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Butter And Herb Roast Turkey

I submitted this recipe on Food52 and it was chosen as a community pick, the food52 recipe testers made my recipe and their amazing photographer James Ransom took a photo. I am waiting for permission to use the photo, mine is not very good, so to see the turkey just click on the food52 link.

When I am preparing the Thanksgiving meal I am constantly doing something, and being chained to the stove having to baste a turkey just doesn’t fit into my schedule, I used to do it and sometimes forgot and the turkey was well, dry. My Mom aways used those big black and white speckled roasting pans so I decided to buy one and roast my turkey in the pan. They are made by Granitware and really are a revelation.I use the large rectangular roaster it will roast a large turkey up to 25 lbs.  Since using this pan I have always had a perfectly cooked turkey, moist and tender and copious amounts of pan juices for gravy and the best thing about this is that there is no basting required during the majority of the cooking time,it is basted only once just before you brown the skin. The turkey is roasted on a lowish heat 325 degrees covered with the lid, in essence it steams in the pan, because the heat is trapped in the pan it cooks much faster shaving about an hour or more off total cooking time. When the turkey is almost done I crank up the heat, remove the lid and brown the skin so it’s that beautiful golden brown and crisp.

For added flavor and moisture I make a compound butter and carefully place under the skin primarily on the breast, the flavorful butter melts into the bird, believe me it’s delicious and your  pan drippings are beautifully flavored and make the most wonderful gravy. The recipe for gravy will be a separate post.

Graniteware pans are very inexpensive about $30 for the largest pan and they last forever. My Mom’s pan is over 40 years old, and she still uses it.  I am not employed by graniteware nor am I being paid to extol the virtues of the pan, this is me saying I like it. If you don’t have or don’t want to purchase a graniteware pan you can use this cooking method with any roasting pan and some aluminum foil, just make sure you tightly cover the pan so that steam builds inside and doesn’t escape.

Serves 10 or more

Compound butter:

  • 16 tablespoons salted butter at room temperature (2 sticks)
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme leaves removed
  • 3 chopped fresh sage
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  1. Crush garlic with mortar and pestle with a pinch of salt.
  2. Remove the leaves of thyme from the stalk, add thyme and sage and lemon zest and crush it all together.
  3. In small mixing bowl, add the softened butter and garlic and herb mixture mix together.
  4. If you are going to insert the turkey right away, don’t refrigerate — if not, roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before you add to the turkey.


  • 1 18-20 pound turkey
  • Compound butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Put turkey on work surface and make sure it’s clean and dry. Insert fingers under skin to loosen the skin from the breast meat. Work slowly so you don’t tear the skin.
  3. Spread a generous amount of the compound butter under the skin on both sides of the breast. (Reserve a small amount of the compound butter to baste the turkey when you brown the skin.)
  4. Using butchers twine, bind the legs together and place the turkey on a rack in your roasting pan.
  5. Rub the turkey with some olive oil and generously salt and pepper the entire turkey. (I like to do this the night before baking refrigerating overnight, if you do this let sit at room temperature for an hour before placing in the oven). Place lid on pan and put into the oven. No basting required!
  6. After 3 hours, check the internal temperature of your turkey by inserting a thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh. When it has reached an internal temperature of 150°F, remove from the oven, and brush the turkey with the remaining compound butter. Crank up the oven to 450°F. Put back in the oven without the lid and let it roast until the skin is a nice golden brown. The internal temperature should be 160°F when you remove from the oven. Total cooking time for an 18-20 pound turkey is 4-4 1/2 hours approximately. Let turkey rest for at least 30 minutes tented with foil and final temperature should be 165°F-170°F.
  7. Note: If you don’t have a roaster with a lid just tent with aluminum foil, making sure its sealed well around the pan.
22 Comments Post a comment
  1. Congrats! That’s awesome food52 chose your recipe!

    November 15, 2012
  2. Thank you so much Leah, it was an honor and I am so pleased they liked my recipe.

    November 15, 2012
  3. Woohoo congrats girl! That turkey I’m sure is amazing too! I’ve made some amazing turkeys for Thanksgiving! Hard to beat a good turkey. 🙂

    November 15, 2012
    • Oh you got that right, I’ve had major disasters and some really good ones, but a well prepared turkey is a thing of beauty and delicious too! Thank you so much.

      November 15, 2012
  4. petit4chocolatier #

    Congratulations! The turkey looks gorgeously delicious! Making me hungry. I love the compound butter recipe. Such a great idea melting in the turkey. And I am going to check out the granite ware!

    November 15, 2012
    • Thank you, it is delicious, the compound butter really makes it special. I love my graniteware, have 3 different sizes. I always roast my chicken in the smaller one, it’s the best!!

      November 15, 2012
      • petit4chocolatier #

        I am going to order one online for a 14 to 18 lb. turkey.
        My mom had these too : )

        Thank you and I absolutely love your turkey and stuffing!

        November 15, 2012
      • They really are the best, I got one of those all clad big roasting pans and never had the turkey turn out as delicious as when I use the graniteware. Happy Thanksgiving!

        November 15, 2012
  5. This turkey sounds incredible my friend I’m not surprised it was chosen 😀

    Choc Chip Uru

    November 15, 2012
  6. pat #

    This was probably the best roast turkey I have ever made! So glad the editors at Food52 took notice!

    November 16, 2012
  7. I love the simplicity of your recipe! I’m not a huge fan of turkey, but am guessing that the cooking method helps to keep it moist? And the compound butter is one I just want to have around all the time for any number of things!!!

    November 16, 2012
    • Thank you so much Suzanne, no one in my family is a huge turkey fan either but the cooking method does really keep it moist and it’s very tender. The compound butter is delicious and makes otherwise bland breast meat very tasty. Enjoy the holiday!

      November 16, 2012
  8. You are such a foodie rock star! Congrats on your recipe being chosen! It is a beautiful picture too. I love your idea of putting the compound butter with the herbs in it under the skin–wow I bet that adds amazing flavor. I’ll have to try that next.

    November 18, 2012
    • Thanks Veronica, adding the compound butter adds so much flavor to the turkey. Have a wonderful Holiday!!

      November 18, 2012
  9. petit4chocolatier #

    Thank you for the reminder of the graniteware. I purchased a large one online. On Friday Publix had fresh turkeys on sale and I purchased a 12 lb. for $7.00 and prepared it Saturday since I didn’t have any leftovers. The turkey came out beautifully delicious. Best ever. Now I know why I loved my mom’s graniteware so much!! Thank you again : )

    November 25, 2012
    • They are the best those graniteware pans. I could not believe my 19 lb turkey cooked perfectly in 3.5 hours. You are so welcome. I make pork roast, lamb everything in my graniteware.

      November 25, 2012
  10. I got this turkey roasting tip from an antique (1835) cookbook. “To keep the breast juicy, cut the fat and skin from neck and lower openings and place the skin and fat over the breast while roasting. Remove from breast 30 minutes before taking turkey from oven.This both bastes the turkey and adds another layer from the heat. It has worked well for me for over 20 years.Does the same thing that placing bacon over the breast does…….except with turkey fat…..and who wants a turkey that tastes like bacon?

    November 26, 2012
    • I think thats a great tip, I know some use bacon but protecting the breast with the skin and fat from the turkey sounds like a wonderful way of keeping that breast meat moist. Thanks so much!I have never seen a cookbook that old, what a find!!

      November 26, 2012
  11. Mary #

    I just bought a granite ware pan to roast a turkey for thanksgiving. It will be unstuffed but maybe only 12 lbs. how many minutes per lb do you recommend for this size since it will be covered mostly the whole time? Thank you

    October 4, 2020
    • Hi Mary; it should only take about 2 hours or even less for a 12 lb turkey. I find that in the granite ware pans the turkey roasts quickly. I would check it after an hour and a half and if it’s done but not browned just remove the lid and baste it and let it roast until nicely browned. I love my granite ware pan!!!

      October 6, 2020

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