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roasted turkey on a white tray
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4.5 from 6 votes

The Simplest Way to Roast a Turkey

This is the simplest, no-fuss way to roast a turkey. No brining, basting, turning, or adjusting the heat. Just put the turkey in the oven and let it go. A high roasting temperature is the key to golden brown skin and meat that is tender and juicy. It also means that the turkey cooks FAST.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time2 hrs
Total Time2 hrs 20 mins
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Holiday recipe, Thanksgiving, turkey
Servings: 10
Calories: 284kcal
Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef
Cost: $20.00


  • Roasting Pan


  • 1 12-16 lbs Whole Turkey, fully defrosted, neck and giblets removed (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon Morton’s Kosher Salt (see note)
  • 1 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 4 tablespoon Butter, softened (see note)
  • 1 Lemon, sliced in half
  • 4 cups Water
  • Chopped onions, celery, carrots, apples, and / or sprigs of fresh herbs (optional - to flavor the pan drippings)


  • 1 hour before roasting: Place turkey breast-side up on a raised rack inside a roasting pan (see note). Pat dry with paper towels.
  • Combine salt and black pepper.
  • Gently loosen the skin from the breast and legs of the turkey to create some space for the seasoning and butter. (Note: I like to use a spoon to help gently separate the skin.)
  • Rub butter and then salt-pepper mixture evenly over the turkey, including inside the cavity and under and on top of the skin, concentrating more salt where the meat is thickest (like the breast).
  • Place lemon halves inside the cavity.
  • Leave turkey out to allow it to come to room temperature.
  • If you’d like to, you can tie / truss the legs of the turkey together. (I sometimes skip this to save a step.)
  • Add water to the bottom of the roasting pan. If you’d like to add vegetables or herbs to help flavor the pan drippings, add those to the water.
  • Arrange oven rack so that one rack is in the lower third of the oven.
  • Preheat oven to 425°F / 218°C.
  • Transfer the turkey to the lower rack in the oven and roast for 90 minutes to 2 ½ hours. Start checking the turkey on the lower end of the cook time and continue checking until the thickest part of the breast registers 160°F / 71°C and the thickest part of the thigh registers 165°F / 73°C.) If the breast is cooking much faster than the thigh (or if the skin on the breast gets more brown than you’d like it to be, lightly cover that part of the turkey with a piece of foil.)
  • Once turkey is done transfer it to a cutting board and let rest for 30 to 45 minutes (you can tent it with foil to keep it warm).
  • Slice and serve.


It is very important to be sure the turkey is fully defrosted (in the refrigerator) before you begin roasting. Estimate 1 day per 4 lbs of turkey to fully defrost.
Salt - If using Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, increase to 4 teaspoons; if using regular table salt, reduce to 2 teaspoons.


Calories: 284kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 40g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 12mg | Sodium: 743mg | Potassium: 15mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 140IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 7mg | Iron: 1mg