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Herb-Roasted Turkey with Pan Gravy

Yes, this perfectly roasted turkey takes some time to make, but just imagine all the delicious leftovers.

  • Servings: 10
Herb-Roasted Turkey with Pan Gravy

Source: Martha Stewart Living, November Holiday 2002


  • 1 18- to 21-pound fresh turkey, thawed if frozen, giblets and neck removed from cavity and reserved for gravy
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 3 to 4 lemons, each cut into quarters
  • 2 to 3 onions, each cut into 6 wedges
  • 1 cup dry white wine or water
  • 3 cups Giblet Stock or homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock


  1. Rinse turkey with cool water, and pat dry with paper towels. Let stand, uncovered, 2 hours at room temperature.

  2. Combine butter, lemon zest, parsley, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. Using your fingers, gently loosen turkey skin from over the breast meat, and smear half the butter mixture under skin.

  3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees, with rack on lowest level. Place turkey, breast side up, on a roasting rack set in a heavy metal roasting pan. Fold wing tips under. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper inside cavity. Fill large cavity and neck cavity loosely with as many lemon and onion wedges as will fit comfortably.

  4. Tie legs together loosely with kitchen twine. Fold neck flap under, and secure with toothpicks. Rub entire turkey with remaining herb butter, and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper, pressing to adhere.

  5. Cook 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Using a pastry brush, baste the turkey with any pan drippings. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees, and continue cooking 2 more hours, basting turkey and rotating pan every 30 minutes; if pan gets too full, spoon out some of the juices, reserving them for gravy.

  6. After 2 1/2 hours of cooking, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, avoiding the bone. The temperature should reach 160 degrees, and the turkey should be golden brown. (The internal temperature will continue to rise once turkey is out of oven. Ideal done temperature is 165 degrees.) If thighs are not yet fully cooked, baste turkey again, and continue cooking.

  7. When fully cooked, transfer turkey to a serving platter, and let rest, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the gravy. Pour the pan juices into a large glass measuring cup; let stand until grease rises to the surface, about 10 minutes, then skim with a large spoon.

  8. Meanwhile, place roasting pan over medium-high heat. Add wine or water, and bring to a boil; deglaze pan by scraping up any browned bits from bottom with a wooden spoon. Add stock; stir well, and return to a boil. Cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the defatted pan juices, and cook 5 minutes more; you will have about 2 cups. Remove from heat, and season with the salt and pepper. Strain into a warm gravy boat, and serve with turkey.

Cook's Note

An instant-read thermometer is more accurate than the pop-up timers that sometimes come with frozen turkeys. The thighs should be cooked to an internal temperature of 180 degrees; to avoid overcooking, remove turkey from the oven once it reaches 175 degrees, as it will continue to cook out of the oven. Check again after about twenty minutes, and return to oven if it hasn't reached 180 degrees.

Reviews (4)

  • koolishious 26 Nov, 2011

    This recipe sucks! I tried it for Thanksgiving & i had many complaints that it was very bitter tasting because the recipe said to fill the large cavity & neck cavity with as many lemon & onion wedges & that's what I did. That was a very bad idea which I should of not done. I think the grated lemon zest was enough to make it bitter tasting. I don't recommend this recipe at all. It had NO FLAVOR, very BITTER tasting, & that was a waste of my time & turkey. Very disappointed

  • donthateonkate 25 Nov, 2014

    I have made this recipe every thanksgiving for the last 8 years! Every year my family & friends rave about it & beg me to make the same turkey every year. Its has been hands down the best turkey recipe I have come across. The only thing I change is adding a sage. It not only adds a little flavor but if arranged correctly under the skin, it looks like something right of Martha's magazine. I add 7-9 sage leaves in a leaf pattern under the skin. You could also reduce the # of onions & lemons. :)

  • smurfeesh 25 Nov, 2011

    We used a brined turkey and this recipe and the turkey got rave reviews from everyone! So simple and SO delicious! We did have to add some more broth so that we could baste it, there wasn't much for the first hour or so.

  • yuan11ggyahoo 21 Apr, 2009

    I will try to make this recipe!

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