Roasted Turkey


If you ask me, it only takes 3 ingredients (well 4 if you count the water) to prepare a perfect roasted turkey. In other words the perfect Thanksgiving turkey, the most important part of the Thanksgiving feast. We only have roasted turkey in my home about 5 times a year so I’m definitely not perfect at preparing one.

That is why this time around I turned to Cook’s Illustrated to follow their advice for brining and roasting turkey. I’m so glad I did as I achieved incredible results. I always thought it took plenty of fancy fresh herbs and a jumble of other ingredients to get a delicious turkey.

That was definitely a misconception. If you ask me, some of those things can seemingly hide the delicious flavors of the turkey.

All you need is a turkey, salt, water, a bit of butter along with a few easy steps and you’ll have a turkey that is moist, flavorful and tender with a perfectly golden, crispy skin.

It’s likely that no one will even be reaching for the salt with this turkey. The brine get’s the job done. I think this will now be my go to Thanksgiving turkey recipe. Easy and delicious!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

  • After brining, for an extra crispy skin allow to air dry in refrigerator for 8 hours  on top of a cooling rack set over a rimmed cookie sheet (optional).
  • If you don’t have a large roasting rack, you can use a large tin, if you don’t own a V-rack you can create one using two grates from a gas oven or two racks from a toaster oven. No matter what you use for the V-rack, just be sure to line it with foil and poke holes in the foil.
  • Brush both sides with 2 Tbsp melted butter, then roast breast side down first.

Perfectly crisp, golden skin, with a moist deliciously seasoned interior. A Thanksgiving Turkey to remember…

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Brined and Roasted Turkey

The tastiest, easiest, juiciest Thanksgiving turkey!

Servings: 12 -14
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes


  • 1 (12 - 14 lb) untreated turkey, rinsed thoroughly*
  • 1/2 - 1 cup Table salt , depending on brine time
  • 4 Tbsp butter , melted


  1. 1. For the brine: for a 4 - 6 hour brine, dissolve 1 cup of table salt per 1 gallon of water. For a 12 - 14 hour brine, dissolve 1/2 cup of table salt per 1 gallon of water. Place turkey in an extra large food safe bag (such as a Reynolds Turkey Size Oven Bag), a large stockpot or a clean bucket. Pour enough of the salt water over turkey to completely cover (tie knot bag if using a bag) and refrigerate turkey for predetermined amount of time.
  2. 2. Before removing turkey from brine, adjust oven rack to lowest or second to lowest position (Cook's Illustrated stated "lowest" in their recipe, I actually went with second to lowest). Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large V-rack with heavy duty aluminum foil or two layers of regular foil, and using a pairing knife poke 20 - 30 holes in foil. Set lined V-rack in a large roasting pan.
  3. 3. After soaking turkey in brine, remove from refrigerator and thoroughly rinse turkey under cold tap water. Using paper towels, pat turkey dry inside and out. With the breast side facing upward, tuck wingtips underneath the bottom side of turkey and tuck ends of drumsticks into skin at tail to secure**. Then brush turkey (breast side up) with 2 Tbsp melted butter, then rotate turkey and set breast-side down on prepared V-rack and brush opposite side with remaining 2 Tbsp melted butter. Roast turkey for 45 minutes (I upped mine to 1 hour).

  4. 4. Carefully remove turkey in roasting pan from oven (and close oven door so the heat doesn't escape). Using clean kitchen towels or pot holders, lift turkey and rotate to opposite side - it should now be breast side up. Return turkey in roasting pan to oven and continue to roast until thickest part of breast registers 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer, and the thickest part of thigh registers 175 degrees, about 60 minutes (if you don't like juicy turkey you will definitely want to bake it longer). Remove from oven and transfer turkey to a carving board, allow turkey to rest 30 minutes. Carve and serve with freshly ground black pepper if desired (mine didn't need any salt).
  5. *Do not use a pre-seasoned, self-basting or Kosher turkey.
  6. **Or for an optional step if you prefer an extra crispy skin on your turkey you can air dry the turkey in the refrigerator. To do so, place brined and rinsed turkey on a cooling rack set over a rimmed cookie sheet and allow turkey to rest in refrigerator for at least 8 hours (so obviously you wont need to preheat oven until later). Then proceed with the recipe (in step 3, brushing with butter). Again this is an optional step and only needed if you want a an extra crispy skin.
  7. Recipe Source: adapted from Cook's Illustrated All-Time Best Recipes, pg 40 - 41 "How to Brine and Roast Turkey" (can also be found here).
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Turkey
Author: Jaclyn


  • Jamie: Hi. I am in Europe and the largest turkey I can find is 3.8KG (8.4lbs).

    Can you help with the timing of tiny turkeys? THANKS! December 26, 2018 at 3:02am Reply

  • Anonymous: Hi! This will be my first time making a turkey. I noticed that you mentioned to not use a preseasoned turkey, but I received my turkey for free. The label says, “contains up to 9.5% natural turkey broth & seasonings”. It is also a 22. lb turkey.
    1. Should I reduce the amount of salt?
    2. How long should I cook the turkey?

    Thank you! November 23, 2012 at 1:43pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: 1. I wouldn’t recommend brining it as it is a pre-seasoned turkey, if you did so it would likely be too salty.
      2. I would recommend cooking the turkey at a lower temperature for a longer period of time. I think the high heat recipe is intended for a smaller turkey. I would recommend this recipe here at simply recipes:
      I noticed someone in the comments section also mentioned they were roasting a 22 lb turkey and she said to increase the amount of time it’s roasted at the end. Ultimately just be sure that you take the internal temperature of the breast, it should register to 165 degrees.
      Best of luck! November 24, 2012 at 12:00am Reply

  • djjajk: Hi, this will be my first time making a turkey [yikes] and this one of the simplest recipes i’ve found thus far. So my question is how long is a predetermined amount of time? and do you do anything to the cavity? remove it/stuff it or something?

    thanks! November 19, 2012 at 9:48pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: The predetermined amount of time is just referring to which time, therefor salt amount you choose for the brine (the 4-6 hour or 12-14 hour). Just make sure your turkey is completely thawed if frozen, remove the neck and giblets, rinse it well. Cook’s Illustrated didn’t recommend stuffing it (rather making a stuffing separately). Just keep in mind this recipe yields juicy turkey so if you’d like it a bit drier you can reduce the temp to 350 at the end of the two hours and continue roast until you’ve reached desired result, you can also tent it with foil to reduce further browning of the skin. Here is another similar recipe if you want to check it out that is very similar but has a gravy that is made with it:
      I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and best of luck with your first turkey =)! November 20, 2012 at 10:32am Reply

  • Anonymous: Am I reading that right? You cooked a 14 lb turkey for 2 hours? Why have I been cooking mine for so long if that’s all it takes??? November 15, 2012 at 10:09am Reply

  • Judy: I can’t see how hot you set your oven? What is recommended for the oven temperature? November 14, 2012 at 8:24am Reply

    • Jaclyn: Thanks for the comment! It’s 400 degrees. I’m going to read through the directions once more to make sure I didn’t miss anything else =). Thanks for your comment! Have a great Thanksgiving! November 14, 2012 at 8:50am Reply

  • Kristy: What temperature did you set the oven to? I’m guessing 325? November 14, 2012 at 8:22am Reply

    • Jaclyn: Thanks for the comment, sorry I added it then erased it as I was editing the paragraph and forgot to add it back in. It’s the bad thing about being your own editor =). You set the oven to 400 that’s what creates than nice and crisp, golden skin. Thanks so much for your comment! November 14, 2012 at 8:48am Reply

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