Simple Roast Turkey


Recipe quick take:

  • Hands on time: 20 MIN
  • Inactive time: 3 HRS
  • Start to finish: 3 HR 20 MIN
  • Serves: 10

In a nutshell:

This just might be the simplest (and most delicious) roast turkey recipe out there. With only 20 minutes of prep before roasting, you'll have plenty of time to get your party good to go!

Turkey troubles are a real thing. If you’ve ever hosted Friendsgiving or of course Thanksgiving, you know the turkey is the main attraction. Although many people, myself included, are*all* about the side dishes. But still, it doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving without a turkey on the table. And if you’re like me, making the turkey is by far the most stressful part of the dinner.

How will I know it’s cooked through?
What if I wait too long and it’s completely dry?

Good news! Thanks to America’s Test Kitchen, I was able to get my hands on their Classic Roast Turkey recipe from their newest book, What Good Cooks Know. The cookbook is filled with really practical tips, product recs, and essential recipes. It’s perfect for a beginner cook wanting to understand more about cooking basics.

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Putting it to the testSimple Roast Turkey Recipe

Meet Corinne. Isn’t she lovely? Corinne is one of my best gal pals in San Francisco. She loves to bake cakes and other fancy desserts but had never roasted a turkey on her own before. To put America’s Test Kitchen’s recipe to the test, I asked Corinne if she’d be down to try it out and let me take a bunch of photos of her along the way. She said yes, and here we are!

But first, we brine

Brining the bird makes all the difference. It’s simple–we’ll post a tutorial on it soon. Place a fresh or thawed turkey in a large bucket, filled with a mixture of cold water, salt, and seasonings (peppercorns, garlic, thyme, etc). Make sure the bird is fully submerged, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Rinse the turkey with cold water before you prep it for roasting.

The salty brine helps the turkey stay moist and juicy. It’s like an insurance policy in case you overcook your turkey.

On to the recipe

America’s Test Kitchen’s recipe is written so that you could make your own gravy. Chop up some carrots, celery, and onion, then roast them on the bottom of the pan. They’ll soak up the drippings from the turkey. Then you use those cooked veggies to make a gravy, along with the turkey giblets and neck.

Some people swear by homemade gravy, while others have no shame in buying it. In fact, I just learned that Williams-Sonoma’s prepared gravy has a cult following. It’s apparently that good!

We modified the recipe to assume you were going to buy gravy or make it with just the pan drippings (not vegetables). So instead of using the veggies in the pan, we stuffed them right into the bird. The carrots, celery, onion, and thyme (aka aromatics) actually flavor the meat while inside the turkey. CK Tip: Save any leftover fresh thyme using our ice cube tray hack!

Simple Roast Turkey Recipe
Simple Roast Turkey Recipe

The most work involved in this recipe is 20 minutes of prep. The veggies are super roughly chopped so it should take a few minutes at most. And then you just lather the turkey with butter and pepper (no salt if you brined the turkey). The turkey roasts for an hour then gets flipped to roast for another 90 minutes or so.

In fact, we had so much time to kill while the bird was roasting, we baked a fun little cake for my favorite rapper on his birthday. Yep, we made a cake…for Drake.

How do you know when it’s done? The key is to use an instant-read thermometer and check the thickest part of the breast (160 degrees F) and thigh (175 degrees F). We’ve included the temperatures in the method below.

Simple Roast Turkey Recipe

Let it rest. No really.

Once you take the turkey out of the oven, you’ll be tempted to cut right into it. But don’t do it! Just like a steak, your turkey needs some time to let the juices settle into the meat. Otherwise cutting right into it will leave all the flavorful juices flooding out of your turkey. Then you’re dealing with a dry bird. Boo.

So what was the verdict? Corinne and I both agreed that this recipe was easy and totally doable, even for a first timer!

Simple Roast Turkey // gluten-free, paleo
Simple Roast Turkey // gluten-free, paleo

We’ve got a giveaway!

America’s Test Kitchen is giving away What Good Cooks Know to three lucky readers! Enter for a chance to win a copy, and earn even more entries if you follow us on Instagram and share this giveaway with your friends. And be sure to show us your holiday turkey! Tag your photo #confettikitchen on Instagram.

Simple Roast Turkey // gluten-free, paleo

What You Need

Simple Roast Turkey Recipe


Prep turkey.

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 425 degrees F. Line roasting pan rack with aluminum foil and poke several holes in foil. This makes it easier to clean up the rack when you’re done.

Pat turkey dry with paper towels and position breast side up. Make sure to remove the neck and giblets (usually in a bag inside the turkey). You can use them to make gravy or discard.

Add aromatics.

Peel and quarter the onion. Cut the carrot and celery into 2-inch pieces. Stuff the turkey with the chopped vegetables and fresh thyme sprigs. Use kitchen twine to tie the turkey’s legs together, and tuck its wings under.

Butter up turkey.

Use a kitchen pastry brush (or your hands) to apply half of the softened butter on the turkey, and season with freshly ground black pepper. You can even add some butter under the skin for an extra golden turkey. Add salt unless you brined your turkey. Lay the turkey on the rack breast side down. Coat the turkey with remaining butter. If using your hands be careful about cross contamination and always wash your hands with hot water and soap after handling the turkey.


Roast the turkey for 1 hour. Remove the turkey from the oven, and use clean dish towels or wads of paper towels to flip the turkey breast side up. Continue to roast the turkey until the thickest portion of the breast registers 160 degrees F and the thigh register 175 degrees F on your instant-read thermometer. This should take about 1-1/2 hours.

Rest and serve!

When the turkey is done roasting, transfer it to a large cutting board and let rest for 30 minutes. Reserve the pan drippings if you’re making gravy. Carve turkey, and serve!

Recipe notes

Brining makes it better. We suggest brining your turkey before using it in this recipe. Brining is super easy and makes for a really juicy turkey. It requires some planning (and a large bucket) but it’s so worth it!



Don't have: Try:
Thyme Rosemary
Carrot or Celery Apple, or lemon + garlic


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