Introduction: How to Roast a Turkey
Roasting a turkey can be as simple as you like with great results without much effort. There are a variety of technics that can be layered together as the mood strikes you or as time constraints allow.
Step 1: Select a Fresh or Frozen Bird, Weighing Between 10 and 14 Pounds.
If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. (Recommended) Preheat oven to 325 degrees.Simple: Remove packaging and rinse with cold water. Dry skin with papertowels and allow bird to drain. Spread a thin layer of softened butter over entire bird. Or brush with olive oil. Sprinkle a mixture of fresh ground pepper and kosher salt lightly over the skin and inside the cavity.
Step 2: Place Turkey in Covered Roaster, Breast Side Up.
You can put an onion, an apple, garlic, fresh herbs in the cavity or add stuffing instead and adjust cooking time upwards by thirty minutes. Disposable aluminum pans are not recommended for roasting a whole turkey. The weight of the turkey may cause the pan to buckle when it is removed from the oven, creating a dangerous situation. The timetables are guidelines only for unstuffed birds roasted at 325 degrees. Remember, the only true gauge for determining proper doneness is with a meat thermometer. The breast must reach an internal temperature of 170 degrees and the thigh must reach an internal temperature of 180 degrees Farenheit.
8 to 12 pounds 2 3/4 to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 to 3 3/4 hours
14 to 18 pounds 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
Step 3: Unnecesary Complications Like Brineing, Marinating or Smoking.
A brine is a mixture of water, salt, herbs and spices. The turkey must stay submerged in the brine and kept in the refrigerator or in a cooler for 10 to 24 hours. To make a long story short, the brine makes the turkey taste even better.
About.com on brineing.
The same link will lead you to lots of information about all of the other ways to season and cook a turkey. Any general cookbook will have simple instructions for cooking a turkey, if you like having multiple sources.
Step 4: Let It Rest!
After the turkey has roasted for about three quarters of the time for that weight, check the temperature in the thigh. Based on that, guesstimate the remaining cooking time and check again appropriately, checking both the breast and thigh the second time. Remove from the oven when it reaches temperature or a few degrees before. The temp will continue to rise for a few minutes after you remove it from the oven. Cover loosely with foil and let the bird rest for fifteen minutes before slicing. Cover with a towel if you want to keep it warm longer.
Step 5: Carving
Hold the turkey firmly on the cutting board with a fork. Carve each breast lobe away from the rib cage by cutting along the keel bone and around the contour of the body next to the ribs.
Now you can lay the breast lobe flat on the cutting board and carve it into thin, even slices cut against the grain of the meat. The trick is to get everything else ready and then quickly slice the turkey and put it on a warm platter to serve rather than having the bird carved at the table. In the kitchen, 2 or three people can work on the bird and get it done in five minutes or so. (Tip: After dinner, be sure to cut all meat from the bones before storing leftovers.)