Basic Roast Turkey


This star of the Thanksgiving table looks high-maintenance, but is mostly hands-off. Learn our secret.

Basic Roast Turkey
Photo: Marcus Nilsson
Hands On Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
4 hrs
6 to 8 servings

This time-tested roast turkey recipe calls for minimal prep, but when it's ready to serve, we garnish it with navel orange wedges and fresh flat-leaf parsley or celery leaves. By the time it arrives at your Thanksgiving table, guests assume you labored over it when, in reality, your turkey roasted in the oven mostly without intervention. The secret: a cup of water added to the roasting pan. This simple kitchen hack frees you up from near-constant basting, so you can focus on mashed potatoes, stuffing, and the works.


  • 1 12- to 14-pound turkey, giblets removed

  • 3 carrots, roughly chopped

  • 1 stalk celery, roughly chopped

  • 2 medium yellow onions, cut into wedges

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, or olive oil

  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt

  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

  • 3 navel oranges, cut into wedges (optional)

  • 1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley or leaves from 1 bunch celery (optional)

  • Kitchen string (optional)


  1. Heat oven to 425°F. Rinse the turkey inside and out, and then pat dry with paper towels. Tuck the wings under the body. If desired, tie drumsticks together using kitchen string.

  2. Place carrots, celery, and onions in a metal roasting pan , and then transfer the turkey to a wire rack and place it on top of the vegetables. Drizzle the skin with butter or oil and, using your fingers, spread it evenly. Season with salt and pepper.

  3. Roast the turkey, uncovered, until browned, 30 to 45 minutes.

  4. Add 1 cup cold water to the pan and cover the turkey loosely with foil. Reduce temperature to 350°F and return the turkey to the oven.

  5. Roast until a thermometer inserted in a thigh registers 180°F, about 2 hours total. If making gravy, reserve the juices in the roasting pan.

  6. Let the turkey rest for at least 30 minutes before carving. Garnish with orange wedges and parsley or celery leaves (if using).

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

544 Calories
28g Fat
68g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Calories 544
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 28g 36%
Saturated Fat 8g 40%
Cholesterol 232mg 77%
Sodium 292mg 13%
Protein 68g

*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

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