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest


  • 1 18-20 pound turkey
  • Compound butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
In This Recipe


Compound butter

  1. Crush garlic with mortar and pestle with a pinch of salt.
  2. Remove the leaves of thyme from the stalk, add thyme and sage and lemon zest and crush it all together.
  3. In small mixing bowl, add the softened butter and garlic and herb mixture mix together.
  4. If you are going to insert the turkey right away, don't refrigerate -- if not, roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before you add to the turkey.
  5. WARNING!! If you use a graniteware pan the turkey cooks very quickly. Depending on the size of the bird you should start checking for doneness after a couple of hours. My 19.25 lb turkey was completely done at 3.5 hours. If you use a roasting pan and foil the cooking time is a bit more. My big bird was ready to brown and crisp at 3 hours. All of this depends on individual ovens as temps vary and the size of the bird.


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Put turkey on work surface and make sure it's clean and dry. Insert fingers under skin to loosen the skin from the breast meat. Work slowly so you don't tear the skin.
  3. Spread a generous amount of the compound butter under the skin on both sides of the breast. (Reserve a small amount of the compound butter to baste the turkey when you brown the skin.)
  4. Using butchers twine, bind the legs together and place the turkey on a rack in your roasting pan.
  5. Rub the turkey with some olive oil and generously salt and pepper the entire turkey. (I like to do this the night before baking refrigerating overnight, if you do this let sit at room temperature for an hour before placing in the oven). Place lid on pan and put into the oven. No basting required!
  6. After 3 hours, check the internal temperature of your turkey by inserting a thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh. When it has reached an internal temperature of 150°F, remove from the oven, and brush the turkey with the remaining compound butter. Crank up the oven to 450°F. Put back in the oven without the lid and let it roast until the skin is a nice golden brown. The internal temperature should be 160°F when you remove from the oven. Total cooking time for an 18-20 pound turkey is 4-4 1/2 hours approximately. Let turkey rest for at least 30 minutes tented with foil and final temperature should be 165°F-170°F.
  7. Note: If you don't have a roaster with a lid just tent with aluminum foil, making sure its sealed well around the pan.

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Reviews (34) Questions (4)

34 Reviews

mjmuller November 20, 2018
Does a brined turkey effect anything more than the salt levels?
Author Comment
sdebrango November 20, 2018
A brined turkey would work fine in my opinion. It would be even juicier. You are correct that the only difference would be the salt level. Happy Thanksgiving and hope you enjoy. One thing you might have more liquid than normal because the turkey is brined. You may want to check half way through cooking and if it looks like it’s too much remove some.
mjmuller November 20, 2018
Thanks a ton! Happy Thanksgiving to you too.
Kathryn L. August 23, 2018
I’ve never heard of graniteware pans or pans that have lids big enough to bake a 20 pound turkey in. Where can I find one? Are they still sold? What are they made of? Thank you so much for your help!
Author Comment
sdebrango August 27, 2018
Hi Kathryn, Graniteware are the best. I absolutely love and have assorted sizes. Yes you can purchase them google graniteware and you can buy directly from the company or from another source. I ordered mine directly from graniteware http://graniteware.com/covered-roasting-pans/
Kathryn L. August 27, 2018
Thank you for the information! I’ll look them up.
Author Comment
sdebrango August 27, 2018
Enjoy, you will see that the turkey will brown in the pan with the lid on and it roasts very quickly. I always make a 18-20 lb turkey and it is done in just over 3 hours. It’s amazing and frees the oven for other things.
Transcendancing December 27, 2016
We increased the herb amounts quite a lot but this was a great recipe for our Christmas Turkey - bird was flavourful and moist, so delicious. Thank you!
D L. December 4, 2016
I just made this bird yesterday for my family's belated Thanksgiving dinner (my sister just got back from out of the country). It was the first whole turkey I've ever made, and it went perfectly! My family members all said it was one of the best turkeys they'd ever had.

I didn't have any granite ware or even roasting pans, so I stuffed my bird into my dutch oven, covered it with foil, and set the pan on the top a little askew. Uncovered it for the last 40-60 minutes. It was really delicious, thank you for sharing this recipe!
Sharon November 24, 2016
Help, i have a 12lb bird. I am using this recipe except I will be stuffing it and roasting in an open pan. How long should I cook it?
Sharon November 25, 2016
We did cover with foil during roasting. We cooked at the lower temp until it reached 155. Took it out for approx. 30 min. to cook other things, then finished it at the higher temp. Turned out wonderful. Several years ago I tried the upside down method with a larger turkey and it came out beautiful. Thanks.
gisele P. November 10, 2016
Got it...and one last question (hopefully!)...what time adjustments would you make for a 22 pound turkey? Thank you so much!
gisele P. November 9, 2016
Thank you Suzanne for the quick response! For your 18-20 pd turkeys what size roaster would you recommend? 18-19-21"? Thanks so much!
gisele P. November 9, 2016
Can anyone recommend a brand for a granite ware roaster? Thanks...
Traveler November 9, 2015
I have not used anything but a granite ware roaster in all my years of making turkeys. Always turns out beautifully. I usually use a baster to squirt brandy underneath the skin and insert bay leaves on the breast to make a flower-like design under the skin. I also roast with the breast down until the last hour or so. Then I turn it over to get the breast brown. That way the turkey bastes itself with the juices flowing down. I think this year I will try the compound butter
Gabbie T. November 29, 2013
I made my first turkey yesterday using this recipe and it came out excellent! I made the 14 pound bird exactly as the recipe says and it took about 4 hours to cook. We all commented how juicy the bird was and how tasty the compound butter was. Thank you for such a wonderful recipe!
Virginia W. November 24, 2013
My first turkey was from "The Joy of Cooking," and the recipe was great, easy and juicy. Gravy from the gizzards and dressing not inside the turkey but cooked in a pan for an hour, with lots of pecans. Turkey was wrapped over the breast with a thin cloth which was great. I basted it a few times and the cloth did the rest. If you can find the original JOY use that recipe.
sharij December 1, 2012
Disaster! We followed the instructions, and after 3 hours the internal temperature of the turkey was 200 degrees! Not only that, but there were 4 cups of turkey juice sitting on the bottom of the granite ware (we made lots of gravy). We dry brined the bird for 3 days before, so maybe the combination was the cause of the disaster, but it's back to the drawing board for us!
TheWimpyVegetarian November 16, 2012
Congrats on the CP!!! I'm not a huge turkey eater, but I love the simplicity of your technique. I would bet that cooking it covered keeps it more moist?? And your compound butter looks like a great one to always have around in the freezer!
karen C. November 11, 2012
not regarding cooking, just that your recipes are becoming increasingly difficult to print. Many of ingredients are in lighter print and come out almost indistinguishable. What's going on? HAVE REALLY ENJOYED YOUR SIGHT OTHERWISE.
EmilyC November 9, 2012
Many congrats on the CP, sdebrango! I SO want to try this method with a turkey, but in the meantime, I may make the full amount of compound butter and use it on several roast chickens. Yum! Great recipe!
Kukla November 9, 2012
Congratulations on the CP Suzanne!! I love the low and slow and your compound butter has all my favorite flavors.
AntoniaJames November 8, 2012
Congrats on the CP! I've never done a turkey this way. Your recipe sounds so delicious! ;o)
Madhuja November 8, 2012
Oh, yum! What a simple but delicious recipe!
drbabs October 16, 2012
Yum, I love compound butter.
inpatskitchen October 16, 2012
Oh I loved this then and still love it and have made it a few times during the course of the year. The compound butter is amazing!