Can we all agree that no Thanksgiving is complete without the addition of a really, really good turkey? Well, my favorite recipe is here: the absolute best Thanksgiving turkey you’ll ever make!
It’s infused with a sweet maple butter that’s speckled with fresh herbs and garlic and roasted to golden brown, crispy skin perfection. Tender, moist (I said it) and absolutely amazing! Do you need this maple roasted turkey on your Thanksgiving table? The answer is an obvious YES! And with this simple guide, you’ll learn exactly how to make a whole roasted turkey plus all of my tips & tricks for success.
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Ingredients in this herb butter maple roasted turkey
You’ll only need a handful of super simple ingredients to make an incredible maple roasted Thanksgiving turkey recipe:
- Turkey: I got a medium whole turkey for this recipe that was about 12-14 pounds but any size will work. See below for tips on figuring out how big of a turkey you should buy!
- For the maple herb butter: we’re covering the whole turkey in a homemade maple herb butter, which has maple syrup, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, sage and lemon zest. So simple yet SO good!
- For the cavity: I like to place lemon wedges inside of the turkey cavity, but you can also add fresh herbs, half of an onion, or even apple wedges.
Tools you’ll need to roast a whole turkey
There are a few tools that will be SO helpful when cooking this whole Thanksgiving turkey. Here are the essentials:
Get all of our favorite kitchen essentials here!
How big of a turkey should I buy?
Whole turkeys come in tons of sizes, which can be confusing. A good rule of thumb is to buy about 1.5lbs of turkey for each person. So if you’re feeding 8 people, you’ll want a 12-14 pound turkey.
How to thaw a whole turkey
Many turkeys come frozen, so you’ll need to prepare ahead of time to ensure that it’s ready to cook before your Thanksgiving dinner.
- Once your turkey arrives, place it fully wrapped on a large baking sheet to catch any liquid that might come off as it thaws.
- For every 5lbs of turkey, you’ll want to thaw it in the fridge for 24 hours, plus a little extra to be safe. For example, I thawed my 12-pound turkey in the fridge 3 days ahead of time.
Prep your turkey for cooking
There are a few key steps you need before you can get your turkey in the oven:
- Let it come to room temp. After your turkey is thawed, let it come to room temperature on the counter for 1-2 hours. This is to ensure proper, even cooking, and make it easier to coat the turkey in your herb maple butter.
- Remove the insides & dry. Remove the turkey from its packaging, and remove the neck and bag of giblets from the large cavity of the turkey if it’s there. Next, pat the turkey well with paper towels until dry so that the butter sticks well and the skin gets nice and golden. Place it in your roasting pan.
- Fill the cavity. Place a few lemon wedges inside the small cavity of the turkey, plus any other items you’d like such as fresh herbs, onion or an apple.
- Tie the legs. Carefully tie the legs together with kitchen twine. This will make the turkey much easier to handle as you take it out and place it back in the oven multiple times throughout the cooking process.
- Add butter under the skin. Carefully lift the skin above the turkey breast and massage in some of the herb maple butter. This will ensure that the whole turkey is juicy and flavorful, not just the skin on top!
- Coat the rest. Add the herb maple butter to the rest of the turkey. That’s it! Then you’re ready to get roasting!
How long does it take to cook a whole turkey?
I know it may seem tricky to figure out how long you’ll actually need to roast a whole turkey, but you can simply use this rule: for every pound of turkey, you’ll roast it for 15-20 minutes, plus a little more depending on your oven. I ended up roasting my 12-14 lb turkey for a little over 3 hours.
Tip: It’s very important to take the cook time into account when planning your timeline a few days before and on the day of Thanksgiving. Check out this post to see a real example of my day-of Thanksgiving timeline to help prepare for yours!
How to roast a whole turkey
- Place it in your oven. Once you’ve added your turkey garnishes and covered the entire turkey with maple herb butter, place it in the oven at 425 degrees F for 30 minutes. Track your start time so that you know exactly how long your turkey is cooking. After 30 minutes, lower the heat to 350 degrees.
- Get roasting. As I mentioned, for every pound of turkey, you’ll roast it for 15-20 minutes, plus a little more depending on your oven. I ended up roasting my turkey for a little over 3 hours. I do not recommend cooking anything else in your oven while the turkey is cooking because it will alter the temperature in the oven.
- Baste & rotate. To ensure that the turkey stays nice and juicy, every 30-45 minutes remove it from the oven and baste the entire thing with drippings that have collected in the roasting pan. You’ll also want to rotate your turkey at these times to ensure even cooking.
- Test doneness. Once you think your turkey is done, test the breast and thigh with a meat thermometer to make sure the breast reads 165 degrees F and the thigh reads 175 degrees F. If they do, then your turkey is done!
More tips for the perfect Thanksgiving turkey
- Save extra drippings to make turkey gravy.
- If your turkey looks like it’s getting too brown but is not yet done, simply cover it with tinfoil so that the inside continues to cook.
- Once your turkey is done, remove it from the oven, drape it with foil and let it rest for about 20-30 minutes so that it maintains all of its juiciness inside. This also gives you time to warm up your side dishes and make your turkey gravy.
Storing and freezing tips
- To store: store any leftover turkey in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Simply reheat in the microwave, and try some of our great recipes for using leftover turkey!
- To freeze: if you have lots of leftover turkey, go ahead and freeze it for later! Make sure the turkey has cooled completely, then add it to a freezer-safe bag and freeze for up to 3 months. For many soups and stews, you can add the frozen turkey directly and just add some cooking time, but for other recipes, you’ll likely want to thaw the turkey in the refrigerator before using it.
What to serve with this maple roasted turkey
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I hope you love this whole maple roasted turkey recipe! If you make it, be sure to leave a comment & a rating so I know how you liked it. Enjoy, xo!
Herb Butter Maple Roasted Turkey
Incredible maple roasted turkey made with a savory herb butter and plenty of sweet pure maple syrup flavor. This whole turkey recipe is perfect for your Thanksgiving table and easy to make thanks to this step-by-step guide on how to cook a turkey!
(12-14) pound turkey, thawed
butter, at room temperature
pure maple syrup, at room temperature
salt, plus more
- Freshly ground black pepper, plus more
fresh thyme leaves
- Handful of fresh rosemary
- Handful sage leaves
- Zest from 1 lemon
- For the cavity of the turkey:
lemon (and apple or onion, if desired)
Set your turkey out at least 1-2 hours before you plan on baking it so that it can come to room temperature.
While your turkey comes to room temp, make your maple herb butter: add softened butter, maple syrup, garlic, salt, black pepper, thyme, rosemary sage and lemon zest. Pulse until all ingredients are well combined. Set aside at room temperature. You can also make this ahead of time, but it’s best to let the butter thaw/soften at room temperature before using it on the turkey.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Remove the turkey from its packaging, and remove the neck and bag of giblets from the large cavity of the turkey if it’s there. Next, pat the turkey well with paper towels until dry and place it in your roasting pan.
Place a few lemon wedges inside the cavity of the turkey, plus any other items you’d like such as fresh herbs, half an onion or even an apple.
Next, tie the legs together with kitchen twine.
Now it’s time to add your herb maple butter! Massage the turkey evenly with the maple butter, try to get some under the skin above the turkey breast; this will help you achieve crispy skin! If you are having a hard time getting your butter massaged into the turkey, then that likely means your turkey is still a bit cold. Don’t worry, here’s a solution: simply warm/melt your butter just slightly in the microwave for 15-30 seconds, then use melted butter on the turkey instead. I like to use a pastry brush to get it everywhere, but your hands will also work well. Now you’re ready to roast your turkey.
Place turkey (in the roasting pan) in the oven at 425 degrees F for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, lower the heat to 350 degrees. No need to open the oven — simply just adjust the temperature. I do not suggest baking anything else in your oven as your turkey cooks.
For every pound of turkey you’ll roast it for 15-20 minutes, plus a little more depending on your oven. Remember to track your start time for putting the turkey in the oven.
Every 30-45 minutes or so remove the turkey from the oven and baste the entire thing with drippings that have collected in the roasting pan. You’ll also want to rotate your turkey at these times to ensure even cooking.
Once you think your turkey is done, test the breast and thigh with a meat thermometer to make sure the breast reads 165 degrees F and the thigh reads 175 degrees F.
If your turkey looks like it’s getting too brown but is not yet done, simply cover it with tinfoil so that the inside continues to cook.
Once your turkey is done, remove it from the oven, drape it with foil and let it rest for about 20-30 minutes so that it maintains all of its juiciness inside. This also gives you time to warm up your side dishes and make your turkey gravy. That’s it! Enjoy.
This post was originally published on November 8, 2020, and republished on November 14, 2021.