Herb-Roasted Turkey with Pan Gravy


Combine butter, lemon zest, parsley, and thyme for a flavorful rub for your Thanksgiving turkey. Yes, this perfectly roasted turkey takes some time to make, but while it's cooking you can take some time to daydream about your delicious leftovers.


  • 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 ½ 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 Notes

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.

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