Too many people make the mistake of getting a bird that is too large. Actually, two 15-16 pound turkeys will be more tender, and yield more leftovers than a 25 turkey will.
If possible, get a fresh turkey. Around Thanksgiving, you can usually find fresh turkeys – and fresh turkeys will not only save you thawing time, you’ll definitely enjoy better flavor! If you do buy a frozen turkey, defrost it IN THE REFRIGERATOR. It takes about 6 hours per pound to defrost in the refrigerator.
Always use a meat thermometer to insure that the turkey is not over or under cooked. Insert it into the deepest part of the thigh, next to the breast, to get the most accurate reading.
Always remove any excess skin and fat before cooking – you can use these to make stock or gravy.
Allow extra cooking time for a stuffed turkey – and stuff it loosely. Don’t try to cram to much stuffing in – you can always prepare additional stuffing in a baking dish.
Season your turkey the evening before, so you will not be so pressed for time on Thanksgiving. Make sure you season your turkey under the skin, by sliding your fingers between the skin and the meat on as much of the bird as possible. You will be surprised how much skin can be separated.
Cover the breast with foil to help keep it from cooking as quickly (drying out) as the dark meat, then remove foil for the last several hours of cooking.
Baste regularly – at least every 30 minutes to keep the turkey nice and moist.
If you have a side pit (heat coming from one side, rotate the turkey each time you baste.
For better looking, more even carving, remove each piece of the turkey from the carcass and do your slicing on a cutting board!