This lemon rosemary roast turkey is absolutely delicious! Juicy and flavorful, it's perfect for your next Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. It's easy to prep and sure to impress your guests.
We love roast turkey here and we make it more then just for Thanksgiving so we have experimented with different spices and ways to make it. We prefer a no brine turkey, I am not one for using a salty brine but we all have our preferences!
I prefer to keep things simple for the holiday meals. People often stress too much around the holidays and your dinner should not be a part of the stress!
This is a very simple prep and it will be a juicy meal! The lemon does not add a lot of flavor so it won't be sour.
This is our favorite way to prepare it for how tender it is, but we also have one without lemon that uses garlic powder instead of chopped garlic if you prefer not to add the lemon - classic roast turkey.
Turkey - To decide on the size, figure about 1 to 1 and a half pounds per person. That may sound like a lot, but a turkey has a lot of bones that take up a bit of weight.
Butter - I recommend salted here, especially for under the skin. But you can use unsalted if you prefer.
Lemon - Fresh lemon or you can substitute it with a lime. Bottled juice will not work in this recipe, you need the peels from the lemon.
Rosemary - We use dried rosemary for the turkey.
Garlic - Fresh garlic is best for flavor.
Salt - We use fine sea salt but you can use table salt as well. Sea salt is great but you need it to be fine, not coarse.
Pepper - I like fresh ground peppercorns or you can use regular ground black pepper.
Making the roasted turkey
It is very easy to make the lemon rosemary turkey and I am going to step you through it!
Prep the turkey
First thing you want to do is to take the turkey out of the fridge. Be sure it is fully thawed, if not you will need to soak it in cold water until it is thawed. It is not recommended to cook a partially frozen turkey.
Remove it from the packaging and make sure to remove any giblets that are in the cavities - plural because sometimes there are some in the neck cavity and usually most of them are in the large cavity under the breast meat.
Give the turkey a quick rinse and pat dry in the cavity and the skin with paper towels. Set the turkey onto the rack of a roasting rack and set aside while you make the seasoning mix. The turkey is best to sit out about 30 minutes before baking, but no longer then an hour.
Many times we tuck the wings under, but sometimes we leave them the way they are. You can tuck the tips of the wings under the body, but it's completely optional - they get a crispier skin if they are not tucked.
I recommend that you leave the legs tied together when cooking, but you do not have to in order to have a delicious roast lemon rosemary roast turkey. If your turkey comes with a piece that holds the legs together, you can use that or you can use kitchen twine if your turkey did not come with the legs together.
Note - We recently made a Butterball turkey and it had the tail cut out but left a large circle in the skin for the feet to go through. The little things in life make me happy! You will see in our finished images here that we used this hole in the skin to keep the legs tied.
Half of the butter gets melted and is part of the seasoning mix, the other half needs to be cut into thin slices to be placed under the skin.
The garlic gets divided for the lemon rosemary turkey too. You will be chopping 2 cloves of garlic for the seasoning. The other 3 will be cut into quarters and placed in the cavity of the turkey.
Melt the 3 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan and add your fresh chopped garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper. Cook on low to medium low for about 1 minute and remove from heat. You do not want the garlic to brown, you are just combining the flavors into the butter.
Hand squeeze the lemon into a small prep bowl and place the peels and the garlic cloves into the cavity of the turkey. You get less out if you hand squeeze which is what we are looking for, you want some of the juice and pulp to stay in the peel. After removing butter mixture from the heat, add the lemon juice to the butter mix and stir well.
Seasoning the turkey
Before adding the lemon rosemary seasoning to the top, you want to take your thin slices of butter and push them under the skin. Do not remove the skin. At the end of the breast meat closest to the legs the skin will lift up fairly easy.
You may need to run your finger through it just enough to lift up slightly from the meat. Only lift it enough to push butter slices in between the skin and the meat.
After placing the butter under the skin, use a basting brush to evenly brush the seasoning mix over the turkey. Do not lift the turkey off the roasting pan to do the bottom, but brush it over all of the turkey you can reach without lifting it up. The bottom does not need the seasoning brushed onto it. Be sure to use all of the seasoning, even if it looks like a lot.
We use a thermometer that has probes to keep an eye on the temperature. If you have a probe for your thermometer, you should place it into the thickest part of the thigh. We have a new thermometer that has 4 probes (mainly use it for the smoker) so I had to experiment and added 2 here. The thigh is most important to monitor the temperature.
We do not cover the lemon rosemary turkey unless it is browning too fast.
The oven needs to be preheated to 325 for convection (includes convection roast feature on an oven) or 350 degrees Fahrenheit for a conventional oven.
Be sure the oven rack is close to the bottom of the stove so your turkey will sit centered in the oven.
Bake for about 12-15 minutes per pound. It is best to use an oven safe thermometer or a probe for a digital thermometer kept in the thickest part of the thigh so you know when it is done. It should read at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit before removing from the oven to rest.
The thickest part of the breast needs to be between 160 and 165 before removing from the oven as well. Thighs can cook up to 180 degrees and still be delicious if needed to get the breast meat up to temperature, so don't panic if the thighs reach temperature first.
A little over half way through cook time take a look at the turkey (preferably through the door if you have glass on your door.) If it appears to be getting too brown, loosely cover it with foil and continue to bake. We usually do not need to cover it and let it get a bit dark
Once the turkey is up to temperature, remove and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes before cutting.
Frequently asked questions
We never recommend cooking the stuffing inside the turkey for safety reasons. The stuffing needs to be at least 165 degrees inside the cavity and it can alter the way the turkey cooks throughout. This sometimes creates dry and or undercooked meat.
We like to simmer giblets in a small sauce pan. The giblets go to our dogs, but the water it was boiled in is great for preparing stuffing! We often substitute some of the broth for the giblet water.
Also we bake our stuffing after it was prepared. You can carefully spoon some of the drippings from the turkey over top of the stuffing and bake the stuffing while the turkey is resting.
Yes we often freeze leftover turkey! It is best to freeze it within 2 days of cooking it and it should last up to 3-4 months in the freezer. Be sure it is fully cooled down before freezing to prevent excess moisture.
Yes, you should always check the temperature with a thermometer! Do not rely on the pop up timers. You can use it as an indicator of when to check the temperature.
I have had the pop up time pop up many times before the turkey was up to temperature.
Useful items to make the roast turkey
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- Roasting pan with rack - This is not the same one we use, ours is All Clad and I could not find one like it. Cuisinart is a great brand and it is a bit cheaper then the one we have. You can use non stick and there are many pans to choose from, but we prefer stainless steel over non stick.
- Turkey tongs - They are great for lifting the turkey out of the roasting pan!
- Basting brush - Silicone is my favorite for a basting brush. The bristles do not come out like the traditional hair basting brushes.
- Meat thermometer - We have this one and it is amazing, plus it isn't expensive! You can use it for grilling, baking and as an instant read thermometer. It has a probe with a digital display so you can keep the probe in the turkey and place the thermometer on the counter or outside the oven door (it has magnets in it.) The wire for the probe is thin enough to fit through the door with no problems.
Lemon Rosemary Roast Turkey
- Meat thermometer
- 16-22 pounds turkey see notes
- 6 Tablespoons butter divided
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 lemon
- 1½ teaspoons rosemary dried
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit for conventional (no fan) or 325° Fahrenheit for convection. If you have an oven that has a convection roast feature, use that set to 325°.
- Remove turkey from the fridge and take it out of the packaging. Remove any giblets and rinse the turkey with a little cold water.Pat the skin dry and the inside of the cavity dry with paper towels.16-22 pounds turkey
- Place turkey on the rack of the roasting pan, tuck the wings (optional) and tie the legs. Set aside. It will sit out about 30 minutes before going in the oven.
- Chop 2 garlic cloves and cut the other 3 cloves into quarters.Toss the quarters into the cavity of the turkey.5 cloves garlic
- Hand squeeze the lemon into a small bowl - be sure to hand squeeze, you only need a little juice but want some to remain in the peels.After squeezing the juice, toss both halves into the cavity of the turkey.1 lemon
- Thinly slice 3 tablespoons of butter and carefully push the slices under the skin over the breast meat. Do not remove skin and you should be able to gently lift it just enough to squeeze butter slices in.
- In small pan melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter.Add in the chopped garlic, rosemary, pepper and salt. Cook for about 1 minute. You don't want anything to brown, just letting the flavors combine into the butter.Remove from heat and pour in the lemon juice. Stir to mix well.1½ teaspoons rosemary, 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper
- With a basting brush, evenly spread the butter mixture over the top and sides of the turkey. Do not lift the turkey out of the pan to season, the bottom doesn't need to be seasoned. Be sure to use all of the seasoning mixture.Insert a thermometer probe into the thickest part of the thigh now if using one.
- Put the oven rack in one of the lower positions so your turkey will sit evenly in the center of the oven. Bake at 350° (conventional) or 325° (convection/convection roast) for 10-15 minutes per pound.
- If it is starting to brown too quickly, loosely cover with foil and continue to cook.Cook until the thickest part of the thigh is at least 165° and the breast meat is 160°-165°. Thigh meat can be cooked up to 180° and still be delicious if needed to bring the breast meat to temperature.
- Once the turkey is up to temperature, remove from oven and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes before carving, but no longer then an hour.
Rosemary, Lemon and Garlic roast turkey has step by step slide.