Roasted Turkey with Garlic-Herb Butter

There are many ways to roast a turkey. This variation becomes very aromatic as it cooks, thanks to roasted garlic and herbs. Some tips:

1. Rub the roasted garlic, fresh herbs and butter onto – and under – the skin. Don’t be put off by the amount of butter; it helps keep the flesh moist, and much of it runs off anyway.

2. If you have extra herbs, you can tuck sprigs of these fresh herbs into the cavity to add extra flavor.

3. Invest in a heavy roasting pan. Disposable aluminum ones tend to steam the turkey, and they are flimsy, often bending under the weight of the bird. A rack is very important. 

4. Don’t forget the importance of maintaining oven temperature! A steady oven temperature keeps the bird from having to cook longer. So don’t baste the turkey in front of an open oven, because it allows the heat to escape. Take it out instead!


  • 1 garlic head
  • olive oil, for drizzling
  • 3 tablespoons each chopped fresh thyme, rosemary, sage and flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature plus some more for basting
  • 3 teaspoons coarse salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 fresh turkey (approx 12-14 lbs) – if bought frozen, it needs to be completely thawed out


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in center. Place the garlic head on a square of aluminum foil, and drizzle with oil. Loosely wrap garlic, and roast until fragrant and very soft, about 1 hour. Remove from oven; let cool.
  2. In a small bowl, combine herbs and butter. Slice off tip of roasted garlic head with a serrated knife; discard. Squeeze garlic head firmly over bowl to release softened cloves. Season with salt and pepper, and mix until smooth.
  3. Raise oven temperature to 400 degrees. Rinse turkey with cool water; pat dry. Make sure you remove the packets of giblets from the front and back cavities. The giblets cooking inside the bird won’t really hurt anything, but the plastic bags will!
  4. Tuck wing tips under body. Place turkey on a roasting rack in a heavy roasting pan; add 1/2 cup water to pan.
  5. Using your hands, gently separate skin from turkey breast at both ends; smear 1/3 of herb butter mixture between skin and meat. Smear exterior and cavity with remaining herb butter mixture.
  6. Roast until skin begins to brown. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Make a foil tent to keep from herbs burning. Continue to roast turkey, basting every 45 minutes. You can baste with additional butter if needed. When done basting, put the foil tent back on. 
  7. Rule of thumb. A pound of turkey = 13 or 14 minutes in the oven. A 14lb turkey would require 182 to 196 minutes. That is equivalent to between 3 hours to 3.5 hours. I usually do 3.5 hours for a 14lb turkey. 
  8. Continuing roasting and basting until time’s up. Insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of thigh (avoid the bone) to see if temperature has reached 180 degrees; if not, baste turkey, return to oven, and roast until temperature is 180 degrees. Let turkey rest, loosely covered with foil, at least 30 minutes before carving.

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