Simple Roast Turkey Recipe (2024)

By Melissa Clark

Updated Nov. 1, 2023

Simple Roast Turkey Recipe (1)

Total Time
3½ hours, plus brining
Read community notes

For all the attention we lavish on Thanksgiving turkeys, the truth is more work does not necessarily yield a better bird. That's right: You can skip brining, stuffing, trussing and basting. Instead of a messy wet brine, use a dry rub (well, technically a dry brine) — a salt and pepper massage that locks in moisture and seasons the flesh. No stuffing or trussing allows the bird to cook more quickly, with the white and dark meat finishing closer to the same time. And if you oil but don’t baste your turkey, you’ll get crisp skin without constantly opening the oven.

Featured in: Essential Thanksgiving

Learn: Melissa Clark’s Thanksgiving

Learn: How to Cook a Turkey

Learn: How to Make Gravy

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Yield:10 to 12 servings

  • 1turkey (10 to 12 pounds)
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • 1tablespoon black pepper
  • 1lemon, zested and quartered
  • 1bunch fresh thyme or rosemary
  • 1bunch fresh sage
  • 12garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1bottle hard apple cider (12 ounces)
  • Dry white wine, as needed
  • 2onions, peeled and quartered
  • 3bay leaves
  • Olive oil or melted butter, as needed

Ingredient Substitution Guide


  1. Step


    Remove any giblets from the cavity and reserve for stock or gravy. Pat turkey and turkey neck dry with paper towel; rub turkey all over with ½ teaspoon salt per pound of turkey, the pepper and the lemon zest, including the neck. Transfer to a 2-gallon (or larger) resealable plastic bag. Tuck herbs and 6 garlic cloves inside bag. Seal and refrigerate on a small rimmed baking sheet (or wrapped in another bag) for at least 1 day and up to 3 days, turning the bird over every day (or after 12 hours if brining for only 1 day).

  2. Step


    Remove turkey from bag and pat dry with paper towels. Place turkey, uncovered, back on the baking sheet. Return to the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours to dry out the skin (this helps crisp it).

  3. When you are ready to cook the turkey, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature for one hour.

  4. Step


    Heat oven to 450 degrees. In the bottom of a large roasting pan, add the cider and enough wine to fill the pan to a ¼-inch depth. Add half the onions, the remaining 6 garlic cloves and the bay leaves. Stuff the remaining onion quarters and the lemon quarters into the turkey cavity. Brush the turkey skin generously with oil or melted butter.

  5. Step


    Place turkey, breast side up, on a roasting rack set inside the roasting pan. Transfer pan to the oven and roast 30 minutes. Cover breast with aluminum foil. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a thigh reaches a temperature of 165 degrees, about 1½ to 2 hours more. Transfer turkey to a cutting board to rest for 30 minutes before carving.



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Cooking Notes


The text says it should take 1.5 to 2 hours at 350F for a 10-12 lb turkey, but the timetable in the expanded article says to allow 2.5 to 3 hours at 350. Which is it?


My turkey is about 21 pounds. Do you recommend I increase the liquid in the roasting pan or add more herbs and onions? Can't wait to try this!


Any guidance on cooking times for a 14 pound bird? Is additional time just added at the lower temperature, or some at the initial high temp?

Stephanie R

Instead of the aluminum foil, I run the oven up to 500 and leave the turkey in the oven for about 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 and pull the turkey out. I then cover the breast with a piece of tee shirt soaked in melted shortening and return the turkey to the oven to finish cooking. The result is a perfectly browned breast which has almost been basted rather than sort of steamed by the condensation under the aluminum foil. Just a thought.


Does the turkey need to be rinsed after brining?

Melissa D.

OMG why did no one warn me that the oven would burst into a massive flame when the alcohol burnt off. I was standing in front of the oven cooking breakfast about 10 minutes into the cooking the turkey when I heard to whooshing sound and saw this big flash of fire. I jumped back in terror. My bath robe is now chard black in the front. That was very scary. I am still shaken. Wow, this turkey better be worth it. I am now going to drink the rest of the wine and cider to settle my nerves.


Turned out great. A few notes: we picked up the turkey the day before the meal, so didn't have time for it to sit unwrapped in the refrigerator (step 2), skin still was tasty and mostly crisp. For our 21lb turkey: 45 minutes at the initial 450, and then 3 hours at 350.


I purchased a turkey from Trader Joe's which was already brined. Can I still use this dry brined method even though it was wet brined already?

Melissa Clark



Do we rinse the bird before roasting it after it has sit in the dry brine for a couple of days?

Apartment Cook

I disagree on your salt comment. You're using the salt here to season the meat before you cook it (which is key for a delicious bird) and to begin the breakdown of meat muscle bundles (which will result in a more tender final product). Much of that salt does not get absorbed into the bird itself, it's not like you're serving a 1/2 tsp of salt to each person.

With Olive Oil you also should consider the smoke point of the oil as you can create some very 'off' flavors.


I´ve done the turkey this way TWICE and it was perfect. Surprised and amazed by the results. I would totally recommend it.


dear Melissa Clark, this is the third year that I've made your roast turkey. I live in northern Britain, where we have to order our Thanksgiving turkey from a poultry farm weeks in advance, and my gas stove has an unpredictable flame. The conditions are not propitious. Yet every year my turkey is golden and succulent, crispy skin and juicy inside. My colleagues think I'm a brilliant cook! Thanks for this fantastic recipe.

Melissa Clark

You should be fine using the pan liquid for gravy. Just make sure to use unsalted stock.


I've made this recipe the past two years, and despite the advice not to rinse the turkey, I do. Then I dry it with paper towels. From there, I apply the salt, pepper, lemon zest, but skip the zip lock bag and go directly to the "dry in refrigerator" part. (This is because I've picked up the turkey too late to do anything else.) Even a morning of refrigerator fan will do a remarkable job of drying it. So, I think if you want to put it ziplock, you can.


Yummy- added much more ginger and a little less garlic . Also more white pepper. You do not need to double the sauce


Cooked this on Christmas for extended family who don’t typically eat turkey on holidays and they loved it, as did I. From now on this will be my go-to turkey recipe. It is easy to prepare and so flavorful from the wine and cider that it didn’t need gravy. Plus, as promised, I didn’t have to baste it while in the oven.

Chris Martin

This will be my fourth year using this recipe - it's a marvel. Works every time with whatever size turkey I've used - although I haven't cooked anything as big as a 14lb turkey yet. Watch the video, Melissa's delivery is worth the watch alone. Merry Christmas.

Pat Choate

I have followed the directions and used this recipe twice. Both times, my guests told me it was one of the best turkey that they ever had and asked for the recipe. This is now by default recipe. Highly recommend.


Followed this recipe with a 15 lb turkey. Turned out great. Only issue was the cider and wine mixture at the bottom of the roasting pan scaled/burned so as to render the drippings essentially unusable for gravy.


I followed the instructions almost to a tee on a 10lb bird. I rubbed the dryrub with one extra tbsp of salt/pepper both over and under the skin. I also added minced fresh herbs into the (salted) butter and rubbed it both under and over the skin. I used a convection oven and tented the foil over the turkey after the first 30 minutes. Turkey was done in just over 2 hrs total and was FANTASTIC. Seasoned perfectly & very moist! Drippings wer delicious and made great gravy from another NYT recipe.


Made this twice -- last year &this. Both times with pasture raised, organic turkey. ~13.5#. Each time >> done 45-60 minutes EARLY. (2 different ovens too). Prompting fast work on the mashed potatoes, taking it out & leaving it > 30 minutes before eating. Question is WHY? 1) when i reduced oven temp from 450 to 325,both times I did NOT open the door for any length of time to bring temp down fast. Thus, I noticed this time the temp went down very slowly to 325. 2) pasture raised cooks faster?


Delicious, delicious, delicious. Came out perfect for my Friendsgiving. We used a very fresh bird purchased from a local farm. I will definitely repeat next year.

Faith C

Followed mostly to a T. I had a 13.5# bird, and I just used an instant read thermometer to account for the bird size. It came out absolutely perfect. I also used the convection setting on my oven, as well as I added more liquid to the bottom of my roast pan, to account for the efficacy of convection oven. Otherwise, it was stunning.


I doubted this recipe would produce a moist, flavorful turkey since I didn't read the steps until the day before Thanksgiving. Dry brining it at 3 PM Wednesday, then turning it at 11 PM, and then drying it off before running the Turkey Trot at 8 AM Thanksgiving - then leaving it on the counter for an hour to come to temperature - even with all these alterations based on time - it was incredible! Beware that the drippings are sweet and fruity with the wine and cider!

Maggie S

This was the best turkey I've ever made, though more liquid in the bottom would have been better. I did add additional when noted it drying up. It was brined as instructed for two days. Turned out perfect. The skin was delicious. This is a keeper recipe. Thanks Melissa.


I wonder if herbs and garlic can be placed in the cavity as well after dry brining.


I spatchco*cked a 12lb turkey and roasted it on a bed of the veggies, lemon and herbs. Otherwise, I followed the recipe--best turkey I've made.

Terry B

I used this recipe for Thanksgiving yesterday, my husband and I agreed this was by far the best turkey we ever had. It was fully cooked, very moist, great flavor. And beautifully browned. I used melted butter. Did not have hard cider so used regular apple juice. Afterward removed the onion and lemon from the juice and made gravy, it was sooo good. Thank you for this recipe.


Excellent! The turkey came out very moist and flavorful. The only thing that happened was I used a 18 pound turkey so I added time - but it actually finished in 2 hours (per the recipe which had a 12 pound turkey) so my turkey was done 1.5 hours before anticipated. All good - we went with the flow and just had it when the rest of the meal was ready. Delicous!

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Simple Roast Turkey Recipe (2024)


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