This very basic method for roasting a turkey is adapted from a NYT Cooking recipe by Sam Sifton. Honestly, if you can get a turkey into a pan (remembering to remove the plastic bag of giblets) and get the pan into a heated oven, you can cook a turkey. Just because cooking magazines and websites need to come up with new ways to cook a turkey every year, doesn’t mean you do. To be fair, most of the new recipes are designed to solve the perennial dilemma of getting the breast meat to stay moist while the thighs cook through. In reality, this is almost impossible unless you butterfly a turkey or cook the parts separately. And we are not going there — or anywhere else complicated with this recipe.

I’ve included instructions for a simple gravy, too. Be sure not to buy a turkey that has already been brined (look at labels) if you want to make gravy, because a brined turkey will release too much liquid into the roasting pan. That will prevent the turkey’s own natural juices from caramelizing on the bottom of the roasting pan, and those drippings are the essence of gravy. 

A note about equipment: If you do not have a large roasting pan (and some kind of rack), borrow those things this time around. You will not be happy with one of those lightweight disposable foil roasting pans when it buckles. For making gravy, you will need to separate fat from juices with either a gravy separator (looks like a small watering can) or a glass (Pyrex-type) measure.

Serves 8 to 10

  • One 12-to-14-pound fresh turkey
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper 
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • ¼ cup finely chopped rosemary, sage, thyme and/or oregano, plus a few extra sprigs for cavity
  • 1 onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 lemon, cut in half

1. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator an hour or two before cooking it. Stir together the softened butter and the herbs in a small bowl.

2. Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Put a rack inside a large roasting pan and put the turkey in the rack. (Make sure you have taken the giblet bag and the neck out. Check the cavities at both ends of the turkey.) If you’ll be making gravy, put the neck in the roasting pan. You do not need to wash the turkey.

3. Season the turkey generously with salt and pepper all over and inside the cavity. Rub the turkey all over with the butter-herb mixture. Put the onion, extra herb sprigs, and lemon into the turkey cavity.

4. Tuck the tips of the wings under the bird and tie its legs together with cotton string.  

5. Put the turkey in the oven and immediately drop the temperature to 350 degrees F.

6. Roast the turkey, basting with pan juices after they begin appearing, about one hour into cooking. If the juices on the bottom of the pan begin to brown too much, add a half cup of water. Remove the turkey neck after an hour.

7. Continue roasting the turkey, basting every 30 minutes or so, until the internal temperature (check the thickest part of the thigh) is 165 degrees, about 2 ½ to 3 hours.   

8. Transfer the turkey to a large cutting board and allow it to rest for 30 to 45 minutes before carving. Reserve the roasting pan if you plan to make gravy.

9. Make gravy if you like while the bird is resting. Carve and serve.

Pan Gravy for Simple Roast Turkey

This gravy is thickened with a simple flour-butter paste, but if you know how to — and want to —make a roux (cooking the flour in oil until it is dark brown), feel free to use roux as a thickener instead. You can also replace the quick stock with some rich turkey stock purchased from a gourmet shop. The recipe uses a roasted turkey neck to bump up the flavor of chicken broth; to roast the neck, throw it into the pan with your turkey for the first hour of cooking. Be sure to reserve the roasting pan, with all of its pan drippings, to make the gravy after the turkey comes out of the oven.

  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • Roasted turkey neck  (see above)
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce


1. In a small bowl, mix together the flour and butter until well-combined.

2. Combine the chicken broth, 1 cup water, and the turkey neck in a medium sauce pan. Simmer until reduced by half, about 30 minutes.

3. When you have removed the turkey from the roasting pan, get someone to help you and pour all of the fat and juices in the pan into a gravy separator or glass measure. Leave the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Give the fat and juices a few minutes to separate. (If using a gravy separator, you will be able to easily pour off the juices from the fat. If using a glass measure, refrigerate for a few minutes to allow the fat to rise to the top. In either case, discard the fat and measure out the juices.  Add the reduced stock. You will want to have about 4 cups total of liquid, but a little more or less is okay.  

4.   Arrange the roasting pan over two burners on your stove and turn the heat to medium. Pour two cups of the broth into the roasting pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Continue adding the broth and scraping. Adjust the heat to bring the liquids to a simmer. 

5. Add a few tablespoons of the butter-flour mixture to the pan and immediately begin whisking. The broth will begin to thicken and coat the back of the pan. Add more of the butter-flour mixture in small amounts, whisking and simmering, until the gravy is moderately thickened (it should not be too thick). Simmer for a few minutes, stirring regularly. Remove the roasting pan from the stove, stir the Worcestershire sauce into the gravy, and transfer it to a serving vessel.