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Butter And Herb Roast Turkey, Gravy And Sides

Photo by James Ransom

Photo by James Ransom

Turkey is the cornerstone of the Thanksgiving meal, for me it just wouldn’t be the same without it. Growing up we usually had Italian food for Thanksgiving but from time to time my Mom would make a traditional American meal. Mom always made a capon rather than a regular turkey, if I understand correctly a capon is a turkey but it has been neutered, its smaller and more tender, it was really good. She always roasted in her black and white speckled enamel roasting pan. When I left home my Mom presented one to me and although I have tried roasting turkeys in other pans I always come back to the black and white graniteware pan. The turkey is cooked in record time, it’s moist and tender and nicely browned. I posted the recipe on food52. Above is the picture that James Ransom took for food 52 when my turkey was chosen as a community pick. The recipe below is for a large turkey for a smaller one you will have to adjust amounts and cooking time. No matter what method you use to cook your bird I highly recommend trying the compound butter inserted under the skin, it produces a moist and flavorful turkey.

For 18-20 lb turkey

Compound butter:

  • 16 tablespoons salted butter at room temperature (2 sticks)
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme leaves removed or 1/2 tsp dried
  • 3 chopped fresh sage leaves or 1/2 tsp dried
  • 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 2- 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. Also, you need to watch the turkey and check on it for doneness if you are using a graniteware pan it cooks very quickly, basically sealing the turkey and steam roasting it. I generally start checking on the turkey after 2 hours.


I have several different types of roasting pans and have to say I love the graniteware, it’s very inexpensive ($33 for am extra large pan), lasts forever and always gets the job done well. I don’t use a thermometer when I use my graniteware, I slow roast my turkey at 325  degrees no basting except at the very end when I remove the lid to get the turkey a really deep brown at high heat (450).I can fully cook a 22 lb turkey in my graniteware pan in less than 4 hours.


After the turkey has rested you will want to make gravy, I pour the pan drippings,(when you use a grantiteware pan there is a ton of juice) into one of those separators, you know it separates the fat from the juice. I place about 1/4 cup of the fat into a fry pan and heat it, add some flour to make a roux, stir constantly until the flour is cooked and nicely browned. Add the juice whisking constantly until it’s the desired thickness, season with salt and pepper if necessary. I always use gravy master, it’s a habit, I like it and only use about a tsp of the stuff.

Separator,gravy master, food mill and graniteware

Separator,gravy master, food mill and graniteware pan


The first course will be a Butternut Squash + Bourbon Soup from Mary Frances and her lovely blog,  Love the Secret Ingredient, she has an e-book with recipes and tips for planning your holiday and it’s really great. My sides are really pretty boring I’m afraid. I am a creature of habit and almost always serve the same thing every Thanksgiving. Mashed potatoes, always yukon gold, boiled and put through the food mill so there are no lumps. I add sour cream, butter salt and pepper. I like corn and brussels sprouts usually roasted in the oven.

52 Comments Post a comment
  1. Liz #

    Nice! Would love to be at your table this Thursday 🙂 That fat separator is da’ bomb 😉 Mine isn’t nearly as pretty.

    November 25, 2013
    • Thanks so much Liz, I love my fat separator, it works really well and holds a lot of liquid!!

      November 25, 2013
  2. I need to bookmark this nice and thorough guide. Thanks for putting this together!

    November 25, 2013
  3. Yum…yummy. LOVE this.. I need to try your compound butter recipe! Delish!! ❤

    November 25, 2013
  4. Great cooking technique with the compound butter! No basting. I use the speckled roasting pan too! Gosh, that photo is perfect! As is the turkey too…

    November 25, 2013
    • You use one also, they really are terrific. It takes some getting used to though. Some cooks on Food52 had a hard time with the recipe when they used the graniteware. The compound butter is delicious ad the turkey is so flavorful. Thanks and have a great holiday!

      November 25, 2013
  5. I was going to say that’s way too advance prep to already have roasted the turkey! That turkey looks good Suzanne, it really does.

    November 25, 2013
    • My turkey’s do not look that good, it’s a professional photograph. Mine look good but not that perfect. The important thing is that it tastes good! Thanks Azita and Happy Thanksgiving,

      November 25, 2013
  6. Your turkey looks amazing, Suzanne. We use the compound butter too. Actually, to be precise, Stefano uses it. Yup, turkey is Stefano’s business. It is the only thing he cooks during the whole year so … better be darn good! 😉

    November 25, 2013
    • Compound butter is the best in turkey, making mine today. Thats funny, Stefano is the turkey chef. I never had turkey growing up, unless you consider capon turkey. I really like it especially deeply favored with the butter. Thanks Francesca.

      November 25, 2013
  7. Great post!

    November 25, 2013
  8. Oh wow, this is great, Suzanne! I think I will get plenty of inspiration from your recipes. As pointed out by Francesca, I did use the “butter under the skin” method too and I totally agree that it worked like a charm last year! It made the turkey so soft and moist.
    Wonderful! 🙂

    November 25, 2013
    • It really does work like a charm, if you make a compound butter with herbs and aromatics it imparts that into the turkey meat. It’s wonderful.

      November 25, 2013
      • I know! I will certainly be trying that out this year! Thanks for the wonderful tip! 🙂

        November 25, 2013
  9. I used to love turkey when I was non veg! Enjoy it on my behalf! Your recipe looks delish 🙂

    November 25, 2013
  10. It is so golden and delicious, great recipe 😀


    November 25, 2013
    • Thank you so much, yes the skin gets crisp and golden. It’s quite delicious.

      November 25, 2013
  11. And now I am hungry thinking about your Thanksgiving feast. I hope you and your family have a great day. 😉

    November 25, 2013
  12. Wow, seeing all these dishes has me so anxious for Thanksgiving!! What a great post of holiday dishes!

    November 25, 2013
    • Thank you, I can’t believe Thursday is Thanksgiving, came up so quickly! Have a great holiday with lots of good food.

      November 25, 2013
  13. – That is a very lean, home grown looking turkey!
    – An excellent/valuable post. I shall visit it again when I am going to roast a turkey.
    I envy people who are going to be at your Thanksgiving table, mostly because they can dine with you, a thoughtful, loving person. Taking this opportunity, I like to thank you for all the support you give me and knowledge you share with us.
    Happy Thanksgiving Suzanne, to you and yours! 😀
    – I need to get myself an oil separator. 😉

    November 25, 2013
    • You are so kind Fae, thank you so much, thank you for the encouragement and kindness, It is needed and much appreciated. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your entire family.

      November 25, 2013
  14. Now, I’m dying for turkey!! Oh, that herb butter sounds amazing! I’m not cooking this year, which will be strange-but I’ll take the break! Happy Thanksgiving, Suzanne! xx

    November 25, 2013
    • I am picking up my turkey tomorrow, I look forward to all the prep and the actual cooking of the whole meal One year I was invited to a friends for Thanksgiving, it was nice but I missed cooking so much I cooked the entire meal the next day. Happy Thanksgiving hope you have a relaxing day with great food and friends..

      November 25, 2013
  15. Another great Thanksgiving post – thanks Suzanne! Your dinner is coming together perfectly! I often cook roast chicken with a little compound butter tucked under the skin – gives such beautiful flavour, particularly through the breast meat! Yum!

    November 25, 2013
    • I love using compound butter it really does make a difference in the flavor and sometimes turkey can be a bit bland. Thanks so much.

      November 26, 2013
  16. It’s been years since I’ve roasted a turkey. We don’t have Thanksgiving over here and we tend not to have hot dinners at Christmas as our summers are so hot anyway… but I definitely appreciate the deliciousness of a well cooked bird! Love the idea of that gorgeous herb butter, mmmm!

    November 26, 2013
    • I could not imagine Thanksgiving in the summer, I certainly would not be cooking like I do when it’s hot outside. Thanks Laura!

      November 26, 2013
  17. Looks wonderful Suzanne!

    November 26, 2013
  18. I’m loving the compound butter technique – I bet your turkey’s incredibly moist. I also like the look of your graniteware – absolutely perfect for roasting and so inexpensive. The nearest thing we have to that is Le Creuset, which is soooo expensive.

    November 26, 2013
    • Yes love Le creuset but it’s very expensive and for oven roasting I love using the graniteware. Amazon has them and really they are incredibly inexpensive and last forever. Thank you.

      November 26, 2013
  19. Gorgeous turkey Suzanne! And how great that you were a community pick for Food 52! Yay!! 🙂

    November 26, 2013
    • Thank you, yes it was really nice for my recipe to be recognized.

      November 26, 2013
  20. Congratulations on being a CP with Food52! Your compound butter sounds just delicious.

    November 26, 2013
    • Thanks so much. the compound butter really makes this turkey special!

      November 26, 2013
  21. ciao! congratulations…and many thanks for sharing such great recipes. this turkey must be so delicious. happy thanksgiving.

    November 27, 2013
  22. Classic recipe with something extra! Thanks so much!

    November 27, 2013
  23. Wonderful looking turkey

    November 28, 2014

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