Roasted Heritage Turkey

roast heritage turkey
Photo: Marcus Nilsson
Prep Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
6 hrs
8 to 10 Serves

A layer of butter under the skin results in a crisp exterior and moist breast meat. Allow two hours to bring the turkey to room temperature before roasting. Serve the bird alongside our Calvados Gravy.


  • 1 whole fresh or thawed frozen heritage turkey (about 18 pounds), such as Bourbon Red, neck and giblets reserved

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 12 thyme sprigs

  • 6 sage sprigs

  • 3 dried bay leaves

  • 2 tart apples, such as Northern Spy or Granny Smith, sliced ½ inch thick (cores reserved)

  • 1 onion, quartered

  • 2 celery stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces

  • 2 cups water, plus more if needed


  1. Rinse turkey inside and out; pat dry with paper towels. Transfer to a large roasting pan fitted with a roasting rack, and place breast side up. Bring to room temperature, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

  2. Preheat oven to 475 degrees, with rack in lowest position. Tuck wings under turkey. Gently separate skin from breast, and rub butter under the skin on each side. Season outside of turkey generously with salt and pepper. Fill cavity with herb sprigs, bay leaves, apple cores, and onion; tie legs together with kitchen twine. Scatter apples and celery around rack. Place neck and giblets in pan. Add water to pan.

  3. Roast turkey for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees. Baste with pan juices, and tent with foil. Roast, rotating pan, adding more water if pan is dry, and basting halfway through, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reaches 160 degrees, about 2 1/2 hours more. Let turkey stand for 30 minutes before transferring to a platter and carving. Reserve pan with contents if making gravy.

Related Articles