Easy Roasted Turkey w/ Sage Butter

It’s turkey time!  Even if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, turkeys are everywhere and super cheap (if not outright free) for the next couple of weeks.  Which means that turkey will be on pretty much everyone’s menu at least once this month.

Sadly, roasting a turkey inspires fear in the hearts of many.  Let’s face it, you never just make turkey for you – it’s the kind of thing you invite friends and family over for.  So there is always an audience, and that results in major performance anxiety.  It doesn’t help that beautifully golden brown and perfectly trussed turkeys are gracing the cover of every food magazine, blog and cooking channel program right now.  It’s a lot of pressure!!!!!

That’s why there are thousands of recipes, internet sites and even telephone hotlines dedicated to techniques for preparing this king of poultry.  Fresh or frozen?  To brine or not to brine?  Organic or not?  Deep fry, smoke or roast?  Inject or rub?  Tent with foil?  High heat or low?  GAH!  Too many choices STRESSES ME OUT PEOPLE!!!!!!!

So I decided to rebel against the notion that you need a PHD in poultry to turn out a juicy, delicious bird and just keep it simple for this post. [pullquote3 quotes=”true” align=”right” variation=”slategrey”]I decided to rebel against the notion that you need a PHD in poultry to turn out a juicy, delicious bird and just keep it simple for this post. It’s not complicated, it’s not difficult, and it takes less time than you might think.[/pullquote3]

It’s not complicated, it’s not difficult, and it takes less time than you might think. I rub a sage butter under the skin, throw in some quartered lemons and apples to flavor the pan juices, and roast it at high heat to keep it juicy and tender. 

I roasted this 13 lb. bird in two hours at 400 degrees and it turned out perfect.  The high heat keeps it from drying out, so when I poured the pan juices into a measuring cup to make the gravy there was only one and a half cups of it – that’s because most of it stayed in the bird, which is exactly where you want it. 

Also key is letting it rest for AT LEAST half an hour before cutting into it which keeps all the juices from running out onto your cutting board and leaving you with dry meat.



Easy Roasted Turkey w/ Sage Butter

Yield: 12 - 14 servings


  • 12 - 14 lb turkey
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
  • 2 Tbl fresh sage, minced
  • 2 Tbl fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbl kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 2 small apples, quartered


  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees (F) and adjust your racks to fit the turkey into it. Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey and rinse the bird inside and out. Pat dry. Combine the softened butter, sage, garlic, salt and butter in a small bowl, mixing well to combine. Starting from the back of the bird, slide your fingers between the skin and breast meat, opening a cavity that extends all the way to the front and along the sides of the breast. Push the flavored butter under the skin, covering all of the meat. Do the same with the tops of the drumsticks, being careful not to pierce the skin. This is no time to be squeamish - roll up your sleeves and get in there with your fist full of butter! Then rub the remaining butter over the rest of the skin of the turkey, top and bottom. Stuff the quartered lemons and apples into the cavity of the bird. If they don't all fit, throw the rest into your roasting pan. Place the bird UPSIDE DOWN into the roasting pan - this protects the breast and keeps it from drying out. Roast at 400 degrees for one hour. Remove from the oven and turn over carefully. Roast right side up for another hour. Test with a meat thermometer for 165 degrees at the thickest part of the thigh. If not quite there, give it another 15 minutes and test it again. Remove from the oven and let it rest - preferably for an hour if you can. While the turkey is resting, pour the pan juices into a measuring cup. Skim off 90% of the fat and then add about 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 tsp of xanthan gum (if you have it) to thicken it. Puree in a blender or magic bullet and re-heat just before serving.


It's important to let it rest for AT LEAST half an hour before cutting into it which keeps all the juices from running out onto your cutting board and leaving you with dry meat. The apples, lemon, and sage give the pan juices a beautiful flavor, this was the best gravy I've ever made! Enjoy!

I'm not sure how to calculate the nutrition information in this recipe so use your best judgement.


This turkey is perfectly complemented by my Low Carb and Gluten Free Turkey Stuffing recipe,


as well as my Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Pine Nuts recipe!


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    • says

      I would recommend increasing the upside down time to 90 minutes and then an hour and 15 minutes right side up. Test with a meat thermometer (or keep- checking the handy pop-up thingy if your turkey has one) every 10 minutes until it gets to 165 degrees. Then let that sucker rest for AT LEAST 30 minutes before cutting into it. Hope this helps!

  1. says

    Rubbing the bird was not my favorite part of this process, i’m very squeamish! I had to have my bf help with the removal of the cavity and all of the insides. Anyway, my favorite part was eating it! This was the first time making a turkey and your recipe seemed the most first timer friendly. It was delicous. My bf was worried that it was going to be dry, but not I, I was blindly trusting the apples and lemon and the mixture. Needless to say, it was a definite success in our house, the kids loved it, the bf and I loved it, which means that this will be my go to recipe every year. Thanks so much for sharing it.

  2. Rebecca says

    Melissa, do you baste the turkey while it is cooking or does the upside cooking technique help? I’ve always placed apples and onion inside the cavity and slathered it with a butter and olive oil mixture and then topped with my seasoning. Never thought to season the butter! Thanks again for such a great looking bird! Here is to you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving!

    • says

      Honestly I don’t usually – since you do it upside down and then just flip it at the end, it’s almost self basting. But if you wanted to you certainly could – I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt! Enjoy!

  3. Stephanie says

    Looks gorgeous Mellissa! Do you think this would work with a 7 lb turkey breast? If so, can you advise on the cooking times? I appreciate it!!!

    • says

      Thanks Stephanie! I could really only guess at a turkey breast at such a high heat. I would think it would take about an hour to an hour and a half, but you should start testing the internal temp with a thermometer at 45 minutes just to be sure!

  4. Amy says

    I love the idea of blending the gravy! I did this last year, but used the onions that I stuffed the turkey with to make it thick. It worked wonderfully and was so delicious. I would love to cook my turkey this year like your method and add the fruit. Could I still add the onions and use to thicken the gravy or do you think the onions will overpower the apples and lemon? I prefer not to use xantham gum. Thank you!


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