I've done loooooots of turkey research over the past few years (yes I have, because the millions of variations implies that no one has truly cracked the code), and though I have only made two turkeys in my whole life I am fairly confident that this is the combination that works: brined, breast-down, breast 155. Just remember the 3 B's. Sort of.
I bought my turkey brined because I don't have room for all of that stuff in my fridge, but you can easily create an easy brine of salt and water, and marinate the turkey in it for a couple days. This essentially infuses the turkey with lots of salt so that it retains its own moisture during the cooking process. Because the brine is so salty, you won't want to salt the turkey again before cooking.
The next key to cooking this turkey is BREAST DOWN. I followed Elise's instructions here, and I believe it really made a difference. The theory is that as the juices/fat releases from the turkey it flows down to the breast, the driest part of the bird. I did turn the turkey over the last several minutes to create a nice browned breast, but you could skip this.
And finally, and probably the most important key, is that you must take out the turkey when the breast reaches 155. This requires a lot of attention the last hour of cooking so that you take it out at the perfect time (hard to do when you're cocktailing and chatting). As soon as the breast hits 155, take the bird out, tent it with foil for 20-30 minutes, and by the time you eat it the breast will be 165. I use a Thermapen thermometer and love it.
Heat oven to 425. Rinse turkey out, then pat dry inside and out. Place in large roasting pan, breast side down. Stuff the inside of the turkey with the onion, carrot, 1 lemon (halved), and several sprigs thyme. Close up the opening and truss the turkey if you want.
- 1 16 lb fresh brined turkey
- 1 onion (quartered)
- 1 carrot (quartered or halved)
- Fresh thyme
- Fresh rosemary
- 2 large lemons
- 1 stick butter
- Olive oil
- Fresh ground pepper
Using a food processor (or just finely chop), create a paste with several sprigs of thyme, rosemary, zest of the other lemon, and a little olive oil. Melt the butter in a bowl and add the lemon-herb paste. Brush 3/4 of it all over the turkey, top and bottom. Sprinkle the turkey with some fresh ground pepper. Reserve the remaining butter for browning the breast later on.
Place the turkey in the 425 degree oven for 20 minutes. Decrease oven temp to 325 for the next 2 hours. Decrease to 250 until done, checking the temperature regularly. Typically they say 13-15 minutes per pound. When the breast reaches about 145-150, turn the turkey over. Brush with remaining butter mixture, and either turn the broiler on or increase oven to 400. Brown breast until it reaches 155. You can skip the browning process if you want to, especially if you have a giant turkey. Remove the turkey from the oven, transfer to a cutting board and tent with foil for 20-30 min before carving.