Butter And Herb Roast Turkey

October  6, 2011
Photo by James Ransom
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

Test Kitchen Notes

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!!! - inpatskitchen —inpatskitchen

  • 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
  • Turkey
  • 1 18-20 pound turkey
  • Compound butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
In This Recipe
  1. Compound butter
  2. Crush garlic with mortar and pestle with a pinch of salt.
  3. Remove the leaves of thyme from the stalk, add thyme and sage and lemon zest and crush it all together.
  4. In small mixing bowl, add the softened butter and garlic and herb mixture mix together.
  5. 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.
  6. 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. Turkey
  2. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.)
  5. Using butchers twine, bind the legs together and place the turkey on a rack in your roasting pan.
  6. 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!
  7. 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.
  8. Note: If you don't have a roaster with a lid just tent with aluminum foil, making sure its sealed well around the pan.

See Reviews

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Transcendancing
  • Sharon
  • Virginia Waters
    Virginia Waters
  • TheWimpyVegetarian
  • karen capehart
    karen capehart
I have loved to cook for as long as I can remember, am self taught learning as I go. I come from a large Italian family and food was at the center of almost every gathering. My grandfather made his own wine and I remember the barrels of wine in the cellar of my grandfathers home, I watched my mother and aunts making homemade pasta and remember how wonderful it was to sit down to a truly amazing dinner. Cooking for me is a way to express myself its my creative outlet. I enjoy making all types of food but especially enjoy baking, I live in Brooklyn, NY, and I share my home with my two dogs Izzy and Nando. I like to collect cookbooks and scour magazines and newspapers for recipes. I hope one day to organize them.