Old Fashioned Thanksgiving Butter Herb Turkey and Cornbread Dressing

11:29 PM
Old Fashioned Thanksgiving recipes, including Baked Butter Herb Turkey, Southern Cornbread Dressing, and Southern Giblet Gravy!  Whether this is your first time preparing a Thanksgiving meal or you are a seasoned cook, these recipes are easy to follow and sure to please any of your guests.  

Old Fashioned Thanksgiving Turkey and Southern Cornbread Dressing with Giblet Gravy {Homemade from start to finish}

The countdown to Thanksgiving continues here at my house, starting with what will be on the menu.  Is the star of your Thanksgiving meal the turkey or the dressing.  For some, it may be the sides.  And I know everyone loves desserts. Our thing is pies, so many pies.

As always, Turkey, Dressing, and Giblet Gravy are on our menu list! Some call it stuffing, and some call it dressing.  Here in the South, we call it dressing.

As I grew up and later married, I began to realize the different ways people cook turkey, dressing, and giblet gravy.  I grew up eating baked turkey versus roast turkey.  


Below, under the next heading, I give a list of preferred ingredients, tips, and cooking instructions for the Baked Butter Herb Turkey and Cornbread Dressing and similar recipe ideas you can have.

Or you can scroll down to the bottom, where you will find a full printable recipe card with amounts of the ingredients and complete instructions with notes.

Over the last few years, my daughters, daughter-in-law, and I started improving on an already delicious turkey we had been cooking for years. 

I wanted to add fresh herbs but avoided overpowering the natural flavor of a moist turkey we loved so much.  So we came up with this recipe for Baked Herb Butter Turkey!

We use the method of stuffing fresh herbs with a stick of butter in the turkey's cavity and baking it at a low temperature, slow overnight.  

This method produces all the succulent flavors you want in a Thanksgiving turkey, not to mention a gorgeous presentation. Remember to garnish your serving platter with some of those fresh herbs.

When I married my husband, he was used to eating stuffed turkey and a more moist dressing than I was used to eating.  

So, as the years went by, my husband and I met in the middle of making the dressing.  

We do not stuff our turkey, but I adapted his Mother's recipe with my Mother's recipe, and we now have our own traditional Southern Cornbread Dressing recipe.  

In the last few years, we have started brining our turkey before baking it.  We kept the same recipe but added the brining 24 hours before putting the turkey in the oven.  Believe me, you don't want to bake your turkey any other way. 

It is so funny. I loved my Mother's and Mother-in-law's recipes, but we couldn't have both. Now we have the best of both Mothers!   

Giblet Gravy

Talking about giblet gravy is interesting, too. Most people, I have found, do not like giblet gravy---Horas! 

We even have them in our family, and then we have some that absolutely love it! It just shows how different people really are.  

There is one secret to making Southern Giblet Gravy superior to others.  Do not boil the gravy after the milk is added.  

Add the sliced boiled eggs just before it is served to ensure they are tender. A little tidbit there if you are a Southern Giblet Gravy fan!


  • Remove the giblets and neck from the turkey and add them to the prepared container.
  • Choose the correct container.  I use a 5 gallon igloo water cooler.  I replenish ice as necessary to keep the temperature at 40 degrees F. 
  • The ratio is to mix 2 cups of kosher salt or coarse sea salt for every 2 gallons of water.
  • Dissolve 2 cups of kosher salt into 2 cups of hot water. Allow to cool. 
  • Place the turkey with the legs toward the top in the 5 gallon water cooler.
  • Pour cool salt solution over the turkey. Add the remaining water.  If the turkey is floating, use a dinner plate to weigh it down. 
  • Check the temperature and add ice to keep the temperature at 40 degrees F.
  • Brine the turkey for 8 hours but no longer than 24 hours.  (We like to brine the turkey for 24 hours for superb results).  Remove the turkey from the salt water and rinse thoroughly under cold water. 
  • Proceed with the recipe, but remember that the turkey has already absorbed a significant amount of salt.  Drippings that are used for gravy will already be salty, and salt should be used sparingly.
  • Brined turkey also tends to cook a bit faster, so check the doneness an hour before the estimated cooking time.

 Baked Herb Butter Turkey

  • 2 cups kosher salt or coarse sea salt
  • 2 gallons water

  • 1 roll of heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • 1 whole 10-22 lbs. turkey
  • liberal amounts of salt and pepper  (only use pepper if brining the turkey)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, one to put inside of the turkey and one to rub on the outside of the turkey
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh sage
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 4-8 cups of water


These two steps are essential to do before handling the turkey.
1. Line a big deep roaster (however size your turkey will fit in) pan going crosswise with heavy-duty aluminum foil, making sure that it is tucked down in around the sides of the roaster and hanging off considerably to wrap the turkey once it is in the roaster.  Repeat the same going lengthwise;  then set it aside.

2. Set on the counter ready to reach:   1) your salt and pepper containers, 2) any herbs going in, and 3) have the butter opened and sitting on the paper wrapper ready to use.  To keep from contaminating the salt and pepper containers, I  wrap them with paper towels, put a rubber band around each, and use them this way until I am through handling the turkey.  After I am through handling the turkey, I discard the paper towel and rubber band.

Method for preparing turkey:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  

The method of preparing the turkey to bake is the same whether you have a 10 lb. Turkey or a 22 lb. Turkey.  

Remove and wash giblets from the cavity and neck skin of the turkey; set them aside.  Wash the turkey inside the cavity and outside really well and pat dry.

Sprinkle inside and on the back side (not the breast side yet) of the turkey liberally with salt and pepper.

Set the turkey backside down in the roasting pan.  Insert 1 stick of butter in the cavity of the turkey.  

Place sprigs of sage, thyme, and rosemary in the cavity.  

How many sprigs you use varies according to the size of your turkey. For a 22 lb. turkey, I use 3 sprigs of sage and thyme and 2 rosemary sprigs.

Arrange the giblets (neck, gizzard, heart, and liver) around the turkey at the bottom of the roaster.  I usually find there is more room around the neck.   

Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper on the top and sides of the turkey.

Pull the second layer (the lengthwise one) of the foil up and around the turkey.  Pull the first layer (the one that is crosswise) of foil up together and roll down, sealing the turnkey.  

Gently pat the foil tight around the turkey.

Pour the water around the outside of the foil into the roasting pan.  How much water you will use depends on your turkey size. For a 22 lb. turkey, I use 6-8 cups of water. The water needs to come up halfway in the pan.

Place in the oven and bake until the meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the turkey is 165 degrees.   It usually takes 5-6 hours for a 22 lb. Turkey.  

One hour before the turkey is done, open the foil, pull away from the turkey, and rub 1 stick of butter over the breast and around the legs until all is melted and bake for the remaining hour to get the golden brown color.

Lift the turkey from the roasting pan and place it on a serving platter.  Let rest before carving.  Remove the giblets and reserve for the giblet gravy.

Reserve 2 cups of turkey broth for giblet gravy.   Leave the remaining turkey broth in the roasting pan for the cornbread dressing.

Southern Cornbread Dressing

  • 6-8 cups reserved turkey broth (or remaining broth left in the roasting pan)
  • 2 pans of homemade cornbread
  • 14 oz. herb seasoned stuffing mix (I prefer Pepperidge Farm)
  • 4 cups celery, chopped
  • 2 cups onion, chopped
  • 8-10 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 6 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons ground sage

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a medium saucepan, saute celery, onions, and green onions with butter until tender but not mushy; set aside.

In the roasting pan,  the turkey is cooked, crumble up the cornbread over the reserved turkey broth, and mix with a large spoon or potato masher.

Add the herb seasoned mix and stir some more.  Add celery and onion mixture; stir some more.  Add milk and eggs; stir until eggs are mixed well.  

Add salt and pepper, poultry season, and sage; stir until all is mixed well.

Pour mixture into individual baking dishes sprayed with a nonstick cooking spray, and bake for one hour and golden brown.

You can also bake the dressing in the roasting pan.  Bake for 1 and half hours and golden brown or longer if needed.

Giblet Gravy

  • 2 cups of reserved turkey broth
  • Giblets from the turkey, debone the neck and dice.  Dice the heart, gizzard, and liver
  • 2 cups of whole milk
  • 2-3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 boiled eggs, sliced

In a large saucepan, heat the turkey broth to boiling.

In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and water until smooth; add to the boiling broth, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to a simmer.

Add milk, stirring constantly.  Add giblets and stir until well blended.  Add salt and pepper to taste and stir until creamy and smooth.

Wait and add the sliced eggs just before serving.


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Kay Little
Kay Little

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