Best Slow Roast Turkey Recipe Ever

Every year it’s the same old story. I cook a turkey for the holidays, and it turns out bland and dry. It’s tradition, right? Gotta have a turkey…

Two years ago, I decided no. You don’t have to have a turkey. I ditched the turkey for Cornish hens. My mom gave me a fun idea to put a Cornish hen on a turkey platter, take it to the table, lift the lid and gasp, “Oh no! It shrunk!” That was certainly fun…but you can’t repeat that act year after year.

So last year, I went back to turkey. Only this time, I did what I love to do. I dove into research. I researched tons of recipes claiming to be the best way to slow roast a turkey in the oven.  We had a very special guest for Thanksgiving, so I wanted the turkey to at least have some flavor.

Research and Simon & Garfunkel Make a Good Turkey

I wanted to cook my turkey in the oven, because it turns out too dry in the smoker. I looked up ways to slow cook it so that it would be even more juicy. I wanted to pack the flavor it. Piecing together key concepts from different recipes got me most of the way there… but when it came to spices, I looked to Simon & Garfunkel. I can’t recall how many choral performances and Solo and Ensemble competitions that I sang “Are you coming to Scarborough Fair” as either a solo or group piece. “…parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme..” kept running through my head as I prepared the spices, so I ran with it.

When it was all finished and I took my first bite, I was shocked. “This actually tastes really good!” I said. I took another bite. Even more words spilled from my mouth that smacked of arrogance to me. You never praise your own cooking. It just isn’t right. But I couldn’t stop being amazed. It was the best turkey I’d ever tasted. My turkey just NEVER turns out right. This had to be a delicious, delightful fluke.

But…it wasn’t.

This Recipe Just Worked

I cooked another turkey when my brother came to visit for my birthday this year. It was for our traditional birthday meal. Mom used to ask us our favorite dish for our birthdays (which are a week apart), and she usually had to make us our delicious family recipe for turkey casserole. In hindsight I appreciate her sacrificial act even more, knowing she had to cook turkey a couple weeks before Thanksgiving for us (or have turkey meat on hand)….and then do it all over again for Thanksgiving.

This year’s turkey was also surprisingly good. I have never been more surprised at my own cooking than when I cooked these turkeys. Not even when I made cheddar cheese (that was surprising to me that I could actually do that…and after all the steps, I was surprised I actually did it). If any of you have made cheese like that… then you know these turkeys must have been something special.

So, if you’re looking at that cold wet bird thinking…not another bland, dry turkey… try this:

Best Slow Roasted Turkey Recipe Ever

  • Servings: Depends on Turkey Size
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Print

If you'd like a flavorful, juicy turkey to pass around this holiday season, look no further.


turkey spices

To make it easy, I’m dividing ingredients up by their purpose. The “Stuffing” ingredients are not for your traditional side dish of stuffing. They are purely to season the meat. You may enjoy the carrots, celery and onion when all is said and done, but they certainly aren’t a stuffing side dish. The spices may look like a lot, but trust me- they are important.

I recommend using a deeper roasting pan with a lid. I don’t use a roasting rack, but put the turkey in the bottom of the roaster and fill the pan 1/4 full. I do this because I like to have a good amount of broth and nice juicy meat. The result is that the meat is so soft it falls off the bone. I pick the meat from the bones separating white and dark meats before serving.

I cook the meat at 450°F for one hour first. This gets it up to higher temperature quickly so that it can safely cook for a long time at a lower temperature. Here is what my turkey looked like before that hour:

turkey in oven

Here is what it looked like after that hour (the broth is boiling):

turkey brown

Alternate Method: If you prefer to put the whole turkey on the platter and carve it at the table, just use your traditional roasting pan and skip adding the water. Don’t worry about covering it later either. With this method, if you would like a nice crispy skin, prepare the bird a couple of days ahead and let it air dry in the fridge. The dry exterior skin will make for a nice crispy skin.


  • One turkey
  • Stuffing
    • 1 large orange (or three clementines)
    • 1 lemon
    • 2 stalks celery
    • 2 carrots
    • 1 onion
    • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • Spice Mix
    • 1/4 cup parsley
    • 1/8 cup sage
    • 1/4 cup rosemary
    • 1/4 cup thyme
    • 1/4 cup onion powder
    • 1/4 cup garlic powder
    • 2 Tablespoons salt
    • Pepper to taste
  • Water (to fill the roasting pan to 1/4 full after the turkey is inside)


  1. Defrost the turkey. Take this part seriously. It takes approximately 24 hours per 5 lbs of turkey to defrost it in the refrigerator. Before you throw away the wrapper, write down exactly how many pounds the turkey is.
  2. Preheat oven to 450°F
  3. Remove organs (don’t miss the neck in the front cavity!) and place in roasting pan.
  4. Clean and chop all the stuffing ingredients. Leave them all in larger chunks- just make them small enough to pack into the cavity of the turkey. You can leave the peel on the orange and lemon and quarter them. Obviously, more will fit into a 24 lb turkey than into a 14 lb turkey. You can adjust how much you chop up accordingly.
  5. Melt butter
  6. Mix spices
  7. Separate the skin from the turkey on both the breast and back. Rub 1/2 the butter and 1/3 of the spices between the skin and meat on the breast side and the other 1/2 of the butter and 1/3 of the spices between the skin and meat on the back side.
  8. Stuff the turkey cavity with all the stuffing ingredients and the remaining 1/3 of the spices.
  9. Place the turkey breast down in a deep roasting pan. Fill 1/4 deep with water. (Skip the water if you are using a traditional roaster and carving the turkey at the table. See recipe notes above).
  10. Bake at 450°F for 1 hour uncovered. This gets it nice and toasty for safe slow cooking at a lower temperature. It also browns it nicely.
  11. Reduce temperature to 250°, cover, and bake for 20 minutes per pound.
  12. Allow the turkey to cool and clean the meat off the bones. Then strain the liquids to get the broth.
  13. Enjoy!

I hope you enjoy this recipe. More than that, I hope you enjoy your time eating it with loved ones. Take some time with one another to:

  1. Remember together God’s work in your lives. Try telling your God Stories to one another. Check out: Telling Your God Stories Can Change Thanksgiving- and Life
  2. Thank God for Who He is and what He has done.
  3. Express appreciation to one another for the things you value most about each person.

My prayer is that you will engage meaningfully with those that you care about, deepening your relationships in a way that changes your life and theirs. Remember to take time to sip life slowly and enjoy it!

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Cover Photo by Craig Adderley from Pexels