First, some turkey basics:
Fresh or frozen? I go with frozen because they are readily available, can be bought well in advance and are less expensive. Plus, it appears that frozen turkeys may in fact be fresher than fresh turkeys. Go figure.
To stuff or not to stuff? I stuff, mainly because I have one little oven to make one big meal.
How big? The general rule is about a pound per person. I like to go a little bigger because we love our leftovers.
Got a turkey? Great, now on to the preparation.
If you are using a frozen turkey, you need to begin thawing it in the refrigerator at least one full day in advance for every five pounds of turkey. That means your 20 pound Thanksgiving turkey needs to be in the fridge thawing by Sunday at the latest. Once a turkey has thawed, it can be kept it in the fridge for up to two days before cooking, so it does not hurt to start the thawing a day early. This is the single most important thing to get right, because there is really no fixing or working with a turkey that is frozen solid.
If you are going to stuff your turkey with a traditional bread stuffing, you might want to make it the day before so it is all ready to go on the big day.
Okay, now on to the big day. You will need:
1 turkey (20 pounds)
Kosher salt and ground pepper
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 lemons, cut in quarters
1 head of garlic, unpeeled and cut in half crosswise
1 small bunch of thyme
About 4 1/2 hours before you plan to serve your meal, preheat oven to 350 degrees (convection setting, if your oven offers this option).
Remove the turkey giblets. Place the turkey in a large roasting pan, preferably one with a cover. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the turkey. Then stuff the cavity with your stuffing or the lemon, garlic and thyme. If you are using stuffing that has been refrigerated, warm it up in the microwave for a few minutes before stuffing it in the bird.
Next, spread the butter over the outside of the turkey and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Your turkey should now look something like this:
Roast, uncovered for 3 1/2 hours. No basting of fussing of any kind is required during this time. If you are cooking a larger turkey, add about 5 minutes to the cooking time for each additional pound (over 20lbs). A meat thermometer to check the temperature is also helpful.
Your turkey should now look something like this:
Cover (this is where a roasting pan with a cover comes in handy) and allow to rest for 30 minutes. This gives the proteins time to relax and allows the juices to redistribute throughout the turkey, resulting in moister, tastier meat.
As the turkey rests, prepare gravy and warm any side dishes.
Finally, carve and serve the turkey. Not sure of the best way to carve a turkey? Check out this video.
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