This foolproof Thanksgiving turkey recipe produces a holiday centerpiece that is excellent in every way other whole turkeys often fall short: It’s full of flavor and juicy as heck, thanks to an easy dry brine. And cooking the turkey on a rimmed baking sheet, not in a deep roasting pan, is great for all-over browning—just be extra careful as you remove it from the oven so that the drippings don’t slosh over the sides.

You’ll start by administering that dry brine, a simple mix of kosher salt and brown sugar, at least 12 hours before you plan to cook the turkey. If you can manage it, a full two days uncovered in the fridge will make your brined turkey even better. We swear by dry brining, which ensures a well-seasoned, tender, juicy turkey, over wet brining, because the latter can be messy and waterlog the bird.

After the turkey goes into the oven, you’ll whip together a quick glaze with vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, honey, and a few aromatics. The recipe calls for fresh rosemary, but if you have another hearty fresh herb on hand, like sage or thyme, feel free to use it instead. Brushing, rather than basting, will help ensure every inch of the broad turkey breast gets an even lacquer, which means more crispy skin to go around. 

This roast turkey recipe demands patience, so plan accordingly. Once the bird hits the optimal internal temperature (highly recommend getting your hands on a meat thermometer if you don’t already own one), it must rest out of the oven for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour so that the turkey juices have time to redistribute. Don’t cover it in aluminum foil or anything else—doing so will cause all that hard-earned crackling skin to go limp. Trust us, it’s fine: the cooked turkey will not go cold. Use the time to put the finishing touches on your green beans, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and the other side dishes for your Thanksgiving dinner (or to consider all the things you’ll do with your leftover turkey in the days to come).

If you’re still not convinced that this is the perfect roast turkey for you, try your hand at our garlicky spatchcock turkey, or roast your turkey in parts for breast meat and turkey legs cooked to their particular optimal doneness.

Ingredients

8–10 servings

½

cup Diamond Crystal or ¼ cup plus 1½ tsp. Morton kosher salt

1

Tbsp. light brown sugar

1

12–14-lb. turkey, neck reserved for gravy, giblets discarded, patted dry

12

Tbsp. (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided

¼

cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

2

Tbsp. honey

4

tsp. Worcestershire sauce

3

sprigs rosemary

3

garlic cloves, crushed

2

2×1″ strips orange zest

Preparation

  1. Step 1

    Place salt and brown sugar in a medium bowl and work together with your fingers until incorporated. Place turkey on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet. (If you don’t have this setup, place your turkey on a V-shape rack set inside a large roasting pan.) Sprinkle dry brine all over outside and inside of turkey, patting to adhere and nudging some into crevices. You won’t need all of the dry brine, but it’s good to have extra since some of it will end up on the baking sheet as you season the turkey. Chill bird, uncovered, at least 12 hours and up to 2 days.

    Step 2

    Remove turkey from wire rack and rinse baking sheet and rack if needed (turkey will most likely release some liquid onto pan). Line baking sheet with 3 layers of foil and set rack back inside. Place turkey, breast side up, on rack and tuck wings underneath. Let turkey sit at room temperature 2–3 hours.

    Step 3

    Place an oven rack in middle of oven; preheat to 450°. Using your fingers, loosen skin on breast. Work 4 Tbsp. butter under skin, spreading evenly over both breasts. Smear outside of turkey with another 4 Tbsp. butter.

    Step 4

    Tie legs together with kitchen twine and pour 1 cup water into baking sheet.

    Step 5

    Roast turkey, rotating pan halfway through, until skin is mostly golden brown all over, about 30 minutes.

    Step 6

    Meanwhile, cook vinegar, honey, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, garlic, orange zest, and remaining 4 Tbsp. butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until bubbling and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to lowest setting and keep glaze warm.

    Step 7

    Reduce oven temperature to 300° and continue to roast turkey, brushing with glaze every 30 minutes and adding more water by ½-cupfuls as needed to maintain some liquid in baking sheet, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of breast near the neck registers 150° (don’t worry; the temperature will continue to climb while the bird rests), 65–85 minutes longer. Skin should be deep golden brown, shiny, and crisp. Transfer turkey to a cutting board and let rest at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour before carving.

    Photo by Michael Graydon + Nikole Herriott, food styling by Rebecca Jurkevich, prop styling by Kalen Kaminski

    Editor’s note: The recipe was originally printed in our November 2018 issue as “Dry-Rubbed Roast Turkey.” Head this way for more of our best Thanksgiving recipes