The holidays are right around the corner. If you are like me, your #1 goal is to produce a juicy roast turkey for your guests.
Whether you making a Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas roast, roasting a turkey usually comes with two problems.
The first being flavor and the second moisture. A juicy, flavorful turkey is everyone’s goal, right? And usually the #1 stressor of hosts.
People literally go bonkers with recipes, techniques and tactics to get a perfect bird. But a juicy turkey doesn’t have to be difficult. First, let’s start with some table talk.
What's In This Article
Did you know that the first Thanksgiving feasts, also known as the Harvest celebration, lasted for 3 whole days and usually served venison as the protein? It wasn’t until about 300 years ago that the official Thanksgiving turkey was introduced.
Of course the recipe and freshness of the turkey play a part in how juicer your turkey is, but the number one mistake is that the turkey is overcooked. I highly recommend using a digital thermometer in the meatiest part of the thigh to keep a watchful eye on your bird.
- Turkey – A good rule of thumb is to have 1 and a 1/2 pound of turkey per person you are serving. If you have a frozen turkey, make sure it is thawed before cooking.
- Butter – You know what makes the best turkey recipes? Butter! rubbing a seasoned butter mixture between the skin of the turkey ensures you have incredibly juicy meat.
- Fresh herbs – For this juicy roast turkey recipe, we will be using a blend of dried parsley, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme and fresh sage. I always opt to use fresh herbs whenever possible for the maximum flavor.
- Salt and pepper – You can add these to taste, but I prefer to use Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Stuffing – I stuff my turkey with an apple, celery and white onion. I love the sweet and savory blend of flavors that it provides.
- Sweet sparkling wine – My secret ingredient for this perfect roast turkey is the bubbly! You are basically steaming your turkey in sparkling wine, so you get an incredible flavor. But you can also use a sparkling water, even a flavored one, if you don’t want to use wine. All of the alcohol will cook off, so no need to worry.
- Unsalted butter – I always opt to use unsalted butter when cooking. That way I control the amount of salt that goes into a recipe.
- Flour – The base of any great gravy starts with a roux. When flour is mixed with butter in a saucepan, the thickening agent is created.
- Chicken broth – To thin out the gravy, we use chicken broth. You could also use vegetable broth if you prefer.
- Turkey drippings – The best part and the source of all the flavor! Using pan juices is a great way to make a homemade turkey gravy.
- Coarse sea salt and pepper – Use these to taste.
Covering the turkey creates a steamer function, preventing the meat from drying out. You are literally steaming your turkey in sparkling wine. Is there anything better?
Sparkling on turkey? YES! Most people don’t think about cooking with champagne or a sparkling wine, but it is not unlike cooking with any other type of wine. Or beverage with carbonation, really.
The common term champagne technically only refers to sparkling wines coming from the Champagne region of France and are traditionally dry or “brut”. Chances are the type you are buying isn’t actually champagne, but don’t worry. For this recipe, you don’t want a super dry wine.
In fact, the goal is to impart sweet and floral notes. Aim for an Italian Prosecco or another sweet, cheap sparkling wine and save the good stuff for sipping and cocktails.
If you don’t use alcohol in your cooking, substitute with ginger ale or sparkling water.
How to Make Juicy Roast Turkey
I’m telling you, you are about to embark on one of the best turkey recipes.
- Prepare oven and large roasting pan. Preheat the oven to the correct oven temperature. Line the bottom of the roasting pan with aluminum foil for easier clean up. This is my favorite turkey roasting pan.
- Dry the Turkey– If needed, rinse the turkey with cold water. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. A dry turkey will be easier for the butter to cling to.
- Make rub. In a small bowl, combine the butter with the parsley, rosemary, thyme, sage, Kosher salt and ground black pepper.
- Rub butter onto turkey. Using your fingers, loosen skin from turkey meat. Massage the butter mixture between skin and meat, and also a little in the turkey cavity.
- Add stuffing. Stuff the cavity with the apple, celery and onion.
- Add to roasting pan. Place turkey, breast side up, in the roasting pan.
- Cover. Pour the champagne (or ginger ale) over the turkey. Cover loosely with aluminum foil, being careful to not have aluminum foil touch the skin.
- Bake. Bake the turkey, basting once per hour. Cook time will depend on the size of your bird. The general rule is 20 minutes per pound. Remove and take off aluminum foil. Baste with juices and champagne in the bottom of the pan. I do prefer a syringe style baster for this type of recipe.
- Return to oven. Return to the oven uncovered until internal temperature of your turkey reaches 180°F at the thickest part of the thigh (dark meat). Please use a meat thermometer )digital thermometer) and just guess. The outside of the turkey should be a golden brown.
- Remove. Remove from oven and carefully tent with aluminum foil. The best way to ensure a juicy roast turkey recipe is to make sure the turkey rests. This is the perfect time to make the gravy.
- Carve and serve. Remove cavity stuffing, carve and serve with turkey gravy.
Homemade Turkey Gravy
Our homemade turkey gravy is the perfect accompaniment because it uses the juices and flavors to make the sauce. This can be made using any turkey recipe.
- Make roux. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk with flour until a paste forms.
- Whisk. Continue to whisk until the roux (butter and flour) start to brown and become fragrant.
- Add broth and pan drippings. Slowly add the broth, whisking well until smooth. Add the pan drippings.
- Season. Taste test for seasoning and correct with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and keep warm until ready to serve.
Tips for the Perfect Juicy Roast Turkey
- Use a fresh turkey instead of frozen or a flash frozen turkey.
- Rub herbed butter under the skin.
- Tent to steam using a flavorful liquid.
- Don’t overcook it.
- If you choose to brine before, here is my award winning turkey brine recipe.
- Let the turkey rest before carving.
- If you want super crispy turkey skin, roast with the breast up so the skin has time to dry out.
How to Serve Juicy Roast Turkey
This is a classic Thanksgiving dinner, so here are some other classic Thanksgiving sides that pair perfectly with it
Not into making the whole turkey? Having a smaller gathering this holiday season and don’t need the whole bird? Make a juicy roast turkey breast for your Thanksgiving dinner instead.
Making just the breast of the turkey is a great alternative to roasting an entire turkey. That is, unless you want loads and loads of leftovers. Which are always good too!
Storage & Freezing
Isn’t one of the best parts of Thanksgiving the leftover turkey? We have oodles of recipes that use leftover turkey, but of course you are also welcome to just reheat it as-is. I like to do this in the oven and a tablespoon or two of chicken broth or wine in the bottom of the baking dish to prevent drying out.
To freeze turkey leftovers, take the meat off the bone and place in an airtight plastic bag or airtight container, removing as much air as possible, or filling as high as possible. Freeze for up to 6 months.
More Turkey Recipes
Juicy Roast Turkey Recipe
- 1 12-15 pound turkey
- 1/2 cup butter , softened
- 2 tablespoons dried parsley
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary , minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme , minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh sage , minced
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 apple , cored and qaurtered
- 2 celery stalks , roughly chopped
- 1 white onion , peeled and quartered
- 1 750 ML bottle sweet sparkling wine*
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a large roasting pan with aluminum foil (for easier clean up).
- In a small bowl, combine the butter with the parsley, rosemary, thyme, sage, Kosher salt and ground black pepper.
- Using your fingers, loosen skin from turkey meat. Massage the butter mixture between skin and meat, and also a little in the cavity.
- Stuff the cavity with the apple, celery and onion.
- Place the turkey, breast side up, in the roasting pan.
- Pour the champagne (or ginger ale) over the turkey. Cover loosely with aluminum foil, being careful to not have aluminum foil touch the skin.
- Bake the turkey for 3 hours, basting once per hour. Remove and take off aluminum foil. Baste with juices and champagne in the bottom of the pan.
- Return to the oven uncovered for 30 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 180°F at the meatiest part of the thigh. Turkey should be a golden brown.
- Remove from oven and carefully tent with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 15-30 minutes while you make the gravy.
- Remove cavity stuffing, carve and serve with turkey gravy.
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk with flour until a paste forms.
- Continue to whisk until the roux (butter and flour) start to brown and become fragrant, this can take up to 15 minutes depending on how hot your stove is.
- Slowly add the broth, whisking well until smooth. Add the drippings.
- Taste test for seasoning and correct with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and keep warm until ready to serve.
- If you’ve tried this recipe, please come back to give it a rating and let us know how you liked it in the comments or star ratings!