Thanksgiving Turkey – Best Roast Turkey Ever

**Updated 11/27/2015**

I just used this recipe to cook my annual Thanksgiving dinner that I cook every year and realized this recipe wasn’t helpful! It assumes you’ve made a turkey every year and just intrinsically knew how to cook one. I’ve updated the overview and step by step instructions.

I will start by saying that this is actually more simple than it sounds. You put rinse a completely thawed turkey with water, put it on a roasting pan, put it in the oven and baste it every hour until it’s done.

Of course, the devil is in the details. Just how moist and flavorful it is depends on the process.This is the one time each year that I pretty much make a feast this size.

And much like my coveted Hydrox pudding dessert, I greatly look forward to this turkey.

It’s all about the turkey gravy that is made with the drippings from this turkey.

The juices and drippings in the bottom of the pan are what make the gravy phenomenal.

*Mental notes (aka- Lessons Learned):

Don’t forget to thaw the turkey at least five days in advance in the refrigerator. (Check turkey package for “time to thaw” because it depends on the size of turkey.) You can’t actually buy a frozen turkey on Thanksgiving (or the day before) and have it ready for Thanksgiving afternoon. These suckers take a long time to thaw. And you’re not supposed to thaw it at room temperature!

Have all the ingredients already out because this is a messy process.

Helpful tools: Turkey roasting pan, turkey lifters (they’re helpful, but we usually just use big potholders to lift turkey from roasting pan to turkey platter), turkey platter or large surface to carve turkey, carving knife, baster, fat separator (for the gravy), aluminum foil to cover turkey while roasting, and roasting string to tie the legs together,

The basting liquid (broth/wine/orange juice mixture) at the bottom of the pan evaporates significantly during this process. Excess is used to make the delicious gravy.

For cooking time, determine when you want to serve the turkey and work backwards. If you want to eat a big (20lb+) Thanksgiving turkey BEFORE the big football game at 1:30pm, then you are starting your day about 5-6:00am. Assuming that most of the holiday dinner dishes were made the day before. Especially if you only have one oven. Prep is about about 30 minutes. Cooking time is about 5 hours – depending on weight. Post-cooking “rest” time is about 20-30 minutes.

Save the turkey carcass to make homemade turkey soup (just boil until all the meat falls off, drain out the meat and other pieces, add meat back into broth and season to taste), don’t accidentally cut through the wish bone when prepping for soup, and don’t let the turkey cool so long that it’s actually cold when you serve it!

Thanksgiving Turkey - Best Roast Turkey Ever

6-8 servings


  • 20 lb Turkey - completely thawed (looks for "gluten free" on the package)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbsp kosher salt (to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 lemons - medium size
  • 4 Tbsp butter, sliced into tablespoons
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth (or water)
  • 1/3 cup melted butter


  • Pre-heat oven to 325 deg F
  • Have a large roasting pan and rack ready to receive the turkey (see photo).
  • Put completely thawed turkey in clean sink. Rinse turkey inside and out with lukewarm water. Make sure and check both the body cavity and the NECK cavity for giblets, plastic turkey handles and the removed neck. Discard (unless you have a plan to cook with those pieces).
  • Drain any excess water and pat turkey dry with a paper towel (inside and out). Rub the oil all over both sides of the turkey. Don't forget the drumsticks and wings.
  • Mix the kosher salt, garlic powder, fresh ground pepper together in small bowl. Massage spice mixture all over turkey, front and back.
  • Squeeze the lemons all over the turkey and then place inside the turkey cavity.
  • Place the turkey, breast side up, on the rack. Tie the legs together with roasting string. (If there's enough skin by the legs of the turkey, you can also just tuck the legs under the skin as show in picture above.)
  • Place the four pats (individual tablespoons) of butter under the turkey breast skin. (The skin can be separated from the large body opening and you can push the butter between meat and skin with your fingers.)
  • Whisk together the remaining ingredients of orange juice, white wine, broth/water and melted butter. Add to the bottom of roasting pan. Place on bottom rack of oven.
  • Cover breast area loosely with an aluminum foil tent. Make sure to cover the wings tightly with separate little pieces of foil because they tend to darken quickly.
  • Start the timer for one hour and baste every hour. To baste the turkey, slide turkey out of oven slightly, uncover, use the baster and suck the juices out of the bottom of the pan and squirt all over turkey. Work quickly because you are letting heat out of the oven.
  • Baking time is determined by the size of the turkey. Check the outside label for cooking time. Turkey is done when thermometer is inserted into the thigh (not touching the bone) and reads 165 deg F. Approximately 5-5.5 hours for a 20lb turkey.
  • Let the turkey "rest" for 15-20 minutes out of the oven when done baking. Move Turkey to turkey platter or large cutting board to cut. You can use turkey lifters (huge forks that come with expensive roasting pans), a twine net underneath the turkey, or two potholders that you don't mind having to wash.
Prep Time: 20 - 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 3 - 4 Hours
Total Time: 3:20 - 4 Hours 30 Minutes
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  1. [...] from this terrific gravy depends entirely on what you baste the turkey with while roasting. (see Thanksgiving Turkey recipe) Turkey Gravy [...]


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