Before you get started, a quick tip: when deciding what size turkey to buy, allow for 1 to 1 1/4 lb. of turkey per person.
A soak in a savory brine — a mixture of salt, water and seasonings — adds flavor and juiciness to turkey, penetrating even more deeply than a marinade. When making your brine, heat the ingredients to make sure they dissolve completely, then cool before submerging your turkey in the brine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Watch the video.
Alternatively, you can season your turkey with a dry rub or paste on the outside of the skin. If you do, score the skin before applying the spices and seasonings to make sure it permeates throughout the meat. A flavor injector also works to infuse the turkey with liquid flavorings before roasting.
Step 2: Stuff
Cooking your stuffing inside the Thanksgiving turkey means that as it roasts, its juices are absorbed into the stuffing. The result? A savory, moist, delicious mixture that’s hard to achieve any other way.
Make sure your stuffing and turkey are both at room temperature before you begin, and stuff the turkey just before roasting to avoid contamination. Make sure to pack it loosely, as the stuffing will expand while cooking. Tip: line the turkey cavity with a cheesecloth beforehand so it’s easy to remove the stuffing after cooking. After roasting, take the temperature of the stuffing; it should be at 165 degrees when finished. Watch the video.
Step 3: Truss
To make sure the turkey cooks evenly and holds its shape for carving, it’s a good idea to tie it. Just place the turkey breast side-up and tie the legs together. Then, tuck the first joint of each wing under the body of the bird.
If you’re trussing a stuffed turkey, pass trussing pins through the skin on both sides of the body cavity as you would shoelaces. Pull it snug and tie it securely at the bottom. Pull the neck skin over the dressing and fasten it underneath with trussing pins or sturdy toothpicks. Truss the legs and tuck the wings under as directed above.
Step 4: Roast
About an hour before roasting, take your turkey out of the refrigerator. For best results, roast it on a wire rack in an open roasting pan –400°F, breast side down, for the first 45 minutes, then turned breast side up and roasted at 325°F until done. An unstuffed 10-lb. bird will take about 2 1/2 hours to cook through, while a 20-lb. bird will take up to 4 1/2 hours.
After roasting, let the turkey rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving.
Step 5: Carve
To carve a turkey, you’ll need a sharp knife and a two-pronged fork. Place the turkey breast side-up and cut through the skin between the leg and body, then cut through the joint to remove the leg. Remove the wings the same way.
Cut between the joint to separate the drumstick and thigh. Slice the meat on the drumstick lengthwise along the bone, turning after each slice. Place the thigh, flat side down, and slice the meat parallel to the bone.
For the breast, make a first cut through the breast meat just above the leg and shoulder joints. Then, starting near the breastbone, carve the meat vertically into thin slices, cutting parallel to the rib cage, ending each slice at the preliminary cut. Watch the video.