turkey recipe in oven

Turkey Recipe in Oven

Make an EASIER, modern turkey recipe in oven. See how to roast a traditional juicy turkey. Lots of tips, times, etc.

How to Make this Whole Perfect Roast Turkey Recipe in Oven

Plan this Turkey Recipe in Oven now. Whether you’re planning for a perfect Thanksgiving turkey recipe, for Christmas, or just for regular dinner, this kind of main course always requires a good plan ahead of time. Once you buy a frozen 12-20 pound turkey, you’ll need 2-3 days just to thaw it out in the fridge. And there’s more to the planning than that so, keep reading for important details and tips. And you can jump to the recipe now to look it over.

This is a classic, traditional whole turkey recipe for the oven without dressing. It uses minimal steps and work.
turkey oven recipe

turkey oven recipe

Roast Turkey Recipe in Oven

Jeff Baygents
This is a classic, traditional whole turkey recipe for the oven without dressing. It uses minimal steps and work.
5 from 1 vote
Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 4 hrs 15 mins
Total Time: 4 hrs 30 mins
Servings 10 servings
Calories 358kcal


1 Roasting Pan An additional Roasting Rack is optional
1 Turkey Baster Or use a large serving spoon
1 meat thermometer for checking internal temperature


  • 16 lb turkey whole (includes bone); we use Butterball.
  • ½ lb bacon strips optional
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 6 cups water before baking
  • 4 cups water hot, for last 1-2 baking hours


  • Preparing Turkey
    Wash hands and clean out a sink. Then, place the unopened, thawed turkey in the sink.
    Remove any packaging outside and inside of turkey. Check both turkey ends to remove any bags and innards/organs.
    16 lb turkey
  • Rinse the turkey inside and out. Place it on a cutting board or into a roaster pan (or on a rack contained in the roaster pan). Pat the outer turkey dry with paper towels.
  • Lightly grease the outside of the turkey. Can rub using uncooked bacon strips, bacon drippings, shortening, or vegetable oil.
  • Rub salt and pepper onto the outside of the turkey. Then, lay the uncooked bacon strips across the entire turkey.
    ½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp Ground Black Pepper, ½ lb bacon strips
  • Pour the initial water into the roaster pan. If not there already, place the optional rack, and then turkey, into the pan.
    6 cups water
  • Cooking Turkey
    Remove oven shelves, except 1, which should be on the bottom or next to the bottom level. Start oven to preheat to 325°F.
  • Add the uncovered turkey roaster pan to preheated oven on bottom/low shelf. In 1 hour, baste the turkey the first time. Repeat basting every 30 minutes.
    After 2-1/2 hrs in oven, remove bacon strips, cover leg ends with foil, pour final water in pan, baste once, resume cooking, and repeat basting every 30 minutes.
    4 cups water
  • After about 4 hours (or 12-15 mins per lb @325°F), or when internal temperature is 160°F, remove roaster pan, remove foil from leg ends, give final basting, and let it rest for 30 minutes. Internal temp will rise to be least 165°F. After rest is done, carve and serve.


There is about 44% of cooked meat from a whole turkey.  That accounts for cooking shrinkage and bone removal.



Planning To Have Turkey for Dinner

To properly plan to make the turkey, just look over the recipe instruction and confirm you have all these items. Some items might be optional but it’s great if you have all these.

  • ingredients from recipe
  • equipment
  • any tools called for

You’ll definitely want a turkey baster (or you can use a large serving spoon). Also, ensure you have a roasting pan big enough to match the turkey size you’ll buy. Or, it can be a cheap foil roasting pan. You’ll also want to have a “meat thermometer” to check the internal temperature of the turkey (or any future meat) for doneness.

Do You Need a Roaster for This Recipe to Bake Turkey?

placing turkey into roasting pan
Placing turkey into roasting pan

While you may not need a roasting pan, it definitely helps, as you need it to whole basting water. They are also sold as foil pans and they’re made just for this perfectly. If you do get a permanent roasting pan, try to also get one with a rack. This will let you place the turkey on a roasting rack that will keep it raised out of the basting water. It will help help you towards a perfectly cooked turkey.

What Size Turkey to Buy?

The size of turkey (we prefer Butterball) to buy will depend on these 4 things:

  1. The size of the roaster pan you’ll be using
  2. The number of people you’re serving
  3. Will everyone eat white and dark meat?
  4. How much leftover turkey you want to have

How Much Turkey to Plan Per Person?

For whole (with bone), you usually plan on buying about 1⅓ pounds of turkey per person minimum. I go with 2 lbs per person so that I won’t run out of white meat preferences and there will be leftovers. Know that this means purchased pounds, not final serving of cooked meat. We show the number of servings based on purchasing the best turkey size, and not the actual serving amount of cooked meat! Keep reading for that explanation.

PURCHASED SERVINGS NOTE: The purchased pounds per serving references the related portion of the entire whole raw turkey which includes the bone and uncooked meat. The actual, final cooked serving amount will be far less than that. So, we utilize a higher realistic amount of cooked turkey to be around 9 ounces per serving the final product.

How can I save on buying a turkey?

There are 2 ways to save money when buying a turkey. Here are both ways.

First way to save on turkey buying

About 2-3 weeks before Thanksgiving and Christmas, they will go on sale in many places (aka “Price Leader”) for at least half price (and sometimes even better).

Second way to save on turkey buying

You get more meat per pound if you get a larger turkey. That’s because turkeys have a higher meat percentage than bone, the larger they grow.

How much white meat vs dark meat should I plan?

Since most people prefer white meat, you might want to increase the size of the turkey to allow for that. Turkeys are about 70/30 on white/dark meat.

So, here’s a guide list that has a lower and higher number of servings. The lower servings number allows for individual preferences and leftovers. And the higher servings number is the absolute maximum where you’ll run out of white meat and have no leftovers.

  • 12 lb turkey serves 6-9
  • 13 lb turkey serves 6-10
  • 14 lb turkey serves 7-10
  • 15 lb turkey serves 7-11
  • 16 lb turkey serves 8-11
  • 17 lb turkey serves 8-12
  • 18 lb turkey serves 9-13
  • 19 lb turkey serves 9-14
  • 20 lb turkey serves 10-14

What If Your Turkey Is Still Frozen?

The majority of recipes are designed for thawed turkeys but, if it’s still frozen, you’ll want to plan ahead to get it safely thawed out. Keep reading to learn about thawing out in the fridge. There is another old fashioned way of thawing it out in a sink. You can put it into a (cleaned) sink full of regular, cold tap water (not hot). The turkey needs to be completely covered in the water to retain a safe, cold temp. As the water gets colder from the turkey naturally, you’ll want to drain the water every hour and replace it. I never go past 3 hours of doing this. If it’s thawed out enough to remove the inner bags from the cavity, you’re good to go. You can then use warm running water to assist and to speed up thawing the inside of the turkey so you can finish prepping it right away. Keep reading to see the normal, proper way to thaw out a turkey.

How Long To Thaw Out a Frozen Turkey In The Fridge

You can thaw out a turkey the safest way by leaving it in the fridge for 2-3 days. If you have a lot of refrigerator “traffic”, it might not take as long. But, usually a 10-14 lb turkey takes about 2 days, and a larger 14-20 lb turkey will take 3 days.

How to Prepare a Turkey for Roasting in the Oven

While it seems like a lot of steps, the entire duration time is small and these steps act really like a simple checklist so you don’t forget something. Here’s the complete process to prep a turkey:

  1. Thaw out the turkey in the fridge (2-3 days usually).
  2. Wash your hands thoroughly and repeat several times during the prepping process.
  3. Clean out a sink, rinse it completely, and place the turkey in it.
  4. Remove the outer bag of the turkey and take note of the turkey weight.
  5. Undo the bound turkey legs and remove the innards/bags from the cavity of the turkey. There’s usually something on each end. There are the turkey neck and various organ innards.
  6. To reduce bacteria on the turkey, use running water to rinse outside and inside the turkey cavity entirely.
  7. Benefits Comments: You do not have to place the turkey to a cutting board. And you don’t have to tie the turkey legs together because this is a turkey without stuffing.
  8. Fold the wings under. That way you don’t need to cover them with foil.
  9. Set the turkey in the roasting pan (on its rack, if applicable), breast side up.
  10. Pat the turkey dry with a paper towel.
  11. Rub the skin of the turkey with an oil, bacon drippings, or butter.
  12. Rub the top of the turkey and sides with any seasonings.
  13. Pour the basting water into the roasting pan.
  14. Leave only 1 shelf in the oven and place it on the bottom or next to bottom level. Start to preheat the oven and let the turkey remain out until oven is ready.

Can I Prep the Turkey in Advance?

Yes, you can prepare the turkey ahead of time and return it to the fridge, covered in food plastic wrap (not foil). However, you generally shouldn’t do this further than 12 hours ahead of baking. And, if you do it in advance, make sure your turkey is left out of the fridge for at least 1/2 hour. You don’t want it too cold before putting the turkey into the oven.

What About Rinsing the Turkey?

While there are controversies over this on the Internet, I always follow a strict food safety protocol when handling raw poultry. This is done to prevent bacteria cross contamination. So, with that said, I always thoroughly wash my hands, clean out the sink very well, and then I rinse the turkey in that sink. I never use cloth towels and so I finish by making the turkey dry with paper towels.

Do I Use Salt and Pepper?

I use a little bit, as referenced in the recipe. As this is a basic, traditional recipe, it doesn’t have a lot of spices or frills.

How to Cook a Turkey: Questions and Tips

Below are some basic FAQ questions that include cook times and temps, oven shelf position, turkey covered or uncovered, knowing when the turkey is done, and others.

Best Cook Time and Temperature

Why Rest at Room Temperature before Baking?

With such a large meat item, it will help the cooking to occur more evenly if you do. The inside of the turkey is the last to thaw in the fridge so, it tends to usually be the colder area. Some people will actually not start to preheat the oven until after they’ve prepared the turkey. It’s a smart way and it permits that wait time to occur naturally. However, I don’t recommend it for longer than 1/2 hour, as you don’t want the outside of the turkey exposed a long time to room temperature. So, for final prepping, place turkey in the pan and follow all the recommended steps. And yes, this counts as rest time at room temperature.

How Long Should I Roast a Turkey in the Oven and is there a Time Table Per Pound of Turkey?

Yes, there’s a general idea of times to cook the turkey. This one here is based on a whole turkey (with bone) without stuffing at 325 degrees F. And it accounts for the recipe’s guide on adding water, removing bacon strips, and frequent basting. Also, understand that turkeys larger than this guide list might require more than 15 minutes per pound as they have a higher meat-to-bone ratio. On the other end of the scale, smaller turkeys are the reverse and might cook faster and closer to a 10-12 minutes per pound rate.

  • 325°F – 12 lb – 3 hours
  • 325°F – 13 lb – 3 hours & 15 mins
  • 325°F – 14 lb – 3 hours & 30 mins
  • 325°F – 15 lb – 3 hours & 45 mins
  • 325°F – 16 lb – 4 hours
  • 325°F – 17 lb – 4 hours & 15 mins
  • 325°F – 18 lb – 4 hours & 30 mins
  • 325°F – 19 lb – 4 hours & 45 mins
  • 325°F – 20 lb – 5 hours

Which Way to Place the Turkey in the Pan?

placing turkey into roasting pan
Placing turkey into roasting pan

The turkey should be placed in the pan with legs and breast sides on top.

What is the Desired Internal Temperature for Roast Turkey?

13 internal temp rose to 165 after rest
Internal temp rose to 165 after rest

The internal temp of the turkey is intended to be at 165⁰F. Some recipes will convey to remove a turkey before reaching that temp because it will continue to rise in temp after removal from the oven. This occurs during the resting stage after cooking.

Let Your Turkey Rest After Cooking

You want a juicy turkey, right? So, you remove the turkey from the oven. Since the turkey is cooked, it can remain in the pan as you let it rest. This is another part of the process that ensures your turkey will be moist on the inside and it’s before carving any of it. Most recipes will give a period of resting time, which is often between 10 to 30 minutes. We recommend a good 30 minutes.

How Do You Carve a Roast Turkey?

14 carving time
Carving time

After the resting time is over, you can carve the turkey any time within the next 30 minutes. With a large (carving) knife in one hand and a fork in the other, you traditionally will begin just a little off one of the breast sides of the turkey. But, the modern way is to now start by cutting downward of each leg. It doesn’t cut all the way, of course, but you’ll cut it down enough to get it a little out of the way for when you carve the breast meat, which is next. You’ll then carve off relatively thin slices of breast. After each slice, you’ll pierce it with the serving fork and serve it on an individual plate or you’ll place it onto a serving platter, where the remaining slices will also go.

Soon, you’ll be encountering slices that don’t pull away from the turkey after carving. This is when you’ll need to take the carving knife and adjust it to cut inward at the base of the immovable slice. You can actually go ahead and cut all along the base at that time so the next slices will be more easily removable.

What About Turkey Gravy?

You can use the basting juices to make your own gravy if you desire. Just make it like you would a white sauce. We typically just buy the Heinz turkey gravy in the jar. We tried many over the years and that one seems to be the best from your everyday grocery store.

Who Likes White Meat vs Dark Meat?

An American poll in 2018 showed that 41% prefer white meat, 17% dark meat, 32% liked both, 7% don’t eat turkey, and 3% picked the last category because none of the other categories applied. So, there’s that; LoL!

How Many Calories in Oven Roasted Turkey?

How many calories in oven roasted turkey? Here are the calories and nutritional values of turkey. They are overall values of the entire turkey and actually will vary, depending on which portions the servings are pulled from, e.g., the thigh vs the breast.

Nutrition Facts
Roast Turkey Recipe in Oven
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat
Trans Fat
Polyunsaturated Fat
Monounsaturated Fat
Vitamin A
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition Facts

What sides go with turkey?

The sides that go with turkey are countless. Here’s a list of some. And they’re all perfect for a Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas dinner, or a regular family dinner.

What to Do With Leftover Turkey

You can do a lot with leftover turkey. You can freeze it in food storage bags. It’s good for about 3 months. You can make classic turkey sandwiches with some mayo, salt, and pepper included. Adding lettuce, tomato, and provolone cheese makes it extra special.

You can also make turkey salad for sandwiches. Just use a chicken salad recipe but, using turkey as the meat, instead of chicken.

You can make it in a great Chef Salad, replacing the ham. If you add in some crumbled bacon and sliced hardboiled eggs, you’ll have a winner.

And yes, you can just heat up the turkey meat and have it as the main course in a dinner again!


So, you now have the newer foundation of this turkey recipe in oven with today’s updated traditional methods. You can now reduce steps, save time, plan better, and have been exposed to lots of tips to have a moist, tender turkey that everyone will enjoy. So, wait no longer, and start your turkey dinner plan.

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